(Originally posted in early 2011, I’ve updated in October, 2015. These are things I actually think about a lot…)
This could be titled “Worship Is Better Than Asking”
Things were beginning to settle down around here. We’d had lots of activity over the last couple of weeks, including a wonderful celebration of Christmas with family and friends.
For several days since, however, Windy and I had been down with a bug. The intestinal kind, you know. We even missed the New Year’s Eve wedding of James and Samantha because of it. Not much fun, let me tell ya.
I don’t know about you, but sickness is a really interesting adventure for me. I don’t like feeling badly. I don’t like feeling uncomfortable. I don’t like it when it hurts. I’m talking about the kind of sickness that seems to separate one from one’s ability to think straight or carry on even simple activity. It messes with my ability to think about praying. On that Saturday Windy and I mentally reached that place at which we were trying to decide if we wanted to die at home, or at the hospital, or maybe on the way from home to the hospital. Someone described it as the feeling that you hope you don’t die, and then hope you do.
We both say we don’t ever remember being that sick.
Well, there was the time when, as a young husband, I took my also young wife to the Hilton Head hospital because a bug had rendered her dehydrated. She really felt miserable, and wasn’t helped by the fact that she was already tiny (105 lbs. soaking wet with a brick in each pocket) so the nurses had a hard time finding a vein in which to put an IV. She was pretty sick then.
Back to this recent weekend: Nurse Enola dropped off Gatorade and other supplies Saturday evening, and we did perk up a bit. But Sunday afternoon I relapsed and developed a huge headache to go along with everything else.
When I’m hurting like I was that Sunday night (yep, all night), I’m praying constantly for God to help me. I’m literally saying, “God, please help me!” A couple of hours of saying the Jesus Prayer* later, I began wondering about stuff and start asking, “God, what is it that You won’t help me?” (You do that too, don’t you? I hope so…)
At some point near daybreak—I hadn’t slept much—I was aware that Windy was awake. She knew how badly I’d been hurting overnight. By this time I had resorted to my standby prayer, “God, I don’t understand this situation, so please give me more light.” So, aware of Windy’s wakefulness and that she’d be praying for me, this new prayer presented to my feeble brain: “Lord, if you can’t answer my prayer, would you please encourage somebody else by answering their prayer for me?”
I told my friend Dennis about that. He said, “That’s a really unique prayer.”
How God answers a prayer is often also an adventure. Of course we can’t always even track His answers. Ned says the problem is that God sometimes takes forever to do things (a fair paraphrase, Ned?) so tracking is difficult.
That said, here’s what I think happened. As I was praying that someone’s (anyone’s!) prayer would be answered, something else occurred to me. It’s part of the liturgy from our Anglican/Episcopal service of Holy Eucharist. I started mumbling this as best I could:
(The Celebrant says,)
“Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:
(and we join, singing)
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.”
Literally mumbling this no more than a few times, the killer headache was gone and nothing but weakness from the weekend’s sickness remained. Some awe-filled, amazed thanksgiving and, dare I say it, praise erupted in me. It took some convincing to get Windy to relax about me not wanting to go to the doctor…
So, I may have learned this little thing right here:
Worship is better than asking.
But I know that. I know that Jesus wants me. I know that the gift is never given apart from the Giver.
And I know that it’s ok to ask. “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek…Knock…” When we knock, we should probably expect to see the Savior’s face when the door is opened.
I’ll not try to engage any theological proof of all this. I might do that if I weren’t afraid that even my mother is probably already tired of reading this. Save it for a discussion some time. I do know that we can’t draw doctrine from our experience. Sometimes, though, our experience illustrates “something true about God.” (Tozer) I think this is one of those times.
So, if Worship is better than Asking, I want to get better at Worship.
The fact that they let us pray on our knees, IN CHURCH!, was one of the things that drew me to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church so many years ago, and has kept me in the Anglican tradition since. It felt like an appropriate posture. I know, some folks like to stand, but John, the writer of Revelation, didn’t when he saw the Lord. He “fell on his face” like a dead man (which might present a bit of a space problem in our church). When I first went to the Episcopal Church (I’m telling, not selling), I thought to myself, “Now, somebody’s figured out a way to bring what we do in our quiet times into a corporate experience!”
If Worship is better than asking, how powerful does that make Sunday morning? I know worship is more than just Sunday, but Sunday is really good, huh? Or it should be. What power is within our grasp as we, with our friends and members of our communities “Bow down and bend the knee, and kneel before the Lord, our Maker!?” Kinda sounds like something good, doesn’t it? May we all get better at Worship in the coming years.
Windy and I will try to find more ways of migrating our times of prayer for you into times of worship referencing you. Can we “worship on your behalf?” Can we, in worship, mention your name in the Presence? I will be seeking that.
What are your personal worship habits? I mean habits that are not about asking, or even praising, but worshiping? I’d like to incorporate some of your thoughts. My friends from from missionary school may have good ideas to add, as our mentor “coached” us about this stuff, right?
I look forward to hearing from you. Peace to your house, and blessing to you all.
*The Jesus Prayer: Bob Mitchell taught us about this. As best I can tell it comes from Luke 18, and from a little book called, “The Way of a Pilgrim.” This great little book is translated from Russian, written by an unknown peasant about his journey and his attempt to learn to pray without ceasing. The Prayer itself has a few diverse forms, but here’s the version I learned . . .
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, have mercy on me, the sinner.”