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Prayer and worship compose the heart of the devotional life and are essential practices for a close relationship with God. But too often our prayer is nothing more than a checklist of requests, and our worship happens only in church. What does it mean to communicate with God? How do we enter his presence in the midst of our daily lives? Utilizing the beloved book of the Psalms, this guide reveals many different ways to come before God in prayer and worship, including wrestling with God, pleading with God, ...
Prayer and worship compose the heart of the devotional life and are essential practices for a close relationship with God. But too often our prayer is nothing more than a checklist of requests, and our worship happens only in church. What does it mean to communicate with God? How do we enter his presence in the midst of our daily lives? Utilizing the beloved book of the Psalms, this guide reveals many different ways to come before God in prayer and worship, including wrestling with God, pleading with God, lamenting to God, and longing for God. Conveniently organized for individual or group study, Prayer and Worship offers insights and avenues to help us bring every part of our lives before God and truly enter his presence.
Prayer and Worship
Key Scripture: Psalm 42:1-8
Os Guinness, Long Journey Home
"I'm at a point in my life where I realize there has to be something more."
The speaker, a man elegantly dressed, had come up to me after a dinner near San Francisco at which I'd been asked to give some remarks on the modern world's search for meaning. He cut straight to the point, and there was an intensity in his voice that immediately set him apart from the surrounding small talk.
"Like many of my friends around here," he continued, "I've learned a lesson I wish I'd known when I started out: Having it all just isn't enough. There's a limit to the successes worth counting and the toys worth accumulating. Business school never gave me a calculus for assessing the deeper things of life."
Many of the guests at the dinner were eminent names from the world of high finance in the city and the world of high technology in Silicon Valley further south. Their conversation was flush with the success of the twentieth century's last two decades, a period that witnessed the greatest legal creation of wealth in history, much of it in that very corner of the world.
In my remarks to them, I hadn't uttered the phrase "something more." But in separate conversations with me afterward, no fewer than four -people-each with a very different story-used those very words to express their sense of longing. As it happens so often in life, the very things they had striven to achieve turned out to be, once achieved, far less than enough.
I've had similar conversations in livingrooms, classrooms, cafés, pubs, airplanes, and trains across the world. As G. K. Chesterton wrote: "We all feel the riddle of the earth without anyone to point it out. The mystery of life is the plainest part of it." Nothing is more human for -people of all backgrounds-for all of us-than a desire to unriddle our life's mystery. . . .
The very fact that we desire is proof that we are creatures. We're incomplete in ourselves, so we desire whatever we think is beckoning to complete us.
We're therefore right to desire happiness but wrong to think that happiness may be found wherever our desires lead us. Only the true God can satisfy desire, for God alone needs nothing outside himself; he himself is the highest and the only lasting good. So all objects we desire, short of God, are either false (because they're unreal) or as finite and incomplete as we ourselves are-and therefore disappointing, if we make them the objects of ultimate desire.
True satisfaction and real rest can be found only in the highest and most lasting good, so all seeking short of the pursuit of God brings only restlessness. As St. Augustine confessed to him, "You have made us only for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."1
My Life with God Exercise
If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that even those of us who have committed to a relationship with God long for many other things: to marry the perfect person, to have security, to have job success, to keep our families safe, to be happy. These longings are not wrong in and of themselves, yet, as the -people Guinness met acknowledged and our own experiences tell us, focusing all our energies on achieving these goals still leaves us unsatisfied, lonely, and longing for something more. Think about some times in the past when you achieved or acquired something you thought you wanted more than anything. How did you feel afterward? Was it as satisfying as you had anticipated? Take a moment now to search your heart. What are the objects you are seeking and longing for at this time in your life? Are they the things you truly want? Carefully consider. Is it possible that you are misdirecting your longing to know more and experience more of God into something else?
Guinness tells us that only God can satisfy desire. Making success or security or prosperity or even happiness our ultimate goal can lead only to restlessness. But he also assures us that God reaches down to us even as we confusedly reach out to other things. As John of the Cross wrote, "The longing in your soul is actually His doing. You may feel only the smallest desire for Him. There may be no emotion about it at all. But the reason your desire rises at all is because He is passing very near to you. His holy beauty comes near you, like a spiritual scent, and it stirs your drowsing soul."2
Each day this week seek to pay attention to God's stirrings of your drowsing soul by reading or singing the worship song "As the Deer" by Martin Nystrom:
As the deer panteth for the water So my soul longeth after Thee. You alone are my heart's desire, And I long to worship Thee. [Refrain]
You alone are my strength, my shield, To You alone may my spirit yield. You alone are my heart's desire, And I long to worship Thee.
You're my friend and You are my brother Even though You are a king. I love You more than any other, So much more than anything. [Refrain]
I want You more than gold or silver, Only You can satisfy. You alone are the real joy giver And the apple of my eye.3 [Refrain]
Throughout the week, think about the different times in your life when you have felt especially thirsty for God. Looking back, can you see what in your life caused those feelings? Were you longing for God because your soul felt particularly barren or empty, or did your longings come from a place of being especially close to God? How did you try to feed your soul's longings?
What insight about yourself did you gain while doing the exercise? How would you describe the current state of your heart? Dry? Longing?Prayer and Worship. Copyright (c) by . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.