When our children were very young we would have a time of family prayer following devotions during which each child would be expected to take their turn in prayer. It was common to hear them recite a standard list of things to pray for which would go something like this: “…and please bless Mommy and Daddy, and please help me to be good, and please help us all to stay well … etc.” I called this “grocery list” praying; checking off a routine list of acceptable things to remember to say during family prayer.
How interesting it was for my wife and me to notice the change which occurred in the prayers of each of our children following their conversion. They transitioned from “saying prayers” to “praying”. Rather than checking off a list of things to ask the Lord to give them they began to speak directly to their Lord and unburden their hearts to Him who loved them and heard them as they poured out their hearts to Him.
It has since occurred to me that as grownups (parents, grandparents, etc.) we can still default into a formality in our approach to God. What I am referring to is the state of hearts and minds when we gather together with the saints in the Lord’s house on His day. How often might we say to others or think to ourselves when we arrive home that we had a good Lord’s Day because we “went to church” or that we “attended services” or perhaps that we “heard a good sermon?”
What if someone probed a little further and, looking us in the eyes, asked us __I realize that you were at church; that you heard preaching …but you didn’t tell me is whether or not you worshipped your God? What I am interested to know is that while you were in God’s House, did you worship Him? Did you give your heart unreservedly to Him in adoration and wonder? Were you engaged in personal and passionate devotion to the Lord?
As we are leaving God’s house having “heard a sermon” is the Lord saying “My son, or My daughter gave to me sincere worship, heart-felt devotion, and glory?”
If God’s house is a house of prayer, did we pray or did we merely say prayers?
Do we travel to church fully expecting to meet God there and to commune with Him? If, peradventure, God was not there –would we even notice? Would we return home and report as usual that we “attended services”, or that we “heard preaching?” Would we feel a sense of loss? Would we have an aching void in our soul that yearned for intimacy and communion with the living God?
Brethren we surely are right to desire good preaching and singing in the assembly of the gathered people of God. May we never surrender that. But whether the preaching is sub-par or the singing is off key let us nevertheless eagerly seek Him for whom we came.
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” John 4:23
Pastor Bob Brown