I have been worshipping a lot over the last week or so. It’s hardly surprising as I found myself in a prayer room in Normandy, a house of songs in Caen, and then in an outdoor pursuits centre filled with Christians rather than year 9 pupils from Walsall.
I have been reminded that worship can often be seen and experienced as a chore or a duty – something we know is good, and that we feel that is right if we are God fearing people, but also an experience that does not always bring us into a place of transformation and intimacy with God. And because in Christian tradition there is a lot of singing involved, it is this activity that either delights or depresses us: either emotion can actually prevent us from being transformed and strengthened.
Humanity was created to worship – not because God decided to make a lot of slaves for his ego – but because worship stems from our sense of awe and creativity; our desire to serve, adulate and applause; our wonder at how small we are, and also how big we are. We see in the stories of worship in the Bible that people have heart and mind changing encounters with God. Their imagination is set free. They discover new ideas and ways to implement those ideas. People are healed physically, and relationships are restored. So, worship opens us up to God's love and presence which then does us good. Worship is God's way of bringing satisfaction to us rather than the the other way round.
I realise that I actually worship anyway, whether it is directed at God or not. Probably because this is how we are wired and how we look for satisfaction. We become fans and followers. We choose a value or a cause, a place, person, or thing and give a whole lot of energy to it. It's normal to do this, but often it is also to fill a hole of some sort, or bring fulfilment, and when it skews this way, the Bible calls it idolatry. This is not just carved idols and lots of semi naked jumping and shouting. It is simply the desire for love, wonder, peace and meaning that is angled towards stuff that is not God and cannot bring God's love and care.
So, worship of God is really good for us. And when we give our time to it – interspersed as it was for me in France by cheese, baguettes, cakes and salads (although at the outdoor pursuits centre my dessert bowl was used like a JCB digger to scoop up whatever carby fatty pudding was on offer) – then we find our souls becoming healthy and strong and we begin to see the aspects of our lives that need some attention, care and intervention.
Therefore, for my own sake, I want to worship more. And yet as I even think this, I also really want to do this for Jesus’ sake because he has given my life such meaning and destiny that I would like to offer him everything I have in thankfulness. It’s a circle – not a vicious one of course – but one that might start with either thankfulness or need but then will lead to insight, change and hope, which continues on to an overflow of fulfilment and praise.
What is not to like? Especially when it’s in France.
Martin J Young
For more information about the prayer room, the house of songs and the ministry of Bless in France visit www.blessnet.eu