Challenge and Opportunity
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. (Psalm 24:3-4)
While some Christians get all hot under the collar about this or that outward form of worship or prayer, it seems clear from the Bible that God cares very little about externals. What matters to Him is the heart. And it’s this that provides us with both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to ensure that, whatever externals we may use, the essential feature must always be the heart; the opportunity is that, because it is a matter of the heart and not about externals, we have a tremendous breadth for expressing ourselves to God.
This is backed up in the Bible, where we find a wide range of expressions of prayer and worship. In truth, most of us find this challenging, for we all become stuck in our patterns (or are they ruts?) and we are quick to judge others who do things differently. But just look at some of the expressions of prayer and worship that God deems acceptable to him: singing (e.g. Psalm 33:1-3; Acts 16:25; Ephesians 5:18-20), speaking (e.g. Nehemiah 1:4-11; Matthew 26:36-46; Acts 4:23-31), shouting (e.g. Ezra 3:11-13; Mark 11:8-10; Revelation 19:1-8), silence (e.g. Psalm 4:4; Habakkuk 2:20; Revelation 8:1), dancing (e.g. 2 Samuel 6:12-16; Psalm 149:2-3; Luke 15:25), using music and instruments (1 Chronicles 6:31-32; Psalm 98:4-6; Ephesians 5:19).
And think about the wide variety of posture in worship and prayer. These include: sitting (e.g. 1 Kings 19:3-4; Nehemiah 1:4; Luke 10:13), standing (e.g.1 Samuel 1:26; 1 Kings 8:22; Mark 11:25), kneeling (e.g. Daniel 6:10; Acts 9:40; Ephesians 3:14-19), bowing (e.g. Exodus 34:8-9; Psalm 95:6; Matthew 2:11), prostrating oneself (e.g. Genesis 17:3; Joshua 5:13-14; Luke 17:15-16), lifting hands (e.g. Exodus 17:11-16; Psalm 28:2; 1 Timothy 2:8).
With such variety given us, don’t get stuck in your ruts; try something different! For "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?" Anyone – not who knows the right postures or ways – but who has a good heart. Wherever there is such a heart, God will hear us.
Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: "Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips." (Hosea 14:2)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont
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