Worship created a controversy for the prophets of the Old Testament. The Lord God had instituted temple worship during the reign of King Solomon. The temple in Jerusalem had various rituals like animal sacrifices and pray incense which had roots from the time of Moses and the Exodus. The Israelites were expected to worship God in the temple on a regular basis and many did.
However the prophets spotted a major problem in worship. It had become empty rituals that did not transform the lives of the worshippers. The prophet Isaiah spoke against such abuses,
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts.
Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile;
your appointed festivals my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
even though you make many prayers, I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:11-15 abridged)
Worship had not transformed God’s people into agents of God’s peace and healing for the world. The prophet’s words can be a critique of us today. Has our worship service turned us into servants of God? Do we expect to encounter the living God at worship and be changed?
I have been using Thomas Kelly’s book, A Testament of Devotion, in my personal devotions. He speaks to the transforming power of prayer, but sees it as not our work, but God’s great work within us.
We may suppose these depths of prayer are our achievement. But this humanistic account misses the autonomy of the life of prayer. This inner life has a life of its own, invigorated not by us but by a divine Source. . . . Our prayers are mingled with a vaster Word, a Word that at one time was made flesh. We pray, and yet it not we who pray, but a Greater who prays in us. In a holy hush we bow in Eternity, and know the Divine Concern tenderly enwrapping us and all things within His persuading love. Here all human initiative has passed into acquiescence, and He works and prayer and seeks His own through us in exquisite, energizing life. (p. 45, abridged)
Now that is a description of the Vibrant Life of Faith in Christ.
Lord Jesus, turn my tired, routine prayers and worship into a joyous dance with your Spirit.
I’ve been re-reading a Testament of Devotion, too! Like father, like daughter 🙂
Don’t want to rub it in, but it was written by a Haverford Quaker, not a Swarthmore Quaker.
And then God says to me. Worship I but when I mutter the words to you; then the sacrifices I ask you to make are not of animals but of thine self, in attitude, in the way of ones life; and thoughts that grow into the wronly deeds, for I say unto you “love thine neighbour, but as some would their only child, dispose of the nasty attitude, and the wrong words and the wrong exspessions for the sake of peace.
my blessings always kenneth foster