Thursday, 8 November 2007
Mindless Worship? Yes Please!
I discovered this during my first spell at Northern Baptist College as a postgrad student in the 80’s. We had morning prayer each day and we used the same prayer day in day out. I started off hating it, resenting it, convinced it was a just another sign that the place was spiritually dead. I ended up really appreciating the liberty that those repeated words gave me to put my heart and soul into connecting with God. A bit like repeating a chorus in sung worship.
I had this conviction confirmed when I was introduced to the Northumbrian Community’s daily office. This too became a part of me. So I was able to use it to really pray. The oft repeated words carry their own meaning of course but the familiarity means that I have the liberty to weave in and out of the words other less than fully articulated yearnings, moods and gropings after God. A bit like speaking in tongues.
This is why I get hot under the collar with the way free churches tend to do written congregational prayers. Why do we have to come up with something different every time? It might be smart. It might be profound. It might pack our liturgy with fresh meaning week on week. But the novelty gets in the way. It is an overly rational approach to worship. Too analytical. Too much mind. No chance to put your guts into it. We end up falling clean as a whistle between the stools of folksy spontaneity and truly effective poetry. Typical, and deeply frustrating.