Somewhere along the way congregations began worshiping through applause. I don’t mean clapping of hands in the Spirit as a personal expression of praise, victory, etc. I mean, as an audience, expressing appreciation (presumably to God and not the singer, etc.) through corporate applause.
According to Eusebius in his Church History, various pastors wrote an epistle reprimanding the activities and behaviour of Paul of Samosota saying that “he rubukes and insults those who do not applaud, and shake their handkerchiefs as in the theaters.”(Book VII, Chapter XXX, par. 9)
My own sense of the modern origin of this is that it began to arise in the average local Pentecostal church in imitation of what its congregants were seeing on the television when they would watch Jim Bakker and PTL, or Jimmy Swaggart in his big preaching campaigns. I assume that the applause in those settings was a natural byproduct of what a large audience does when it collectively experiences something that it likes, enjoys, or approves of. (For a lengthy treatment of the history of applause go here) All I know is that when I was a child it was not common for congregations to applaud in a way that it is today.
Here’s why I am bringing this up in the first place. I am in no way saying congregations shouldn’t applaud great points in sermons, etc. But my concern is that applause is a praise and worship shortcut. It relieves me of the need to say anything specific or intentional about the awesomeness of God. This applies to those in The Daily Prayer Project in that one of the comments I am beginning to hear a lot is “What do I say while I am pursuing intimacy with God?”
We have for too long assumed that God only wants us so that He can put us to work. In response to that erroneous idea, we have only pursued intimacy to the level of trying to cultivate obedience. But intimacy with God is not, in its deepest places, about doing something for God but is rather about being with God in the deepest places of our soul.
Let me end this beginning discussion of intimacy by asserting this: There is praise where we say great things about and to God. There is worship where we move beyond praise to surrender. Then there is the pursuit of intimacy. Think on all of this for awhile.
I’m excited to see several of you post about your prayer times! More will join us as we go along.
A new cycle of The DailyPrayer Project started Sunday and I am very encouraged by the discussion we had yesterday! People who are really serious about prayer and going deeper into the Secret Place. How awesome that the God of the universe waits for us in the Secret Place! I hope you are catching the vision of just how amazing this adventure can be.
If you are reading this but have yet to read the book (Contending for the Habit of Daily Prayer, Revised and Expanded), attend a project cycle, go to the Home Page and get started today!
So if you have read the book (Contending for the Habit of Daily Prayer, Revised and Expanded) or been through the The Daily Prayer Project, you know how strongly I am pushing for the first priority of prayer to be the pursuit of intimacy with Jesus. Still doin it! But, prayer is dynamic and it’s components operate in a kind of symbiosis with each other. So, while the efficacy of our prayers is directly related to the level of our intimacy with Jesus, powerful intercession and petitions should and will flow out of that intimacy.
Mary and Martha
I was reminded again this week how important intercession can be to intimacy with Jesus. Somehow, as we whole-heartedly and with abandon find ourselves praying for others we find that interwoven in those prayers are opportunities to cry out for Jesus in worship, longing, surrender.
Let’s look at the story of Mary and Martha before we go any further:
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”
I have said that if all you do in prayer is pursue intimacy with Jesus then, like Mary, you will have chosen what is better! HOWEVER, I have said that knowing that out of that intimacy will flow intercession sand petitions led by the Holy Spirit and, I believe that then we will witness greater answers to prayer!
So, Yes! Intimacy first. But intimacy only? No.
This was the close of Week 5 of this round of The Daily Prayer Project (though I still have Monday’s group to conclude tomorrow), and I must say, I am so blessed by what I see God doing!
This morning I heard about a beautiful breakthrough in one person’s struggle against a spiritual heaviness. She said last Wednesday God revealed something to her that she has been hurting over for a very long time (didn’t even know it!) and He just took the heaviness away! Boom! That’s what I am talking about–spiritual surgery! Another person shared victories she is having in her prayer time and in her workplace, another about how she is becoming established in her “set place” and “set time”! Still another, and another, and another! There’s not room to tell you all that has happened the last five weeks!
Remember, the weekly project meetings may have concluded but the project is not over. I’m looking for all of you to find your way to the “accountability page” every Monday to answer the four questions, to give us a report, and to encourage others and be encouraged!
Brace yourself! Rae is transparent and straight forward, but if you can handle that, she is also sincere. I liked this post when I saw it. So, Daily Prayer Project students check it out.
I’m not saying it replaces what we have been talking about. But, as a way of pursuing intimacy with Jesus, this can fit into your time in the Secret Place.
via I’m So Over Using SOAP! | Real as the Streets
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I love teaching in The Daily Prayer Project for many reasons. But one of those is that it sharpens and inspires me!
In one of my after-class discussions a couple of weeks ago, I was talking with a project participant, whose name is Ogo, about the importance of interacting with people in such a way that we can maintain connection with God. Here’s what I mean by that.
In my book, Contending for the Habit of Daily Prayer, Revised and Expanded, Chapter 14, I make the claim that you can’t really be defensive and humble at the same time, or angry and thankful at the same time. You have to leave one behind in order to engage in the other. So, if we are going to live out of the Secret Place, we will have to choose, like Jesus, to empty ourselves (see Philippians 2:6-7).
Imagine instead that we have a personal place carved out in the Secret Place where we live and move and have our being in the Presence of God. Now, imagine that every call for our involvement with people and the things of the world comes to us while we are in that hallowed place with God. We know that we cannot bring our fallen reactions into the Presence of God and leave them unchecked, so, since the Presence of God is too precious to sacrifice, we choose to process everything in His Presence. This may mean sustaining some abuse or mistreatment for the sake of staying our minds on Him.
The typical experience–for people living a harried Christian life–is we look back after a bad interpersonal interaction, realizing only then that our actions created a wedge between us and God. I am happy to report, however, that we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, learn to anticipate situations that threaten our ability to live from the Secret Place, thereby giving us the opportunity to choose the Presence of God over the temporary satisfaction of giving someone “a piece of our mind.”
Ask the Lord to help you live out of the Secret Place. But let’s be clear: I am not saying we should learn how to live outside of the Secret Place! I’m saying cultivate the Secret Place–at all costs–and stay there even when you have to go about the business of the day!