Words from Tom 9-5-14
Abba, God, Creator, I bow down and worship you. That is the first line of a “Trinitarian Prayer” that I have prayed for several years, since studying the Trinity during my sabbatical time that the Conference so generously offered me in 2006. In the December 2006 issue of Ohio Evangel I used my “Musings” column to briefly describe the genesis of that prayer. Part of what I said then still rings true for me. “I also find that when I reflect on this prayer, it incorporates the awe, despair, and hope that I often feel in my life and work. It seems right and good that my prayers honestly reflect those feelings, and keep them together in a healthy tension rather than completely separated. The awe and marvelous wonder I experience when considering who God is; the despair and disappointment I often have about myself and my inability to be a better Christian; and the hope that is available to me as I open myself to the Spirit’s work in my life all need to be held together.”
One’s attitude toward God is crucial in living out one’s faith. In Psalm 89:1-18 the psalmist offers us a wonderful tribute and praise to God. God’s character is noted. The steadfast love of the Lord and God’s faithfulness are two characteristics “as firm as the heavens.” God’s reliable covenant with the people of God, the incomparable nature of God (with respect to the rest of creation), God’s sovereignty over all creation, and God’s righteousness and justice are some of the other characteristics worthy of our praise. In one of my journal entries I noted that if I carried the praises of Psalm 89 with me continually, if I were thoroughly immersed in praising God, my attitude toward everything else in my life would probably be much better!
Theophan the Recluse, a 19th century bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church who often wrote about inner spirituality, said this about living our faith: “…the way one stands in church is a reflection of one’s entire life. As people live, so do they behave in church. A church influences and somewhat supports spiritual movements; but then the usual course of one’s spiritual constitution takes over. Therefore if you want your time in church to consist of worthily standing in the face of the Lord, prepare for this in your ordinary life; walk, as much as you can, in a prayerful frame of mind.”
I wish I would have stumbled across this quote years ago. It often seemed as a congregational pastor that it was my job in the limited time available on Sunday morning to correct all the members’ errors of a week’s worth of failed attempts to live faithfully. Theophan recognized long ago that what happens to us in church on Sunday is most often a result of how we have lived during the week leading up to that worshipful time.
Granted, the Holy Spirit can work mightily in our lives to make profound changes. But much of our life is a result of the steady and incremental work that we do in response to God’s gracious salvation in our lives. That’s why I have found it helpful to pray my “Trinitarian Prayer” several times each day. It is a constant reminder of who I am called to be every day of the week, not merely on Sunday when I specifically focus on worshiping God.
To be sure, we can encounter God in new ways in Sunday worship that have a formative effect upon the rest of our lives. But if we enter worship after a week of seeking to follow Christ in our daily lives how much more we are prepared to receive what God has to offer to us. And how much more we can genuinely praise God for who our Maker truly is!