I believe worship determines outcomes.
Jack Hayford made that statement in the introduction of his book The Reward of Worship: The Joy of Fellowship with a Personal God. He wrote those words as he reflected on his observation of two devote men on a flight to London from the U.S. It was just dawn and most passengers were quietly sleeping in the still dark plane. A single stream of sunrise was enough to reveal one man bent on his prayer rug, another standing nearby wearing his yarmulke. Both men in unashamed worship. Some might see this scene and think ‘religious fanatic’. Others might be offended or disturbed by their obvious devotion.
As I read Hayford’s words and his observation of the Christian style of worship, a similar experience came flooding into my mind; one I will never forget. The experience rocked me. It shook self consciousness and reluctance to display. I witnessed something so incredible, the only response I could possibly have in the moment was to worship God.
These men seemed fashioned by their daily practice. One only had to observe their demeanor to see that what was obviously wrought in discipline was certainly not burdensome. If it was mere obligation that drove them it didn’t appear that way from my vantage point. It would be a common scene in their communities and an expectation in their homes.
Let me paint the picture. I was on a twelve hour flight from New York to Tel Aviv most of which was through the night. I had never traveled out of the country, so the long flight was a challenge for me. I’m not a small woman. My legs were restless and I had a hard time sleeping in my seat, nevertheless, I must have fallen asleep for my eyes opened to witness what I can only describe as a holy moment. There was barely any light in the cabin. Only the sound of soft snoring was heard. There was no talk, not even whispering. A holy silence hung in the air as I noticed an older gentleman, down the aisle from me, emerging from his seat. Not an uncommon sight in and of itself.
At first I didn’t notice the tsitsit silently dangling at his side. His yarmulke and posture were positioned in silent reverence as he paused and gently began to sway. Unbeknownst to me I was witnessing what would become for me a life changing event. I was so fixed on my subject that I hardly noticed others emerging in like kind. The older ones were quickly accompanied by the middle-aged and then the younger. Young teens with prayer shawls draped ceremonially over their shoulders took the same posture as their older counterparts. They quietly and respectfully filled nearly every alcove.
Individually, yet almost in unison each man offered up what I can only call hushed worship to God. The united sound of whispered prayer emanating throughout the cabin transformed the otherwise very public arena into heavenly prayer chamber. The fact that we were soaring through the heavens seemed appropriate. My heart replied to the enveloping ambience of God’s manifest presence.
This was holy on purpose. This was worship by intent. This was not mere religious rote. Maybe some would view it that way. Not only did the muted whispers of prayer and worship permeate the atmosphere, the Spirit of God swaddled my soul, and my spirit began to ascend like a kite without a string. The presence of God invading the atmosphere in response to the worship offered by mankind refreshingly infused the air creating a hallowed chamber engulfing me with hushed angelic echoes of ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’. Our otherwise unexceptional enclosure was elevated and intermingled with the divine. My spirit could only respond in like kind.
It brought me back to the rare occasions when the Spirit of the Lord would descend in our midst during times of congregational worship. The presence of the Lord would manifested and the congregation, a mixture of older saints and devoted believers, would returned the favor of His presence in antiphonal acappella response. Acappella, Italian for ‘in chapel style’. How fitting. Chapel just sounds more intimate than church. And that is exactly what those times were like, intimate. Intimate worship brought the intimate manifestation of God’s presence. It was elevating. It was exhilarating. It was private yet public. It was something that seemed to only happened when those gathered unity in heartfelt worship to God, individually offering up praise and honor, yet in corporate unison; in one accord.
This morning I was reminded of why I spend time in prayer, why I worship, why I give Him praise. I love His presence. I love that God loves us so much that He gave His Son to pay the price for our sin. Yes, God is worthy of our praise because, well…He’s worthy. But I cannot deny I love His presence. From the very first time I experienced His manifest presence at the age of 7 I have been drawn and compelled. All my life I have been addicted to the manifest presence of God. It is because of His presence that I made it through the years of being a victim of family dysfunction and domestic abuse. It was the manifest presence of God that ministered to my soul, breathing life into my very being. It is His life giving presence which brought refreshment to my soul, life to my spirit and endurance and strength to make it through trial after trial, situation after situation and crisis upon crisis.
As we face this time of global crisis and nothing seems to be working to offset the dangers and curb the threats; may I encourage you to not just pray with earnest but to engage in active intentional worship to God. There’s a line from an song I can’t remember the name of “in the midst of suffering, there’s a God worth worshiping.” If there is one thing I know, God responds to worship, heartfelt worship. God responds to our praise and worship. He descends upon us enveloping us with His presence. He becomes a tower of strength and surrounds us with peace.
Maybe you don’t feel like worshiping God right now. Something I remember from my days at Codependent’s Anonymous, “the feelings will follow.” We don’t go to meetings because we feel like it. We go because we need to. We go because that is where we will experience support and freedom.
We worship not because we feel like. We worship because He is worthy of worship. Worship brings in the presence of God. In the presence of God is comfort. In the presence of God is healing. In the presence of God is strength. In the presence of God is peace. All that He is is in His presence.
That transcontinental flight changed me. It challenged me. It gave me a picture of how powerful united yet individual worship and prayer really is. In times of upheaval and uncertainty remember that worshiping God in your living room doesn’t isolate you from the body of Christ. In fact, it’s probably the most Christian thing we can do. Yes, we need to be mindful of others. We need to do what we can to remain safe. Unite yourself with heaven. Lift up worship and praise to God Most High knowing that saints of God all over the world are doing the very same thing. We join our voices with heaven. We are together in Spirit. We are joined with heaven.
Psalm 73:28 NASB But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.