by Pastor Tim Burt
I was sitting by myself at a table in Chipotle praying before eating my food. A person close by asked me when I finished, Do you always pray before you eat? I replied Yes I do. I asked him, Do you? He said, No I guess not. Do you pray at all, I asked? He said, I pray the Our Father on occasion. I asked him, Do you know what the prayer means and do you think about it when you pray? He was honest saying, Not really. And then he got up and left!
That was an interesting encounter that got me thinking. Many people who have grown up in church have experienced a great deal of repetition. Let me explain that. In their church services, the majority of the elements of the service were the same and repeated at each service. Much of what was said was ritual; not necessarily understood nor did it do much if anything to engage one’s thought processes. Verbal responses were known by heart and repeated whether mentally engaged or not. Few if any understood what the hymns they sang over and over meant. Few understood what the words meant to the author when written and what they should mean to them as they sang them. All this leading to mostly mindless participation and ritual. For those that loved to sing them, it was more about the joy of singing than a passion for the meaning of the words of worship to God. So, when I say that many people grew up in the framework of a religious repetition, I mean something you did that was about God but seldom engaged your heart and mind. I know that many good people were brought up in this kind of religious framework.
Can you imagine going out on a date with someone who spoke another language but did not speak yours? It might be cute and fun—even romantic for a short time, but the novelty of it would fade fast. Engaging in thought, word, and in deed is critical to any good and intimate relationship.
Can you imagine going out on a date you really didn’t want to, yet did so repeatedly because your felt coerced or shamed into going instead of loving to go? How engaged would you and could you be? And would it be for the purpose dates are supposed to be about? Again maybe in the beginning you could be polite and talk about a few things, but after a short time, because you being there was out of duty and obligation, you’d burn out.
God never meant for our times of coming together to worship Him in church to be religious repetition that led to us mentally checking out. He never meant for us to say, sing, or do things that we did not understand in our worship of Him. To the contrary, coming together to worship God was to be a time to learn of Him, and of His immeasurable love toward us. It was meant to be a time of learning His life-changing Word that represents His will for us and learning why and how to pray prayers of sincere worship, faith and requests with confidence that God would hear them and answer them. Jesus wanted to correct that kind of thinking and mindless action concerning prayer. We see Him in Matthew 6:7 NKJV say, “But when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” The Greek word for “repetitions” is a word that means to prate tediously. “Prate” means to talk excessively and pointlessly implying without thought or from the heart . It means to babble or speak empty words—words without thought and heart behind them.
Jesus taught His listeners to get away from mindless and repetitious prayer with God. He wants our minds to be renewed to His Word knowing what He is like and desires from us. Romans 12:2 (NIV) says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
God’s Word is to be the basis for knowing Him. God isn’t pleased with religious actions and words disengaged from your mind and heart. He desires true intimacy with you! If you are doing, saying, or singing things that you don’t understand, it’s time to engage your heart and mind. It’s time to ask questions or research the heart of what is being taught, sung, or prayed. Don’t allow yourself to feel stupid for asking questions and learning. God’s word teaches that learning and understanding scripture is fundamental and critical. It takes time but learning to engage your heart and mind intimately with God is life-changing! Be a part of a church that teaches the Bible and how to live according to the scriptures. Listen to sermons that are biblically relevant to life’s experience and that teach you of God’s grace and the help of the Holy Spirit for the strength to live for Him. Sit under teaching that helps you understand the immeasurable love of God for you and the salvation and blessing He’s promised to you!
Maybe you need to think about where you go to church. Are they teaching the Bible every service? Are you learning how and why to worship God and pray? When spending time reading your Bible, ask the Lord to have His Holy Spirit teach you and speak to you through His Word. You’ll learn quickly that He will! He will bring words of life and hope. He will also bring correction and instruction but that is His love, not condemnation. His motive is love and to lead you into a life filled with His peace and blessing. You’ll also experience questions about scripture. Write them down and ask God to help you to gain understanding. You’ll be surprised in all the ways God will get answers to you! So… end the mindless non-engaging habits of religion, and engage God and His Word with your heart and mind! That’s relationship! That’s intimacy with God! When you do, your love for God will grow intimate and you’ll never be the same!
Revelation 3:20 (TLB) “Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears Me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with Me.”
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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