Each Saturday I will try to post a Scripture verse or prayer for meditation. I love praying through the Scriptures, especially the Psalms, something made quite easy with the Book of Common Prayer. The Psalter is laid out, divided into Morning and Evening Prayer for thirty days so that all 150 Psalms can be prayed through each month. I also find shorter verses for meditation in Phyllis Tickle's wonderful series The Divine Hours in three volumes: Prayers for Springtime, Prayers for Summertime, and Prayers for Fall/Wintertime, a gift from my Anglican friend Dru. I've used the series for over a year and find great peace in praying Scripture verses four times each day: Morning, Midday (noon), Vespers (evening), and Compline (bedtime).
As I was seated on our front porch this morning, reading and praying through the Summertime volume, a couple of verses stood out to me:
Oh God, you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you; for in returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength. -- Isaiah 26:3, 30:15
There seems to be few times of truly focusing our minds and hearts on God in "quietness and trust" in evangelical worship, at least in the worship services I attend. It seems to be a little more of a focus lately which I latch onto like a drowning woman would a life preserver. Yet it seems to me that our main focus in worship is singing and sermons. I see nothing wrong with those parts of the worship service, but I would like to have more time focused on reading God's Word (which lately we have been doing responsively, Pastor Stephen reading a verse, then the congregation reading a verse) and on silent prayer.
The few times we have silent prayer, the pastor often tells us what to pray about for so long that we have only 30 seconds of true silence; I'm just getting started when we have to stop. Only in "quietness and trust" can we hear the "still, small voice" of God speaking personally to us. Our time of personal prayer preceding Communion is not silent; the worship team is singing or the worship leader is at the piano, leading us in song, song that I try to block out as much as possible as I attempt to pray and meditate on Christ "in remembrance" of Him. Silence is a rather rare event in the evangelical worship I have experienced, something that is relegated to our private "Quiet Times" of personal prayer and Bible reading -- nothing is wrong with that, but corporate silent prayer would be wonderful.
Silence draws me to liturgical worship, Anglican worship in particular. The Friday morning Anglican services I attend have no music, and a very short homily, if any, one usually for the kids about the Epistle or Gospel reading for the day. The service consists of three parts: Scripture reading, prayer, and Communion. It's quiet in the single-pewed chapel, quiet enough to hear God's voice. As I pray the familiar corporate prayer of confession, the Holy Spirit often points out specific sins that I have done or good I have not done, and I confess these sins before Communion. We pray for the worldwide Christian Church, our political leaders (by name), our pastors, and for those who are "sick, injured, or disabled" by name as well as those who need "the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives." We worship via God's Word, praying the Scriptures aloud together, worshiping Him "in spirit and in truth." It's an awesome thing, and I always feel sense of let-down as we finish the service each week, wishing we could go on and on and on....
Is there "quiet and trust" in our lives? If not, we need to make room for these integral elements of worship. It is from this "quiet and trust" that we can draw "strength" according to the above verse from Isaiah. In "quiet and trust" we can hear God speaking to us. Isaiah also states that "In returning and rest we shall be saved." It is difficult, if not impossible, to rest in Christ, to keep our minds fixed on Him if we do not have time for quiet, for silence, in our lives. How can we hear Him in the chaos of our modern lives? His Word tells us, "Be still and know that I am God." I need to take more time for silence and quiet in my own life, and I hope that you will be able to do so as well -- it's the way to "perfect peace" as we fix our minds on Him.
Blessings and peace in Christ to you, my friends in the Lord.