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I compose and post these articles with only one desire in my heart: to praise God and to offer modest help on your spiritual journey.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

PRAYER AND WORSHIP

Several times a day when I interact with people as a priest I'll have
someone say "I don't need church to pray". True enough. Sometimes
church worship services can be an occasion of sin, let alone a
distraction to prayer. Such as judging someone you see or getting
angry someone took your usual seat. So why do Christians, Muslims,
Jews and even Buddhist insist on public prayer?

Both prayer and worship can be private or public. But for the sake of
this article I wish to restrict prayer to personal time and worship to
public gatherings of prayer.

Private personal prayer is what builds our relationship with God
however we understand God. Thus prayer is time spent in the presence
of or talking with God. It may seem to unbelievers to be simply
talking to oneself. It may seem to unbelievers that it is simply quiet
time with oneself. But this intentional time set aside to either
meditate or in rote formula of prayer is focused on the Divine. One
cannot gather for worship if one does not have a prayer life be it
regulated, disciplined or spontaneous.

Some of the most profound moments of prayer have been at the ocean or
in the mountains. Nature in all its diverse beauty awakens believers
to prayer with no distraction, just pureness and unselfishness.

Anyone who has tried to develop a prayer life that is more disciplined
knows the frustration with distraction. Learning to navigate these
waters fill libraries and lead people to search for spiritual guides
in books or T.V. and radio. This is not my purpose here.

So why do we gather for prayer? Human nature has made us a social
people. It is in our DNA to be drawn to be with another. There is a
great variance in just how much time we need or tolerate being with
others versus our need for "me time". Either extreme is pathological.

When it comes to public worship for Christians the answer is communion
of the Spirit or the Lord's Supper. It is also a proof of our love of
God. How can you say you love God if you cannot tolerate getting
together with your brothers or sisters? Refer to 1 Jn.4:20 "If any one
says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who
does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he
has not seen."

There are many reasons, some very legitimate, for not attending
church, especially every week. Some of these reasons are people simply
are not welcomed to join in communion or fellowship. Some have been
deeply wounded by ministers or members of a congregation. Others must
work when their faith community has worship services.

For those who simply say they don't want to get together with "those
hypocrites" my response is a little different. Taking from Colossians
chapter 3:12-14: Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly
loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,
gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another
if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord
forgave you."


The most classic text for Christians is Hebrews 10:25: "not neglecting
to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one
another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Gathering
together offers encouragement to others as well as ourselves.
Worshiping with others also ends the habit of foregoing the
opportunity for communion.

In a small community such as the one I serve the absence of one person
is very noticeable. When four or more are missing it can be downright
discouraging. But in former parishes I've served we had seven masses
on a Sunday. The issue was not "losing it" in the parking lot when
trying to get in or out. Who noticed if someone was there or not? Yet
even in these large congregations there's always a group of people who
notice and voice concern for those not in attendance.

One thing is for sure. Apart from being just too lazy to take time to
worship, if you claim to be a Christian you risk losing your
relationship with God. If you feel you are not welcomed, there are
churches like mine who will welcome you. If you do not feel you can
find a church that "feeds you" consider the admonition of giving
yourself. Worshiping with others also allows you to grow in tolerance.
For worshiping allows you to give to others eliminating the thought of
what can I get out of it.

However you wish to communicate with God it is important that you do
pray and worship for it will strengthen your relationship with God.
Above all, love.

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