When Bon Jovi first bellowed the words Livin’ on a prayer into a microphone he probably wasn’t describing my life. I was three at the time and prayer was that thing dad made us do before dinner where we all held hands and got a wee bit pentecostal on up in here. About two years ago, however, the words Livin’ on a prayer could have described my life to a tee.
I had been in a progressively worsening situation in life for some years and had reached tipping point. I learned a lot. I prayed a lot. I knew what had to be done, that was clear, but it still took a lot to actually do it. I arrived in NCLC just over two years ago, on Easter Sunday, 2011, in a pretty desperate place. Things had gotten so complicated and knotted that only God could bring me through and so I lived a life of desperate prayer. I needed God just to get through the day, and He came through in power on a daily basis. As a result of that, making it to Sunday service past a week of obstructions and troubles was an amazing feeling. I knew where the credit needed to go and I’d praise him passionately because He’d pulled me through again.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
- Psalm 106:9 (ESV)
I never had to think back far to find examples of God’s wonder working power, He was outworking it every day. He provided a job in amazing circumstances, new friends, a new community, people who supported me, everything I needed He stepped up and provided. From the moment I stepped out on the water, and that only because He called me to do so, He seemed to work over time bringing me to a place of safety and goodness.
While worshipping last Sunday I was challenged by one thought: Do I worship now as passionately as I did then? Now, when life is peaceful and I have a great community, a nice house, a secure job, am I still as eager to worship? It’s so easy to lose yourself giving praise and thanks when you’re conquering your Everest, or when you’re experiencing the phenomenal on a daily basis, but what about when life is pretty ordinary? Psalm 106 tells us of the Israelites and the amazing things God did for them and warns us that they soon forgot all of that and God got pushed in the corner.
Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.
But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
- Psalm 106:12-13 (ESV)
On the 90s sitcom Friends, which I’ve heard some people have seen and some people have denounced and I can’t possibly comment if I’ve ever seen such a thing, there is an episode where Chandler persuades Rachel to quit her job because she needs desperation to motivate her. It was a comedic story line but it does raise the subject of whether comfort can sometimes make us lack motivation.
I remember after Lizzie died people who weren’t regular churchgoers being both baffled and encouraged by the fact that we persisted in lifting our hands in worship but at times like that where else would we be? Where else would we go to? In the bleak moments prayer and praise become things you’re truly dependent on. We can often feel closer to God then, when we so obviously need and receive His strength, than when everything seems to be going well; it is far too easy to settle into patterns of comfort.
I want to be a worshipper who will delight in God for no other reason than because of who He is, and that never changes. Our circumstances will pull us one way or the other but He is unchangeable in amongst it all. If we only worship out of the moments of emotional intensity in our life then we’re not yet worshipping Him for who He truly is. We must look harder, focus more, dwell on Him more, become increasingly more overwhelmed with His character and love.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendour of holiness.
- Psalm 29:2, (ESV)
So when we’re plain sailing, when everything seems to be going okay and we’re neither in the throes of desperation or the highs of jubilation, are we still people who are going to be motivated to give God glory because it’s due to Him? Will we still live lives that reflect our need for Him? The truth is that regardless of how we feel, the need to glorify God is as strong as ever, the need to thank God is as strong as ever, and the need to reach our worlds is always growing more desperate than ever.
The word ‘due’ can sometimes seem like an unwelcome one; we love the thought of us generously giving God worship but the truth is that it’s actually due to Him anyway. He is due glory from us 24/7 for no other reason than He exists and He is that good. We can’t just worship Him when we have emotions that inspire it, we have a duty to worship Him with all of our hearts because that’s what His glory demands.
It’s not a law like some feudal king who enforces us to adore him, it should be more like when we see something amazing and we cannot stop saying how good it is and people start to wonder if we’re obsessed. God is due glory but His glory is such that the more we see of it, the more we’re inspired to worship. It’s not about how we feel, but about who He is. Obsessed with God’s glory? That is a good place to be in life!