Original post at http://sacredise.com/blog/?p=1358
Last week I raised the question of whether we truly worship with one another, or, rather, like children, actually just worship alongside each other. I made the suggestion that part of our struggle with worship is that it is an independent activity that is separated from the relationships and activities of our daily lives. And I promised to explore worship in terms of three tiers – personal, small groups and congregation.
Today I want to explore the first tier – our personal worship.
It seems to me that in many branches of the church, and much of the way our spirituality is taught and developed, a daily spiritual practice is not viewed as worship. Our language has been particularly unhelpful here. We refer to “personal devotions” or a “quiet time” in which we may read a bit of the Bible, and perhaps pray a bit. Judging by the thousands (millions?) of copies of devotional books like Faith for Daily Living or Upper Room that are sold, a large number of Christians rely to a large extent on a devotional life that is based on other people’s stories, and short, often disconnected, biblical reflections.
While these practices are good as far as they go – and are certainly better than no practice at all – I am a little concerned that they fail to do the work of transformation that worship is meant to do. If all we do is a quick read, and then move on with little thought or deeper engagement with Scripture, it’s a bit like living on a diet of junk food. We will receive little or no challenge, call for justice, or engagement with any part of us other than our minds.
But, what if we were to think differently about our personal spiritual practice? What if we were to think of it as worship? What if we were to take seriously the implication in Jesus’ teaching on prayer, that we never really pray alone (He taught us to pray, in private, “Our Father…” Matthew 6:6-13)? How might this change the way we engage with God, both when we’re on our own, and when we gather with others?
Here are a few quick thoughts:
1. Our daily practice would expand to include additional elements, beyond just a reflective reading and a quick, grocery-list prayer:
- Perhaps some liturgy (like the daily prayer or office of some of the more liturgical churches);
- Perhaps some music, or even singing or chanting;
- Perhaps some movement – a finger labyrinth, kneeling, raising hands, genuflecting, or even dancing.
2. Our daily practice would be connected, thematically and theologically, with our meditations in our larger worship gatherings and our small groups, instead of being a separate, unrelated activity – which would also mean that we would engage more deeply and personally in worship when we did gather with our companions in faith.
3. As Robert Webber wrote, we would gain a sense that we’re always either moving toward, or being sent out from, worship (Worship Is A Verb [Peabody, Hendrickson Publishers, 1992], p213). So, every activity, interaction, and relationship in our lives would feel like it happens in the context of worship.
4. We would be diving more deeply and personally into the meaning of Sunday’s worship for ourselves, and so we would overcome the problem of forgetting what we did on Sunday, and of Sunday having no connection with our lives.
I could write a lot more, but I think you get the point. Richard Rohr comments that there are no grandchildren in God’s Realm. We all need to connect with our divine parent ourselves. But, to do so effectively, we need the influence, the teaching, and the support of a community. This means that we need to develop a personal spiritual practice that is connected with the gathered church, and that engages us in every part of ourselves, and connects our worship with every part of our lives. This means that worship must be more than just a weekly event. It needs to be a daily discipline.
This is the motivation behind my free Daily Worship resource. Although it is still focussed on words and reflection, it is designed to connect with the weekly themes of the Revised Common Lectionary. It also seeks to connect with the daily routines of our lives through a practice and breath-prayer that can be carried through the day. Ideally, it should be coupled with a worship framework that includes prayers of the church, ritual, symbol, music, and movement of some sort. I hope to create such a framework and make it available through Sacredise.com in the not-too-distant future. Stay tuned!
What is your daily worship practice? How does it connect you with Sunday’s worship, and how does it connect with the daily “stuff” of your life? How can you create a daily spiritual practice of worship that makes you aware of how your whole life is lived in the context of worship?