Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why Worship

If you gathered five Christians together and asked them, “Why do we worship?” it’s likely you’d get ten or more different responses. They might say,
  • “Because we are commanded to.”
  • “Because I’m thankful for all that God has provided."
  • “To receive what God has for me.”
  • Or, "To remember what Christ did for me.”
One of my favorite parts of C.S. Lewis’ book “Reflections on the Psalms” are his reflections on the worship and praise of God.

The words “Praise the Lord” can be found throughout the Psalms, and Lewis devotes an entire chapter on the topic in his book. (The chapter is called, “A Word About Praising”).

Lewis notes first his initial confusion when reading about the perpetual praise that the Lord asked for. “Gratitude to God, reverence to Him, obedience to Him, I thought I could understand; not this perpetual eulogy.”

Lewis explains that “God does not only demand praise as the supremely beautiful and all-satisfying Object...he commands it as lawgiver.”

So, in a nutshell, Lewis is saying that God wants us to praise Him.

Before getting into the heart of the question of “why should we praise God”, Lewis first refutes the idea that God needs our worship:

“The miserable idea that God should in any sense need, or crave for, our worship like a vain woman wanting compliments, or a vain author presenting his new books to people who never met or heard of him, is implicitly answered by the words, 'If I be hungry, I will not tell thee' (Psalm 50:12). Even if such an absurd Deity could be conceived, He would hardly come to us, the lowest of rational creatures, to gratify His appetite. I don’t want my dog to bark approval of my books.”
Lewis reminds us that God does not need our worship. Yet it is something that He requires/desires us to do.

Lewis also refutes the idea of bargaining with God, for example, people saying, “Do this and I will praise you”. He calls that notion infantile, but says, “I have often, on my knees in prayer, been shocked to find what sort of thoughts I have.”

As Lewis reflected on this topic of praise, an interesting insight came to him: that people praise all the time. Our praise may not be focused on our Creator, but praising, according to Lewis is something that all humans do. He writes this about his epiphany on the topic:

“I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise…the world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians and scholars.”

So, praise is something that humans seem “wired” to do. He continues:

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?”
After reading the “isn’t she lovely” line I’ll do my best to refrain from any Stevie Wonder jokes...but Lewis explains here that the things that we are drawn to praise are things that we want others to join in praising too. Lewis explained that the writers of the Psalms, “in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.”

Like the angels, Lewis notes, Christians will praise God for all eternity. To imagine this, he explains that,

“we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God – drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by, that delight which…flows out of us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression”

I had to read that passage again:
  • drunk with delight (in the Lord)
  • drowned in delight (of the Lord)
  • dissolved by delight (in the Lord)
Lewis explains, “In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

Enjoying God. In part, that is what praising God is about. When we praise and worship we offer ourselves to the Lord and at the same time get to know Him more too. As Lewis explained, “it is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates his presence to men.”

1 comment:

Gary Sweeten said...

David, I am revisiting your blog. Thanks for writing. I was struck with the Findlay, Ohio reflections as I too read the Wash Post story and had similar thoughts. They never noted that Obama's brother said he was a Muslim nor that the New York Times reported that there are many good reasons to wonder about his Muslim background.

It is great to have blogs and other means of getting information out to the public. Keep up the good work. Remember, Screwtape never tires of spreading his bad news so we must keep preaching the good news.