Personal Worship

In a previous post I commented on three types of worship, including personal worship, and some have asked me to expand on the latter. Personal worship has come under some scrutiny recently with the rise in interest in “spiritual formation.”  The topic is quite relevant to the lesson on Conformity, Compromise and Crisis in Worship because it touches on the issues of conformity and compromise. Rather than criticize the compromise, let me emphasize those aspects of personal worship that I think are appropriate and a blessing.

First of all let me describe my own personal worship. I tend to be more opportunistic than regular these days. I find myself with some quiet time and I will have an idea that I want to contemplate and explore. I may read a Bible verse, a chapter, or even a whole book of the Bible. Sometimes I will spend less than a minute, at others half the night. Likewise prayer could be a few seconds, or spread over several hours. I find that I am less formal with my personal worship than I used to be but more frequent. (I am not saying that this is the only way to conduct personal worship.)

I find that my best personal worship experiences come when I have freedom from distraction (that does not stop me from whipping out the iPad with its 37 Bibles on it while I am on a train or waiting in an airport lounge). However, when I really want to explore an idea I need to be free from distraction. No TV in the background, no reminders of chores that need doing — just the sound of my own breathing and maybe a few birds singing. Secondly, I like to spend part of my prayer time listening in quiet contemplation. I believe that all too often we say our prayers without giving God time to talk to us by directing our thoughts. Prayer is like conversation — talk and listen.

The problem that I have is that the more extreme variants of the spiritual formation movement have taken the terms “silence” and “contemplative prayer” to describe experiences and practices to me that border on self-hypnosis or the invoking of a trance-like state. Some Christians believe that by letting go of the control of their mind, they arrive at a state where God speaks to them. I suggest that such practices are psychologically dangerous and do not describe my own worship style. It is quite possible to draw near to God in quiet contemplation without giving up control over your mind.

While I value my quiet time and my prayerful contemplation, I also understand the need to reconnect with my community of believers and the rest of the world around me. Jesus gave us a fine example when he would go to a quiet place for personal worship, to recharge his spiritual batteries. But then he would come back to his disciples and go out to meet the world and make a difference to society. Our personal worship should be the powerhouse that drives our public worship and more importantly, our living worship.



Personal Worship — 12 Comments

  1. Maurice, I agree with you all the way.

    My worship, by some standards, is no worship. What I do is similar to what you do except that I get a thought in my head and just have to research it. When I do that there are times so many texts that come to mind that I can't jot them all down fast enough. In other cases by the time I get to a reference I forgot what I wanted to look up which is frustrating (just a little dementia I think).

    The big problem that I seem to have is what you mentioned last, moving personal worship into action in the world. I do make contacts but it is sporadic.

  2. I would like further comments on this sentence in your blog:

    Personal worship has come under some scrutiny recently with the rise in interest in “spiritual formation.”

    I have heard some people say that "spiritualism" is invading the SDA Church. Is that what you are referring to?

    • The term "Spiritual Formation" is somewhat difficult to define because it depends what ideas the reader associates with it. I prefer not to use the term because of the negative associations that many Adventists have with the term. Instead, I prefer to think of the many positive benefits that one can gain from worshiping God as both creator and friend.

      As to whether spiritualism is invading the church: I am sure that Satan will attack God's church in many ways. I remain convinced that the most serious attack on the church as the moment is that many of us are concentrating on fault-finding the church rather than contributing to one another's spiritual growth and well-being. A church where members support and pray for one another is much better than one that is fault-finding. This is the issue that I have with much of what I have read (and I have read a lot) criticizing "spiritual formation" within Adventism. And this is also the reason that I focus on those spiritual practices that are positive and contribute to both personal and corporate spiritual growth.

      • "I remain convinced that the most serious attack on the church as the moment is that many of us are concentrating on fault-finding the church rather than contributing to one another’s spiritual growth and well-being. A church where members support and pray for one another is much better than one that is fault-finding."

        I could not agree with you more! The subject of worship doesn't begin in church. What happens in church is simply the bringing together of what our individual worship has given us the other six days of the week. Rom 12:1 - "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship." When we get the six days pleasing to God, the seventh won't be a problem, either, because we will be "one in the Spirit."

    • Jesus Christ "who" the primary model, it is also best to research these texts. quote: my people perish cause of lack of understanding. sometimes When I do not completely understand what is being reviewed during a sermon I pull out the old Sprint optimus Gs where I installed an dictionary application into my phone, so I look up the texts and follow along closely to the sermon.

  3. Thanks Maurice and Carolyn, you are just spot on with regard to the growing culture of" fault finding "within in our church, and espescially suspicion against "not born SDA memebers" . We need to learn from Dale Carnigie's triple Cs of stopping Complaining , Criticising and Condeming each other as SDA's and to concetrate in supporting each other to grow spiritually and to also grow the church of God. God bless you.

    • Great advice, Seth. Not only does Dale Carnegie help with this, but the Bible also tells us in honor to prefer one another. (Romans 12:10) Failure to honor others might even lead to our own prayers not being answered. (1 Peter 3:7) This causes me to ask myself, "Who am I not showing honor to in my circle of acquaintances?"

  4. Are there any spiritual formation ideas in the Psalms? If there are'nt any, then we ought to be careful that we are not going into uncharted waters. If we cannot add to the Psalms, or take away, then the Psalms in itself is complete.
    The content and style of the Psalms are soul-satisfying. The psalms speaks tomany people of all walks of life.

    Let us be careful not to emabrk on some new thing, that with the little time that we have left, it may not be enough for us to asess, one way orthe other. Let us improve our understanding of the psalms, for it is well written,well worn, and well used through the ages. Jesus would love this, for he lived the Psalms. "And He said unto them,'These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which was written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets,
    and in the Psalms concerning Me.' We cannot improve on the Psalms, but we can increase our understanding. This then sould be our prayer; " Then e opened their understanding that they might understand the scriptures. Luke 24:45; David said, "When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches" Ps.63:5; Jesus lived the Psalms. He spoke the Psalms " My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me...Ps.22:1; Jesus lived it, He spoke it. Let us copy the pattern.

  5. the article really uplifts my soul. but i just cant seem to concentrate and hear what God has to say me. Anyway tips on how to be more attentive?

  6. Sometimes I think we strain too hard to hear the voice of God. We have the Elijah expectation - God speaking in a loud resonant voice accompanied by rolls of thunder and flashes of lighting. I think God is not all that fond of theatrics and chooses to talk quietly. One of the ways that God uses is through our community of believers. Almost every day I go for a walk with one of my colleagues. Our discussion often turns to spiritual themes and both of us come back from our walks refreshed, even when we argue in the way that good friends do. The voice of God is in our actions of nurturing one another.

  7. As I understand Spiritual Formation, it seems to me that it is wanting us to clear our mind totally. I would prefer to have my mind set on, and full of, Jesus. I don't want to have such an empty mind that Satan has a chance of filling. If we are in love with Jesus it is just a natural thing to show it. People will know you are a Christian by your love of each other. A favorite pastor, Morris Venden, commented that an apple tree produces apples because it's an apple tree. A natural of Jesus produces love of fellow man.

    • The idea of clearing the mind is only one small part of spiritual formation. I believe it is the least of all the ideas involved in spiritual formation, and is absent from most Christian traditions of spiritual formation. Most concentrate far more on filling the mind with Scripture and love for God. There are many traditions in Christianity, some worth pursuing, some not. I would put the practice of centring prayer and emptying the mind into the 'not worth following' category. Many Christians from other traditions feel the same way. While the modern form of centring prayer and 'empty mind' meditation is presented as being Catholic, many Catholics have serious doubts about it being part of Catholic tradition or even Christian. Those who present it often acknowledge a Buddhist origin, which should make us pause before adopting it enthusiastically.


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