Happy Easter! I pray that the power of the resurrection would be real and powerful in your life. The truth is that because of the resurrection, we are called to be different, and that affects every aspect of our life.
How do we live in light of the resurrection? How are we called to have relationship with God? I wish that someone had told me 30 years ago what I’m going to write about today. I probably would have prayed differently. I probably would have encountered God differently, but the truth is that what I’m about to share with is not something that I’ve made up. This has been within the tradition of the Church for a long time. I’ve discovered through the years that it has really helped my relationship with God but it’s not brand new. Jesus is deserving of all praise.
What has Jesus done? Jesus came to earth, died and He has risen. Jesus has done what no human being in history has ever been able to do – die and rise of their own volition.
Why did Jesus do it? He did it because humanity’s weakness, fault or original sin separated us from God and the effect of that was death. Death, not just in the physical sense, but death in terms of separation from God. Jesus overcame the consequence of original sin so Jesus is deserving of all praise.
When we think about Jesus being deserving of all praise, we might think we do that as worship or prayer, but what if we were to talk about what the Church talks about, that worship is the adoration and the honor given to God.
What does that mean for us? How do we adore and honor God? How do we worship God? How do we pray?
In the ancient languages, worship means to bow down or to prostrate oneself. It is a posture indicating reverence and homage given to a Lord or to a God, whether human or divine.
The concept of worship is expressed by the word ‘serve.’ This is important because to worship is an expression of the idea to serve or be of service. In general, in the Old Testament, the worship given to God was modeled after the service given to human sovereign kings and emperors. It was especially prominent in pagan religions as their worship was a service given to the deity or God image they had, whether it was human or not. For example, in the temple pools or the holy places of those cultures, the deities’ image inhabited the place, the person inhabited the place, and they had servants or priests who offered sacrifice, who washed and anointed the deity, who clothed the deity, who centered the air with incense, lit lamps at night, and guarded the doors to the house. All these things that were done were a service to the deity. Worshippers brought offerings and tithes to the deity, that is money. As they were giving, they said prayers. They bowed down as one might give tribute and present petitions to a king. The very purpose of human existence was to provide the gods, the deities with the necessities of life.
As the prophets pointed out, God could not just be worshiped externally. The God of Israel did not seek to be just worshiped externally. To truly honor God, it was necessary to obey His laws. It wasn’t just a matter of doing the things that have to be done, but to truly honor God. It meant to obey His laws, the moral and ethical ones, as well as the ritual ones. To appear before God with sacrifices while flouting His demands for justice was in a sense to insult Him. God did not appreciate that people came and just did hollow activity because sacrifice to God as worship was part of their law. It was part of the way of life of the Israelites. Worship and sacrificing to God had been mandated, whether it was in the temple, financial giving, ritual purity or how they lived their lives keeping all of the various sacrifices, it was a question of ‘Don’t just tell me you worship me, show me that you worship me.’
Worship needs to be something within us that comes from our heart. Worship has existed for a long time, and it was out of that the whole culture and world that Christian worship began to be understood at a deeper level.
If we go into the New Testament, worship still means to bow down and to prostrate oneself, but it also has an aspect of inner devotion to God. The external forms of worship differ radically, however, to what used to happen when the Israelites worshiped in the Old Testament. The reason being that since the death of Jesus, there could be no better sacrifice, because Jesus’ death and resurrection was the perfect sacrifice. No more sacrifices were needed. Jesus had come to atone for our sins. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.
Just like there had been lambs and sheep that had been sacrificed in the Old Testament, Jesus is referred to as the lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice. Nothing could be better.
At this point, the entire institution of the temple of the Old Testament, priest sacrifices and cleansing rituals all became obsolete. It became obsolete because the death of Jesus was perfect. No more sacrifice needed to take place at all.
It says in Hebrews 9:12:
He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
That means that what Jesus had done by entering into the holy place was not through animals or the best of crops, but he had done it with his own blood. So, therefore, it was perfect. We were given access to new life. In a sense, we became the temple because the Holy Spirit took up residence within us.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9 it says:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?
When Jesus ascended to the Father, the Holy Spirit took up residence within us.
Christian worship or prayer is internal. It is an expression of our heart and not just something that we do externally. God is seeking relationship with us.
If God is seeking relationship with us, if now we are redeemed through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus who died and rose at Easter, and we have the ability to pray directly to God, how should we pray? The Church calls us to a form of prayer called adoration and blessing and this has been tremendously important in my life.
What is blessing? For those in a traditional Church, the priest or minister gives a blessing at the end of a Church service. At the end of a letter or email we might say, ‘God bless.’ We are familiar with parents praying a blessing upon their children before they go to bed to extend grace and love to them.
But in the Catechism the blessing of God is described as:
In blessing, God’s gift and humankind’s acceptance of it are united in dialogue within each other.
God blesses us and then we respond to that blessing. Blessing starts with the initiative of God who created us, who gifts us with life and blesses us so that we can grow in relationship with Him, and we can share life with God. In turn, we bless God back. So, God takes the initiative and blesses us with life and then we bless God in return by the surrender of our lives wholeheartedly by living according to his rules, his law, his ways, not because they are law, but because we want to because of His work in us.
We bless God in a sense by our worship, as the giver, the sustainer and the Savior of our life. The Church says that we should bless, and we should adore.
What does it mean to adore? The Catechism says this:
To adore God is to acknowledge him as God, as the creator and the Savior, the Lord and master of everything that exists as infinite and merciful love.
Often at the very beginning of my prayer, I say, ‘God, you made everything. I didn’t. I can’t. You are the Lord and the master of everything that exists. You are infinite. You are beyond description. There is nothing that I can say and yet You are merciful in Your love.’
When asked about prayer, Jesus said, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and you shall you serve Him. To worship God is to acknowledge His place in you. The Catechism says this:
To adore God is to acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission, the “nothingness of the creature” who would not exist but for God.
To adore God is to say, “I would be nothing without you, but you give me life.
To adore God is to praise and exalt Him and to humble oneself as Mary did in the Magnificat. She confesses with gratitude, “Look at all the things that He has done and therefore, holy is He.” Mary expresses this holiness, this sense of surrender and wonder, saying, “Look at what God has done.” When we adore God, we take our eyes off ourselves towards the one who is deserving.
The Catechism says:
Adoration is the first attitude of humanity acknowledging, that we are a creature his Creator.
Adoration is the first attitude. The very first thing that we need to do when we come to God in prayer is we acknowledge God. We say, ‘You are the creator.’
Adoration exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil.
We are constantly coming before God and acknowledging God. So, blessing and adoration is acknowledging God for who He is. It is God-centered.
I want to encourage you to write a list of names and descriptions for who God is that you can use in your prayer. I’ve made up quite a long list of terms that I can use to describe God, because blessing and adoration, prayer and worship, in light of the resurrection, allows us to see the greatness of God, our Father, the power of the Son and, and the effect of the Holy Spirit of our life.
Often in my prayer, I use terms like this and I write them out in my journal. I couldn’t encourage you more to begin a list of things to say to God in prayer, like:
|You are Sovereign||You are the Lord of Lords|
|God, you are, you are Holy beyond compare||Worthy are you|
|You are the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords||My Lord and God|
|There is none like You||My Lord and my King|
|Holy God, the heaven declares your wonders and glory||My Lord, and my Master|
|You are the King of Kings||You are my Protector.|
|You are the beginning and the end||Name above all names.|
|Jesus, You are Savior||Holy Spirit|
|You are God and you live within me.||God, you are omniscient meaning all-knowing|
|You are all powerful.||There is no one more powerful than you.|
|You are everywhere.||You are holy beyond compare.|
|You are mighty gold Lord||Glory and honor to you|
|You alone are God.||You are the Wonder Counsellor|
Effectively, when I use terms like that, I am putting God first.
To summarize what I’ve said today in terms of how we pray to in the light of the resurrection, our adoration and our blessing of God needs to be directed at God and not us.
Do you ever notice that sometimes in prayer, you start praying and you listing off all the things you want? You start praying about all the challenges you have, and it’s not that there’s not a place for that, there absolutely is but to adore God, to pray to God in light of the resurrection to is to direct our prayer directly at God.
To adore God, to worship God is to declare His nature, His holiness, His attributes and that’s what that list is. It proclaims God’s glory and magnificence. It is reverent and filled with awe. We are called to this sense of reverence during our time of prayer. It is being overcome by His divine nature, just who God is and it always leads to surrender. It is not performance. It is not having to do it in a certain way. For a long time, I was taught to perform my prayers and I think many of us are, but prayer is sitting in the silence and surrendering our life to God.
Jesus changed everything with the resurrection because the Father sent him into the world out of His great love to be unified to us and the Holy Spirit came in order for us to have the power to live according to the Father and the Son.
This is a time when we can come before God in worship to serve God by our words and the way we live.