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Worship and Awe

I sent this note to a few friends, and then I thought, why not just post it here. I’d love your thoughts.

I’m preparing for a talk on Tuesday morning, and the subject matter centers on worship being a response to being in awe of God (seeing Him as holy, seeing his creation, seeing his work in your life, etc). I’m not saying that awe is a requirement for worship, but that being in awe of God ought to lead to worship.

Here’s my question for you:
Do you think you can “be in awe” from more of a mental/intellectual standpoint, without having some intense emotional reaction or feeling? Or does being in awe always have emotion/physical feeling (if you know what I mean – like those gushy, tingly, cry-inducing, and/or overly joyous type feelings) attached?

And if it does require some sort of deep-in-your-gut feeling, what do you think prevents us from experiencing that more often?

I’d love any thoughts — well thought out or gut reactions.

(Note: We’re currently going through the book Satisfy My Thirsty Soul by Linda Dillow. My teaching will be based upon Is 6:1-8 and Chapter 2).

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2 comments

  1. Thank you for posing this question. It is one I have wrestled with for the past several years and have yet fully resolved. Here are two quotes from Jonathan Edwards that might stir the pot of discussion:

    “That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless wishes, raising us but a little above a state of indifference: God, in his word, greatly insists upon it, that we be good in earnest, “fervent in spirit,” and our hearts vigorously engaged in religion…”

    “If we be not in good earnest in religion, and our wills and inclinations be not strongly exercised, we are nothing. The things of religion are so great, that there can be no suitableness in the exercises of our hearts, to their nature and importance, unless they be lively and powerful. In nothing is vigor in the actings of our inclinations so requisite, as in religion; and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious.”

    The first section of is particularly helpful regarding the relationship between worship and intellect and emotions/affections (You can read it here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/affections.iii.html).

    While I find Edwards particularly helpful, I have sometimes misunderstood him and felt that I need to manipulate my emotions into some sort of euphoria or “awe” for worship to be complete. I don’t think that is what Edwards is arguing, and I don’t think it is a healthy approach to worship. God is not a cosmic candy machine into which we insert our dimes (praise songs, Scripture readings, a good sermon, etc.) and collect our chocolate bar (a deep, emotional sense of satisfaction). On the other hand, he is a living being who wants relationship with us. This relationship like any other should involve our affections.

    Edwards insists, and I’m beginning to agree, that these affections can be cultivated and nurtured–exercised is the metaphor he uses. We can choose daily to express gratefulness, to look for beauty, to reflect on the wonder of our salvation. These disciplines of expressing, looking, reflecting slowly warm our hearts to God and train our emotions toward him. Our emotions remain slippery things, vulnerable to events, illness, hormones, fatigue, and so on. There will inevitably be times when our hearts are dull and not easily moved. I am convinced, though, that as we persist in worship, our hearts will follow. Their predominant inclination will be to take pleasure in God, in discovering his truth, and in obeying his word. This inclination can not be measured by any given Sunday, but by a lifetime of loving faithfulness.

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