The following service was part of a Passion Week emphasis in Trinity Western University’s thirty-minute campus chapels in the spring of 2010. Our intent was to “watch and pray” with Jesus: to listen to the prayers of his heart at this most crucial time in his passion, and thus, as the disciples longed to do, be taught to pray. To do this, we interwove Luke’s record of the Gethsemane prayer with the High Priestly prayer in John 17. The overall spirit of the service was contemplative, with lots of room for silence.
Psalm 150 declares, “Praise [God] for his mighty acts; praise him according to his excellent greatness!” (KJV). God requires our very best, and we dishonor God if we offer anything less (see Malachi 1:8).
Most of the worship leaders I know strive for excellence, and most of the conferences I attend encourage excellence too. But what does excellence in worship mean to you? How do we know when excellence is achieved? What standards do we look to?
How often do we equate an experience of God with good feelings? I regularly hear my students make this association. From time to time I ask them how God is at work in their lives. Their answers are telling: “My relationships with friends are really good” or “I did really well on my mid-term exam” or “My spring break trip was awesome!”
Today we have immense control over our music. With the advent of MP3 players we can skip, shuffle, delete, and mix genres. We can listen alone or with others, listen on or off the phone, listen in the car or on a walk outside. While we listen we can view photographs, videos, play computer games, or check the location of the nearest Starbucks. Music is available to us where we want it, when we want it, and how we want it.
It’s no secret that students are attracted to visual media. Images from television, video games, mobile phones, and the Internet saturate their days and nights. They use images to communicate with their friends. They learn with visuals in the classroom. They entertain themselves with pictures and animation.
A shy female student stepped to the microphone and prayed: “Bring peace to regions of conflict, especially Sudan, Israel, and Gaza.” A tall male student bent over the same microphone: “Bring consolation and companionship to widows and orphans.” Another student, standing on tiptoes, adjusted the microphone to her mouth: “Renew our nation in the ways of justice and peace.”
Twice a year at Redeemer University College we gather together for a time of extended prayer. We are a young university (established 1982), but from our inception we’ve had a strong tradition of seeking to be grounded in prayer. Our small campus includes a lovely prayer room for small group prayer, with two adjoining prayer “cells” for personal prayer. Every fall the student body organizes a 24/7 prayer week during which many students, faculty, and staff sign up for an hour each of continuous prayer.
As I was walking on campus, I was stopped by a student who wanted to know if she could ask me a question.
“Sure, shoot,” I said.
With a searching tone, she asked, “Why don’t you offer an altar call every week?”
Muskegon Christian School, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, is a pre-K through 8th grade school serving the greater Muskegon area. Last year it was the recipient of a worship renewal grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, (funded by the Lilly Foundation) to teach kids about Vertical Habits. (For more on Vertical Habits, see RW 84.) We asked Tara Macias, who developed the curriculum used by the school, to tell us about the project.
Each time we gather as a congregation there are those among us who are struggling with sexual temptation. As worship leaders we are called to help God’s people present our struggles—even the ones we’d rather ignore—before God and receive God’s care. We need to come before God honestly.