I cry with all my heart; answer me, LORD, and I will obey your decrees. [Psalm 119:145]
This section of Psalm 119 has several consecutive lines which begin with the word “cry” partly because every line in this section has to start with a ק and the word “cry” in Hebrew is קרא. But it brought an interesting point to mind as I was contemplating it. Does crying out to God count as worship? I would say yes and I would say furthermore that this single line, “I cry with all my heart, ‘Answer me Lord,’ captures what we are doing every time we worship.
Our purpose in worship is to open our hearts to their depths so that we can receive God’s “answer” in the form of the Holy Spirit. I think that oftentimes we conflate a distinction between worship and praise. Praise to me refers to songs and testimony that describe the greatness of God, whether this has to do with specific things God has done or the qualities of God. Worship includes praise but is not limited to praise. Worship includes also confession our sins, contemplating God’s Word, crying out to God when we need help, and a whole host of other forms of conversation with God captured in the psalms which are the Bible’s book of worship.
All of worship puts us in the state of being by which we experience the presence of God. Praise does this by helping us to reinterpret the events of our lives with the assumption that a benevolent, gracious God is in charge. Confession gives us the space to release the shameful secrets that keep us from praising God with sincerity. Likewise we cry out to God whenever we have needs because we cannot truly enter His presence if we are pretending to be self-sufficient.
One of the perennial struggles of a Methodist pastor is to figure out what to do with the “joys and concerns” section of our worship service (I don’t remember having this tradition when I was a Baptist). We agonized over it in our worship class at seminary. Joys and concerns tend to kill the momentum of a worship service because people tend to be quite talkative. I’ve been praying over what to do about this. I try to frame it so that people will share testimonies of praise and cry out to God as the Spirit moves rather than turning it into a banal laundry list of prayer requests.
I’m not sure why it always seems to become a 20 minute laundry list, but I do want for there to be space for people who don’t have glowing things to share about how God has been at work in their lives to be able to cry out to God and receive some kind of answer. And I have to pay attention to the fact that God threw Psalm 119:145 at me right at a point when I’ve been contemplating this topic. So if you’ve got any insights to share with me, speak. I trust that God will speak through you, because I’m crying out to Him and He will answer me.
What you are speaking of reminds me of the book I just finished about the Laments of the bible. Crying out and complaining and being an empty vessel of confusion, sometimes leads to a new filling up.. by allowing God to “cleanse” our sorrows through lamenting. Job, Jeremiah, David, and Jesus all cried out for different reasons. as for joys and concerns… that is different to me. For me it is a time to build community and to connect with others as they ask for a community of like minded people to celebrate or lift them up… I dont see that as the same thing as lamenting and crying out to the lord… I see it as a human reaching out for human connection, which is one of the purposes of the actual ‘church” service… just my thoughts 🙂
Sounds like a great book! Thanks for sharing and for making the distinction you made. It’s helpful to my discernment.