Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Worship: The Ladder to Heaven

Worship is the noblest form of prayer, and the highest quality of worship is achieved in silence. To put words into praise, thereby submitting it to the limitations of human language, is to impede reaching the ultimate exhilarating experience of true worship. 

Indeed, there are no words to adequately express what the heart feels while the mind is contemplating the greatness of God and, in gratitude and admiration, it beholds the awesome beauty of Creation. 

True worship is to lose oneself in the vastness of the Universe; true worship is to feel one with everything that exists and be greatly grateful for it.

Genuine worship is an ideal state of being whereby the human spirit is merged with the Universal Spirit and all man’s desires cease to exist. There is nothing more to want, nothing better to dream for! True worship is a state of being, not an act of will. You cannot determine when and how to worship God in the right manner. There aren’t any effective rules and instructions about it. Real worship appears to be initiated by Grace from “above”. When, why, we don’t know. None of us is so holy as to deserve the mergence with God. This is why true worship is usually accompanied by a deep feeling of regret for the wrong things we have done – acts that harmed us and others, grieved our spirit, and broke the harmony of the Universe.

True worship is a joyful experience that lasts for a few minutes at a time, because the awesome energy...
that is released thereby is overwhelming for tiny man. True worship is a baptism in holy fire. Happy is the man who can often enter into the stillness of the sanctuary of true worship! 

David, the Psalmist, a man after God’s heart, has poetically given us a glimpse of his longing for true worship: “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Psa. 42: 1-2)
How vividly David expresses his longing to see the face God! But who can see it? The Omnipresent Spirit, that is God, can only be ‘seen’ internally by our spirit, and externally in its glorious Creation! Here is what Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis wrote: “I said to the almond tree, ‘Friend, speak to me of God’, and the almond tree blossomed!”

If, like David, our soul longs for God as the deer longs for streams of water, we have plenty of occasions to ‘see’ His face!

We can ‘see’ God even in a humble blade of grass; in a little wild flower that stems out of a rock, surviving the heat and the blows of the wind in spite of the lack of soil and water underneath; in a little lamb that plays carelessly in the field; in the busy bees that fly tirelessly from flower to flower, getting drunk with the nectar secreted therein; in the starred sky of a clear night; in the snowballs of myriad shapes that fall playfully on the ground; in the splendid designs of a cave; in the shade of thick woods; in a rough or calm as a pool sea; in the wrinkled face of an old woman or man; in the cry of a baby that just came out of its mother’s womb; in the serene death of a saint, etc. etc…
If our soul is in the right disposition, we ‘see’ and worship God everywhere!

“Praise the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. Who wraps himself in light as with a garment; who stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on the waters. Who makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.” (Psa. 104: 1-3)

What a beautiful description of the Creator! David must have been in a state of holy ecstasy when he wrote down these unprecedented verses! The Psalmist exhorts his soul to praise the Lord. He urges all the faculties of his being to engage in worshipping God. He stands in awe before the glory of God who is clothed in the splendor and majesty of his creation. God, who is Light and the Father of all lights, dwells in light and hence light is his garment! God stretches out the heavens as a magnificent huge tent that protects humankind from being frightened of the awesomeness of the firmament. The “beams” of God’s upper chambers are laid on the waters, says David, and the clouds are his chariots! He rides on the wings of the wind, having absolute control over them and directing them as he pleases!
What a beautiful hymn!

“My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken in the dawn. I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.” (Psa. 108: 1-5)

David seems at a loss for words in his longing to worship God! He promises to sing praises to the Lord with all his soul, awaking early in the morning and making music with his harp and lyre. He also pledges to acknowledge and praise the Lord among the nations. His heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s great love and faithfulness. The psalmist certainly sets up a perfect example of a true worshipper of God!

But how easy is it to worship God amidst pain and suffering? We would be hypocrites if we claimed that it were easy. However, this is achievable, if we realize that God is not some apathetic observer out there but he lives in us by his Spirit, co-suffering with us.

This reminds me of the testimony of a young man whom I had met many years ago. He belonged to a religious group and he was a devout individual. He related to me a personal story about an accident he had some years earlier, which had left his face deformed and scarred. He told me that he nearly died in a US hospital but he kept praying this way: “My God, do not be sad about me, I will overcome! I promise to you, I will survive! I am determined not to let you down! Please forgive me that I grieved you with this accident.” What a lofty prayer! I was overwhelmed! This young man was sure in his heart that God was not responsible for his suffering and that He even suffered with him! Over the years, I have kept this prayer in my heart as a treasure.

God surely wants us to be happy at every moment, in every way. May we constantly worship the Deity with all our being, in spirit and in truth, in spite of our circumstances! True worship ensures inner peace and happiness.

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