A holy addiction develops in the prayer-saturated church. Once you have been to God’s house and met Him there you are never again content to be a part of a passive audience. You have discovered that prayer is not a spectator sport and if it isn’t real and genuine and moving, something is missing.
At one time I had the sense – and maybe you have, too – that the pastor, the elders, musicians and worship leaders were the main actors, God was the One just off stage whispering to them what to do next, and the congregation was the audience. Kind of like a theater production. But the reverse is actually true. Those in the congregation are the actors, the pastor and worship leaders are coaching everyone what to do next, but the audience is God. That changes how you do church.
Let me tell you a story. Long ago in a land far, far away we were visiting in a medium-size Adventist church – maybe 300 or so. We knew the pastor hardly at all, and not much of anyone else, either. We recognized most of the music – the music, not the words. We didn’t understand the language being spoken from the pulpit either, yet somehow we felt engaged as if those leading out were intent on helping all of us be aware that we were in God’s presence.
I understood when they welcomed the visitors because they said that not only in Mandarin but also in English. We could follow the children’s story, too, by the rapt attention on the kids’ faces. And the offering – you can give an offering in any language.
So far I was feeling pretty comfortable with where all this was headed. Even without a translator the service felt familiar. But then the mood shifted. The pastor stood and announced that it was time for everyone to kneel – that he was going to pray. In most English-speaking churches we’d likely call it the pastoral prayer. But what caught my attention was that he then left the platform and came down on the main floor. Turning his back to the congregation he knelt with us, facing not us, but the front of the church.
I understood only two words of his prayer – Hallelujah and amen – but that took nothing away from what happened. He led us into a deep sense of the presence of God. I found myself saying Amen, even though I hadn’t understood his words. Many kneeling around me were in tears – and so was I. So was the pastor. God drew near. That’s all I can say…God drew near. I was reluctant to get up from my knees. I got what I came for – the privilege of worshiping at the feet of Almighty God. It’s a holy addiction I need to nurture.