The other day a friend and I were talking about the growing trend in some congregations to make worship for the worshiper. When this happens worship becomes about what you or I need, want, desire or feel and not about giving honor and praise to God.
That conversation started me thinking about what Eugene Peterson says about the new Trinity. He writes that we have been trained to to be in control and to choose what is best for us, and as a result we can end up seeing ourselves as “a divine self in charge of our own lives.” It is no wonder then, that even in our worship we have become self-centered and choose what we need and want. In Eat This Book, Peterson writes,
The sovereign self expresses itself in Holy Needs, Holy Wants, and Holy Feelings. …the sovereignty revealed in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are directed by our contemporaries in affirming and validating our needs, wants and feelings. My needs are non-negotiable. My so-called rights, defined individually, are fundamental to my identity. …My wants are evidence of my expanding sense of kingdom. …My feelings are the truth of who I am.
What concerns me is that I know people in the church who are like that. What alarms me is that I can be like that, and that is so often evident when I pray. I pray about what I want. I ask God for what I think I need. I remind God that I don’t like the way he is ordering my life and that I think he should arrange this, that, or the other instead.
Peterson argues that the corrective to this “me centered theology” is found in Scripture. The key for us is to do as the angel commanded John in the vision on the Isle of Patmos…. EAT THIS BOOK. He writes,
it us so urgent to revive the angel’s strong command to St. John. If we want to keep our identity, if we want a text to live by that keeps us in the company of God’s people, keeps us conversant with who he is and the way he works, we simply must eat this book.
It seems to me, that when we immerse ourselves in Scripture that we discover the corrective to the self-centered theology. We stop being a people of wants, needs and feelings and learn to see ourselves in the light of God’s revelation of himself to us, in creation and in salvation. What God has done for us in Jesus is fundamental for our identity–we are children of God. Our wants, needs and desires are subdued and we proclaim with gratitude that God supplies all of our needs. Instead of our feelings defining the truth of our own little universes, we learn that God’s word is truth and it becomes the truth that we live by.
How does this affect the way that I pray? Over the years I have learned that we (I) can pray for something so often and with such fervor that we begin to believe that what we want is God’s will. When I want something very badly, when I have a concern for myself that I need prayer for… I leave the praying to others. I tell them the situation, and then I ask them to pray that God’s will and direction will become clear and that the wisdom of God’s Spirit will direct my actions (and those of any others involved in that situation.) And I am particular about who I ask to pray for me. There are some very special friends that God has given me, who are wise and spirit filled, whose counsel I have found to be trustworthy and these are the people that I ask to pray for me.
The benefit of this is that first of all I don’t cloud the issue with my needs, wants, and feelings. The people who are praying for the important issues in my life can be trusted to pray, they don’t just say they’ll pray and then forget about me. And most importantly they will pray for God’s way of blessing to be revealed so that when the time comes, I can walk the road before me with confidence.
Do I still have an outcome that I want to happen? Yes. I am human and I struggle with all that being human means. But I desire to live a life that honors God and so I am willing to leave the praying to others and the outcome to God…what ever that may be.
And now, to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be the glory, now and forevermore. Amen.