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Two Essentials of Devotion

Issue 19
The Marriage of God's Pleasure and Purpose

Ross Parsley
Jul/Aug  2000

It was planned as an evening of prayer for the 10/40 Window. We had invited worshipers and intercessors from all over our city to come. But what we experienced went way beyond dialogue with God. Waves of His presence washed over and through us as we exalted Him and He invited us. We were overwhelmed by His desires and compelled to pray for them to be fulfilled—in us and through us. It was the convergence of His delight and His direction, His presence and His passion. We were discovering the secrets of worship and prayer.

Nothing is more important in our relationship with God than worship and prayer. They are the very lifeblood of communion and communication with our heavenly Father. But many in the body of Christ see worship and prayer as separate functions: one for singing, the other for talking; one with music, the other with petitions. After all, we can't sing and pray at the same time, can we?

Of course, we can! We can have a powerful experience of God when we combine these two essential elements of devotion, for His pleasure and purposes are brought together. Worship and prayer certainly give God pleasure, and many times we experience His pleasure as we engage Him. In the midst of that pleasure, however, He also is accomplishing His purposes for us by transforming our minds and by giving us His heart for others in need—because that's what happens when we are truly in His presence.

Worship and prayer are two sides of the same coin. How can we ask God for something when we don't fully see Him for all that He is? And how can we genuinely worship God without hearing His answers to our most intimate petitions? Worship and prayer are the marriage of passion and presence—of knowing God intimately and then conversing with Him about our deepest needs and desires. They are the convergence of God's heart and God's agenda. Simply, His pleasure and His purpose.

The Worship and Prayer Movements

The worldwide worship movement that grew out of the 1980s and through the 1990s has transformed the landscape of church life. Congregations everywhere are experiencing a deeper understanding and awareness of God's presence. The worship recording industry is a phenomenon in and of itself. There is a greater hunger and desire for a lifestyle of worship within congregations and individuals alike, and intimacy with God is pursued in churches of all styles and theologies. Worship will definitely play a part in the great harvest that is coming.

Likewise, in the past 10 years we have seen an increase in the focus on and the application of prayer. Intercessory prayer is widely accepted as a necessary key to church growth, city unity, and spiritual warfare. The largest prayer meetings in the church's history have occurred in the last decade as part of the AD2000 United Prayer Track and Praying Through the Window efforts. Ministries dedicated to training intercessors have launched to help prepare the church for the harvest. Now we are watching the Lord raise up 24-hour houses of prayer to facilitate the hunger and passion for fulfilling God's purposes on the earth.

Worshipers seem to have a grasp on enjoying the presence of God. They understand the intimacy and love God has for His bride. They revel in knowing the power and strength of His presence and the awesome nature of His character. They take time to enjoy the Lord, and they embrace the romance of knowing Him intimately. They sing the songs of love and passion that only hearts consumed by Him can express.

People of prayer, on the other hand, have a revelation of God's desires and purposes on the earth. They sense God's calling to be colaborers with Him, pulling with Him in prayer to see His plans accomplished. They are driven by a passion to rescue lost people from the clutches of the enemy. They understand that a war is raging for the hearts of men and women in this world, and they are willing to sacrifice the time and energy that are required to intercede on their behalf. They know God's heart beats for the souls of people, and they want His heart to beat within them, too.

May I suggest that both of these views are correct? The time has come to bring worshipers and intercessors together to accomplish God's heart in these last days. These two mighty streams within the body of Christ will provide the wisdom and the strength necessary to unleash God's pleasure and His purpose on earth.

The Lord's Prayer

In Matthew 6, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus' response was what we call "The Lord's Prayer." This prayer is essentially split up into six petitions: three about God and three about our needs. Jesus begins with "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name" (Mt. 6:9, KJV). Jesus was saying that we should begin prayer by hallowing the name of the Lord. "To hallow" is to reverence, sanctify as holy, or show deep respect. It is a description of worship.

Jesus continues with, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done" (v. 10, KJV). This is a continuation of worship that exalts God's kingly rule. Jesus is instructing us to ask that God's rule and authority would come here on earth, into our lives and our world. It's as if we are saying, "God, we want what You want to be the norm. We desire all that You are to come down and consume us. We love Your rulership and authority so much that we want it to dominate our lives."

Then Jesus transitions into our personal needs: "Give us this day our daily bread" (v. 11, KJV). In other words, "Provide for us." Then, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (v. 12, KJV), which points us to our need to be cleansed and forgiven and the conditional statement that we must forgive others. Jesus ends with, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (v. 13, KJV). This is a plea to keep us away from the temptation of the enemy and protect us from his clutches.

Jesus was not teaching us a prayer to recite. He was teaching us the common themes of our communion with Him. Begin with an attitude of worship, and let that lead you into lifting up your concerns. It is a very natural progression, which we often experience in a worship service or personal quiet time. We begin thanking God and exalting Him for who He is and for what He's done. Then, almost seamlessly, we move into wanting to please Him and live a life worthy of what He's done for us. This is the substance of our petitions.

A perfect example of this progression is found in many of the songs we sing. Consider "I Give You My Heart" by Reuben Morgan: "This is my desire/ To honor You/ Lord, with all my heart/ I worship You/ All I have within me/ I give You praise/ All that I adore is in You./ Lord, I give You my heart/ I give You my soul,/ I live for You alone./ Every breath that I take/ Every moment I'm awake/ Lord, have Your way in me."

(c) Integrity Music Inc.

It's so natural that sometimes we don't even recognize it's happening. When we proclaim the power of God, we naturally want Him to exert that power in our lives or in the lives of others.

The Heavenly Model

What the Apostle John saw when he was caught up in the Spirit in Revelation 4 and 5 provides us with a heavenly model of worship and prayer. Note, in particular, where it says that each of the 24 elders had a harp (worship) and a bowl of incense (prayers), and then they sang a new song that is a prayer of intercession for the nations. It's a great illustration of how mixing prayer and praise and worship and intercession leads to awesome insights into the heart of God!

"The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: OYou are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth'" (Rev. 5:8-10).

Practical Empowerment

Now let's consider the practical benefits of connecting worship and prayer in our churches and in our daily lives:

1. When we worship, we pray God's heart. As we worship God in His beauty and holiness, we are changed into His likeness. We begin to sense His desires. In the midst of worship, we start to hear Him communicating His heart to us, and then we can respond with the prayer of "Yes, Lord!" We are led in a natural progression of praise, worship, intercession, and warfare for advancing the kingdom of God.

2. We increase intimacy with God. When we understand God's heart, we can begin to interact with Him on a more intimate level. We sense what He loves—and we want to love that, too. We realize what He wants to do—and we want to do that, too. His love and desire captivate us through worship, and then we are invited to carry out His wishes through our prayer and intercession.

3. We listen for His voice. When we see worship as a dialogue and prayer as the continuation of the conversation about what God wants, we are more inclined to listen to what He is saying—and less likely to fill our worship with our words and our prayers with our needs.

4. We retain an ease and endurance in devotion. Music is the best tool in worship. Although worship is not just music, when we use our voices and our instruments to adore God and exalt Him, it allows us to continue for greater periods of time. Long periods of prayer alone can become stale conversation; but with music and an element of genuine worship, we can go back and forth among prayer, intercession, praise, and worship. We can listen and then reflect and then sing and then pray, which inspires and empowers us to continue with the Lord for longer than we would have otherwise. In essence, engaging in worship and prayer together expands our vocabulary in conversation with the Lord.

5. We engage in warfare from the place of His presence. As we worship and then pray, intercession is a natural consequence. We may then be led into a realm of fighting and confronting schemes of the enemy in prayer. We do this not from a human standpoint or a fleshly sphere, but from the context of 2 Cor. 10:3-5: "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

God is moving in exciting ways in these days, and we don't want to miss what He's saying and doing. So worship Him in intimacy as you pray with passion. And God will lead you into His pleasure and purpose for your life!(c)

About the Author

ROSS PARSLEY is the worship pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Ross' favorite book is The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

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