Contemporary Worship

This kind of thing is why contemporary praise and worship will ultimately implode and fail God’s people completely:

Formal language and “perfectly read” prayers are not recommended for contemporary worship. People appreciate the touching sincerity of informal prayer. “Heartfelt” prayer also teaches/models simple prayer language that anyone can use at home, in the car, the office, etc.

This was a footnote in a contemporary order of service that was mis-forwarded to me in an email. Let’s take a look at the underlying assumptions:

  • Prayer is ultimately directed at people
  • Prayer is primarily interested in emotional appeal.
  • Prayer is simply better when it’s less eloquent.
  • Biblical fear of God ought not to enter the equation.
  • “Formal” and “heartfelt” are mutually exclusive descriptors.
  • Praying as our Lord taught his disciples to pray is neither touching nor sincere.
  • Contemporary worship does, in fact, have rules–or at least rules of thumb: the more order there is, the less “heartfelt” the worship may be.
  • Worship is to be appealing and instructive to people. Forget about all that transcendence of God stuff and those sacrament thingies.
  • A silly pastor I must be. I always thought God heard prayer, and that he acted for, in, and upon his people in worship.

    Edit: This is not to go and denigrate extemporaneous prayer. Certainly it is as valid and as heard by God as is the Our Father. But I do take exception to the assertions that are made in this email. It ain’t about how good you feel when you hear the pray-er pray. It’s about the mercy and grace of the Triune God who hears and answers prayer. And any prayer, prayed in faith, is pleasing to God (1 Pet. 312).

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    3 Responses to Contemporary Worship

    1. Derek K says:

      I encountered this sentiment doing pulpit supply recently. Spoke with lay leaders of the congregation over the phone and was told prayers were always written out ahead of time and given to me before the service. I got there and was told, “Oh, well we like it when the preacher prays from his heart.” This is five minutes before worship while I’m out greeting folks as they walk in. Having no time to write prayers, I pray ex corde for public prayers. Suddenly I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread, because I didn’t deign to do those boring, impersonal prepared prayers. Little did anyone know I would have had I not been put on the spot. It’s a good thing I didn’t prepare ahead of time, if I didn’t, God wouldn’t have liked the prayers as much apparently. Or maybe, it’s just all about how we feel the prayers are done.

    2. OSC says:

      Indeed. I encountered that when I first got here, too. And it’s not that I somehow have a problem with ex corde prayer. It’s fine. But the underlying assumptions about such prayer can be dangerous. I’ll go so far as to say they at least border on idolatry. It’s chasing after some affective pipe dream.

      But then, that’ seems to sum up a good deal of CPW‘s MO: Let’s induce a feeling. Let’s see what we can do to make this place into a utopia where all of our problems melt away, or at least we get to forget what they were for a bit while we all pretend that everything is great because of Jesus.”

      My response? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the reign of God.” I’m not there to be comfortable. I’m not there to be made to feel better about myself. I’m not there to sing the same inane chorus twelve times. I’m there to be acted upon by Almighty God. And frankly, if Romans 8.26 is a clue, “praying from my heart” requires a bit of divine intervention.

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