Excerpt from The Making Of An Ordinary Saint

Worship is our human response to God’s divine initiative. 

Think of Isaiah in the splendor of Solomon’s temple, experiencing the astonishing vision of the Lord high and lifted up. The temple is filled with a myriad of angels flying around and calling out to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The foundations of the temple begin to shake and the whole place is filled with heavenly smoke. No wonder Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips: yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”1

Or think of John on the barren island of Patmos “in the spirit on the Lord’s day.”2 He hears a booming voice like a trumpet, and he sees seven golden lampstands with the resurrected Jesus in the middle, clothed in a long robe with a golden sash. Jesus’s hair is like a blizzard of white, his eyes like a flame of fire, his feet like furnace-fired bronze, and his voice like the sound of many waters. He holds seven stars in his hand, out of his mouth comes a razor-sharp sword, and his face shines like the blazing sun of noonday. No wonder John “fell at his feet as though dead.”3 

What an explosion of supernatural sound and color and image and energy! Who wouldn’t fall to the ground in the face of such staggering divine initiatives? 

But most of us must admit that these are not our normal experiences when we shuffle off to our local church. There the drums are too loud, the person next to us sings off-key, and we fight to stay awake through the sermon. Even when we wander into the magnificent granite cathedrals of nature, we struggle, for the sun is too hot and the mosquitoes bite. 

Our efforts at worship certainly seem rather ordinary when compared with Isaiah and John. Perhaps we feel like we are stuck in the outer court when everyone else has gone into the inner court and a select few have entered the holy of holies. Still, we should not despise our seemingly feeble efforts at worship. God is with us. Who knows when the divine initiative may come to fan the coals of our worship into a burning blaze? George Fox counseled, “Meet together in the Name of Jesus… he is your prophet, your shepherd, your bishop, your priest, in the midst of you, to open to you, and to sanctify you, and to feed you with life, and to quicken you with life.”4 

So whether our worship experience is of the fireworks variety of Isaiah and John or of a more ordinary kind, we can all follow the wise counsel of the apostle Paul: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.”5 Then, in the presence of God the prayer of our hearts can be simply, “Set my spirit free, that I may worship Thee.”

Now Underway: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? First, choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

Learn more >

Foster, Nathan. The Making of an Ordinary Saint: My Journey from Frustration to Joy with the Spiritual Disciplines. Baker Publishing Group.

For each chapter in Nathan’s book, Richard Foster writes an introductory essay—like this one from the chapter on Worship.

[1] Isaiah 6:3, 5.
[2] Revelation 1:10
[3] Revelation 1: 17
[4] George Fox, “CCLXXXVIII: To Friends in Carolina,” A Collection of Many Select and Christian Epistles, Letters and Testimonies, Written on Sundry Occasions, by That Ancient, Eminent, Faithful Friend and Minister of Christ Jesus, George Fox, vol. 8 of The Works of George Fox (Philadelphia: Marcus T. C. Gould, 1831), 37.
[5] Colossians 3: 16.