There are many things that I love about Willow Avenue church of Christ where we worship. One reason is that the men who lead prayers during our services make a conscious effort to ensure the prayers are meaningful, heartfelt, and specific to the needs of our church family. Some even make notes to take with them to ensure they don’t forget to pray for specific individuals and areas of work, which I think is a great idea (I mean, how many preachers would you want to get up and just “wing it”?). This past Sunday morning, one of our deacons led the prayer before the sermon, and he made a statement during the prayer that I had never heard someone pray before. I’ve thought a lot since about how powerful and truthful that statement was. He prayed, “Lord, this hour belongs to You.”
In that statement, this man was clearly making the declaration that the hour we have decided to assemble together as a church family and worship our Creator is wholly and unequivocally dedicated to and controlled by our Lord. Not only did we sing songs of praise, but we sang them according to the pattern that the Holy Spirit laid out for us in Scripture (Ephesians 5:19, Hebrews 2:12). We gave to the work of the church based on how the Lord has blessed us (I Corinthians 16:1-3, II Corinthians 8-9). We read from His written word (I Corinthians 4:17, Acts 20:7). We prayed together as a family (I Corinthians 14:12-15, I Timothy 2:1). We ate the Lord’s Supper to remember the sacrifice that Christ made for us (Matthew 6:26-30, I Corinthians 11:17-22). Everything we did was done according to the pattern that was provided to us.
Unfortunately, many in the world believe that they are worshipping in a way that would please God, while at the same time they insert their own methods and opinions into the acts of worship. Many want to focus solely on the emotion, all while neglecting the truth that is required (John 4:24). It is just as unfortunate that this same thing happens in reverse: some are concerned only with checking the boxes of worship, and they neglect the love and emotional connection with Christ that we should have.
It is important that we are reminded who is really in charge during a worship service. God has made it very clear that He is the one who sets the course that He wants us to follow (Jeremiah 10:23, Isaiah 55:8-9, II Timothy 3:16-17, II John 9). When we decide to break away from that instruction and rely on our own understanding and preference, we cease to worship in spirit and truth (Matthew 15:8-9).
When we gather to worship our Lord, we need to remember who owns that time of worship. It is not our longings or desires that should guide the worship, but instead the longings and desires of our Heavenly Father.
“Lord, this hour belongs to you.”