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576px-Jean-François_Millet_(II)_001Praise the LORD, all you nations!
Extol him, all you peoples!
For great is his steadfast love towards us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 117

Ask people what they believe and most will likely tell you what they think.  That is because in the modern West we tend to confuse faith with rational assent or opinion about something, rather than a living, personal engagement with God.  Being children of the Enlightenment and well schooled in secular thought, we have forgotten that “to believe” means in its root “to give one’s heart to”.  (For more on the Biblical meaning of “to believe” see Wilfrid Cantwell Smith’s Faith and Belief: The Difference Between Them, and also, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=credo)  When Jesus calls for faith He is calling for commitment of heart, not mere cognitive assent to propositions.

Coming to this Biblical understanding of faith has been at the center my spiritual journey and what it means for me to invite others on the journey.  Real faith is not just to think that something is true, something to analyze and argue, but something I give my heart and life to.

This way of understanding faith means that to grow my faith I am now more likely to spend time in prayer and worship than to read another book or take another class.  Two thousand years of Christian spirituality has shown how it is prayer and worship that best grow and nourish our faith.

From early times Christians have said, lex orandi, lex credenda, i.e. “the law of prayer is the law of faith.”  Loosely translated this saying teaches that the way we pray and worship shapes what we believe.  Christians have always understood that if we want to strengthen our faith we do best to give our hearts to God in prayer and worship.

American poet Kathleen Norris tells the part that prayer and worship played in her conversion to Christian faith.  Writing in her book Amazing Grace Norris relates:

I feel blessed to know from experience that it is in the act of worship, the act of saying and repeating the vocabulary of faith, that one can come to claim it [the creed] as ‘ours.’  It is in acts of repetition that seem senseless to the rational mind that belief comes, doubts are put to rest, religious conversion takes hold…I began to appreciate religious belief as a relationship, like a deep friendship, or a marriage, something that I could plunge into not knowing exactly what I was doing or what would be demanded of me in the long run…It was the boring repetition of worship language, and even the dense, seemingly, imponderable, words of the creeds that pushed me into belief.

Today’s Scripture is about prayer and worship pushing into belief.  This brief Scripture stands out in a number of ways.  First, this is the shortest of all the psalms and the shortest chapter in the Bible.  Notably it is the only one of 150 psalms in the Book of Psalms addressed to the gentiles (Hebrew goyim), those foreigners outside the covenant people.  Remarkably this psalm for unbelievers commands worship: “Praise the LORD…Extol Him…Praise the LORD.”  It is worship that can push them into living faith.

Notice that this psalm for unbelievers offers no rational proof for God’s existence.  It presents no logical argument about God being Lord over all.  Rather the psalm simply commands giving their hearts to God and being “pushed” into “faith” through worship.

This understanding of real faith has become far more than a semantic distinction for me.  Rather, I find my whole day different when I give my life to God through prayer and worship.  All of life is new and different.  Practically this can mean praying a psalm, singing hymns, going on a Daily God Hunt, taking a Prayer Walk, or Praying Palms Down, Palms Up, and more (See P. S. below for some of these spiritual practices.)

I also see how those of little faith, or no faith at all can be turned to faith by taking some time for daily prayer and worship.  Giving selves to God through prayer and worship best shape our faith and make us disciples.  Praise Him!  Exalt Him!

Grace and peace,

P.S.  To help you explore ways of daily prayer and worship you might want to check out a podcast/video I just recorded with my son Rhett on “Seven Spiritual Practices for Busy People.”

Photo credit: “Jean-François Millet (II) 001” by Jean-François Millet – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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