Thursday, January 5, 2012

Can you repeat that?

Recently, I've been involved in conversations with people regarding the use of repetition during worship, whether it be singing or praying.  Last night our youth led the singing with the song "Let It Rain," with that phrase being repeated about 96 times.  However, my brain checked out after about the seventh repetition. 

In both Colossians and Ephesians, Paul encouraged the use of hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs.  Six times in the psalms, once in Isaiah, and once in Revelation we are told to sing a new song to the Lord.  Obviously God loves variety and creativity!

Growing up Catholic, we used repetition a lot.  I have prayed many rosaries in my day.  Repeating the "Our Father."  The "Hail Mary."  The "Glory Be."  "The Act of Contrition."  And so on. 

Years later, as a no-longer-Catholic adult, I attended my uncle's funeral at a Catholic church.  My sister (also no longer Catholic) and I were sitting behind my grieving aunt.  The priest, who had a very Scandanavian accent, was saying "Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."  Now I realize that this was from scripture, and it is ALWAYS a good thing to memorize scripture.  However, both my sister and I lapsed into giggles in the middle of the funeral when I leaned over and whispered, "It's like riding a bike," meaning, "we will never forget the liturgy that has been drilled into our heads."  I also don't think we would have giggled quite so hard had the priest not sounded like the Swedish Chef.  I don't know if my aunt heard our giggles or not, and if so, I hope she forgave us.

Anyway, the repetition to me has always been by rote.  As a child, I used to say the same five prayers before bed, hoping that they would satisfy God.  Now as an adult believer in Yeshua, Matthew 6:7 resonates with me.  And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Yep, that was me. 

People will argue that Jesus taught the "Our Father" right after that.  But He wasn't teaching people what to pray, He was teaching people how to pray.  Up until this time, God had not been accessible to the people; He dwelt in the Holy of Holies, accessible only by the high priest once a year.  Jesus was preparing people to have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit.  If people were going to have a relationship with Him, they needed to know how to relate to Him personally and intimately.  Today, we are able to pour out our hearts to Him in praise, adoration, confession, thankfulness, intercession for others, requests, and so forth... whatever is on our heart!  Even though He already knows our deepest thoughts, He still wants us to talk to Him! 

If one of my kids came up to me and said "I love you, you're so awesome..." over and over again, I think that after about seven times, my brain would tune them out.  (And I would probably wonder what they wanted from me!)

What about the creatures in Revelation 4?  The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “ Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” The phrase "day or night" in Hebrew thought denotes continuity - not the endless duration of an action.  We can also let scripture interpret scripture here, because later in Revelation we see the living creatures engaged in other activities in addition to praise and worship, such as speaking a command (Rev 6:1), or handing bowls to angels (Rev 15:7).   Also, Hebrew does not have separate words for communicating the words "holy," "holier," or "holiest," so repeating something three times is a Hebrew literary method of communicating a superlative.  Another way of expressing a superlative in Hebrew is to say "king of kings" or "servant of servants," meaning the greatest king or the lowest of servants.

I am looking forward to praising my King in person in the coming kingdom - it will be AWESOME!  But But we will also be reigning with Him!  He will give us charge over things... there will be things to do!  We are His chosen bride and we will dwell with Him!  There will be times of passionate worship as well as awesome times of serving, and so much more!  God is a creative being Who loves variety.  I can't wait to see what all He has in store for us on the other side!

No comments:

Post a Comment