Bowing Before the Almighty: The Worship of Prayer
You may, or may not recognize this picture. This is Francis Collins. He is a well respected geneticists who headed up the Human Genome Project as the Director of the National Institutes of Health. In case you’ve never heard of the Human Genome Project, it was the complete mapping of the Human DNA. The completion of this project has made if possible for doctors to treat all kinds of genetic diseases in much more effective ways. By the way, if you’re a tarheel, Francis Collins is a graduate of the UNC medical school.
However, Collins was an atheist. As a medical student, Collins thought it was “convenient not to have to deal with God.” But then, after one of his patients told Collins about her faith, she asked him, “What about you? What do you believe.” In Collin's own words, "I stuttered and stammered and felt the color rising in my face, and I said, 'Well, I don't think I believe in anything.' But it suddenly seemed like a very thin answer. And that was unsettling."
Then after a long period of searching, which included grilling a pastor and reading C.S. Lewis, Collins finally came to Christ after watching the beauty of creation. This is Collin's description of that life-changing encounter:
I had to make a choice. A full year had passed since I decided to believe in some sort of God, and now I was being called to account. On a beautiful fall day, as I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains during my first trip west of the Mississippi, the majesty and beauty of God's creation overwhelmed my resistance. As I rounded a corner and saw a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall, hundreds of feet high, I knew the search was over. The next morning, I knelt in the dewy grass as the sun rose and surrendered to Jesus Christ
Ever have that kind of experience with God? Ever get beyond what you’ve always been taught or the ritual of faith to truly encounter His awesome presence. I believe I have. On a few occasions in my live, I have been brought to the point of being absolutely overwhelmed by the power and majesty of God.
I’ve told this story so many times, but you’ll bear with me again won’t you? I was a senior in high school, living in South Florida. As far as I knew, it had never snowed that far south. I one day said, “God, if you can make it snow here, I’ll be a preacher.” In just a few short weeks, we were sitting in class one day when some one came running in saying, “It’s snowing.” I went outside and there blowing across the parking lot was snow. It was a “God moment” in my life. Ever had that happen?
Here’s what I will tell you: It is these moments of reality, when, through circumstances or worship, I see God for Who He is that radically changes your life. Ever experienced that?
If you haven’t, you need to. That’s why I’m asking you to listen this morning. Some of you are empty and you can’t fill up your heart. You’ve tried. You’ve got this big old hole in your soul and you’ve tried to stuff everything in it. You’ve tried drugs; you’ve tried sex; you may have tried money or power or even religion. But nothing fills that emptiness. Maybe its time you had a real experience with God.
And then some of you may really be saved, but you’re rebellious and you can’t seem to surrender your will. You know you should; You’ve heard all the sermons about it and you may have even tried to surrender, but you always keep slipping into the driver’s seat of your life and kicking God out. Here’s what you need to know: Until you see God for Who He really is, you’ll never be able to trust Him with your life. Maybe its time you had a real experience with God.
How does that happen? Well, there’s a sort of strange sounding phrase in that prayer we’ve been studying over the last couple of weeks. We’ve been walking through what Jesus told His disciples about prayer. You remember, they came to Him and asked Him to teach them how to pray and He obliged. He said, “Well, if you want to know how to pray, do this: Say, ‘Our Father in heaven, (and here’s the curious phrase) Hallowed be your Name.
“Wow!” you might say, “Kinda sounds like the 31st of October . . . you know - Halloween.” That word “Hallow” is not one we use commonly. What does it mean? Well, “to ‘Hallow’ God’s Name means that you recognize the holiness of God for what it is and give to God, on that basis, the reverence that is due.” Someone else wrote that “referring to the name of God points to his specific personal identity as made known in his deeds and self-revelation.” Now, if you put the two together, to hallow God’s name means that you give reverence to His personal identity as made known in His deeds and self-revelation.” In other words, I come to understand Who God is by experiencing His presence and on that basis, I am aware of and I praise God for the implications His Name makes possible. I “hallow;” I see and I give Him glory for Who He is.
By the way I believe that, more than any other phrase in the Lord’s prayer, “Hallowed be your Name” most succinctly describes worship. To “Hallow” God’s Name is truly to worship Him. So, if worship and hallowing are synonymous, What does it mean to truly worship God? How do we “Hallow His name?”
Well, if “seeing is believing,” let me give you a picture of worship. It happens right in your Bible over in the book of Isaiah, chapter six. There the prophet has one of those “life-changing” experiences with God. Read it with me:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” 9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Now you can say a lot of things about this passage of scripture, but you’ll have to admit that Isaiah was not bored in church on that day. No! He saw the Lord and he was absolutely and permanently changed by it. That’s what real worship does for you. That’s what happens when you really “Hallow” the name. In fact, this picture shows us three primary ingredients of worship. The first is this:
DIV 1: REAL WORSHIP BRINGS WONDER
One of the most overused terms in our vocabulary is the word, “awesome.” Everything is “awesome” from the size of the your new “Kit Kat” bar to the way your kid played his last soccer game. We use it so much it loses its meaning.
But if you ever wanted to see a true picture of “awesome,” this is it! Isaiah, the prophet is given a picture of that few people ever see. In fact, this depiction describes what I have called a “cycle of wonder.” Isaiah, through a process of revelation, is brought to the place God wants him to be. Here’s how it starts.
In the first place, experiencing God’s greatness brings a consciousness of sin. v1 begins, In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord . Stop right there! That alone would have killed Him apart from the grace of God. God had already told Moses that no man could see His face and live, but Isaiah says, “I saw the Lord!” One commentator writes,
The reader visualizing the scene, is with Isaiah and feels the raw edge of terror at being where humanity dare not go. Evidently the veil had been removed and there, where the ark should be (in the holy of holies) is a great white throne
Which is why he continues, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up and the train of His robe filled the temple. I have always wondered why it says it that way. Why does Isaiah give so much attention to the robe of God and not to God Himself. One commentator said that the “reason he describes the robe is because the description of God’s appearance can rise no higher than the robe. It is so powerful and personal and too all-encompassing for words.”
Around the Lord are the searphim, v 2 says. The word “seraphim” literally means “burning ones.” They have three pairs of wings. Two of their wings are used to fly, two of their wings cover their feet to show reverence to God and two of their wings cover their face to keep from beholding the blinding radiance of God’s face.
And these seraphim are saying something. They cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts.” Holiness is not something God imposes, but something that He is within Himself. Whenever the Bible makes a declaration once it has ultimate authority because the Bible is God’s word. There were times, however, that Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, truly” I say unto you. By emphasizing the saying twice, He was raising it to the second degree and giving it even greater weight. But when the seraphim cry out that God is Holy, they raise it to the third degree. He is not just Holy; He is not just Holy, Holy; He is Holy, Holy, Holy!”
That means that He alone is God; He alone is the unique, one and only ruler of the universe; He alone defines and executes what is right and what is wrong and because of Who He is, the whole earth is full of His glory.
And when you encounter the visible glory of God, there is great impact. In fact, v 4 says that the posts or the beams of the house shook and smoke, symbolizing the fiery holiness of God, filled the temple.
And what happened to Isaiah? Well, he is seeing the awesome holiness of God and when he experiences God’s greatness, he becomes conscious of his sin. Look at v 5. He says, “Woe is me.” The word “woe” here is akin to us saying when we hear of some tragedy, “O no!” It was a knee-jerk exclamation just like you would make right before impact in a head on collision. “Woe is me,” he says, “for I am undone.” “Undone” here literally means “I am coming apart at the seams. I’m about to be obliterated.”
And why was Isaiah having this reaction? He tells you: “Because I am a man of unclean lips . . .” You see, experiencing God’s greatness made him conscious of his own sin, which then led him to the second step in this cycle of worship: A consciousness of sin brings a deep confession. Isaiah says, “I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Confronted by the holiness of God, Isaiah spontaneously confesses his sin. Now, I think this sin consciousness goes beyond his lips, by the way. I think that Isaiah is seeing his complete sinfulness. The reason he specifies his lips is because, as one writer said, as a sinful man, he cannot praise God. This encounter causes him to want to burst out in praise as the seraphim are doing, but he can’t do that because he realizes that he would be praising God out of his depravity, and this he could not do.
Do you see the cycle? Seeing the greatness of God brings a consciousness of his sin and this consciousness brings a deep confession. But God does not leave him that way. He brings to him a gracious forgiveness. V6 says, Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged. This completes the cycle of wonder and worship. He sees God in all of His glory, he becomes conscious of his sin, confesses, and is forgiven. It all flows from the wonder of seeing God for who he is.
And I know what you may be saying: “Well, that all sounds great and it seems to be an experience I’d like to have. I would like to genuinely “hallow” God’s name when I pray. I would genuinely like to be able to have the kind of vision of God that would drive me to wonder and then to holiness, but, quite frankly, I haven’t had any visions like that. What does it take to see God like Isaiah did? Is it even possible?
Well, I think you get some hints from what Isaiah went through. In fact, there are a couple of factors that bring us to a place that we catch this life changing glimpse of God. The first one I call human desperation. V1 notes that this vision occurred “in the year that King Uzziah died.” That’s a significant historical marker. After years of failure, the nation had finally seen a good king come to the throne. In an era of despots and moral failures, King Uzziah was a breath of fresh air. He was a great leader, a fearless military warrior and a strategic planner. He led the nation to heights it had not achieved since Solomon was King. Isaiah knew that, with his death, things were all down hill. A rebellious nation would eventually surrender to its captors and be enslaved. This vision occurred at a time of human desperation and it is often in those moment of great desperation that God reveals Himself, so let me ask you: Are you desperate for God? Have you come to the place in your life that you understand how hopeless your life is apart from Him. This kind of worship experience happens in the heart of one who is desperately seeking God.
And if the first factor that brings you to a place where you can catch this life-changing vision of God is human desperation the second is divine intervention. God has to reveal Himself. It is a divine thing. It is something that God does, and since it is something that God does, we must ask Him to do it and we must expect Him to do it. O listen! This is what is missing in so much of what we call “worship.” There may be great music and there may be excellence in so many ways, but God isn’t showing up, or if He is, we’re so conscious of ourselves until we aren’t seeing Him. But when the heart gets desperate and you say, “Nothing else will do! No one else will suffice! I’m not here to see my friends, I’m here to meet the Lord! I need to see Jesus.” And when you wait on Him and trust Him, there comes that divine moment when the Spirit moves and doorposts shake and the Holy Smoke of God fills the place and we see the Lord! And seeing Him brings us to our knees in wonder.
Have you had the experience? Are you desperate to see Him?
Franklin and Phileda Nelson served in the country of Burma as missionaries in the 1940's for 8 ½ years before the government made all missionaries leave. While they were in Burma, they worked among remote tribes and knew what it was to desperately depend on God. Franklin, reflecting on his time in Burma, said:
In the Burmese hill country, the only way to get to remote villages was by "shank mare." (That's walking, in case you've never heard the phrase.) It was not at all uncommon for me to walk twenty miles a day in the dry season. When I got back to the States and worked as a pastor and church leader, I rarely walked a mile a day; the telephone and car made walking unnecessary.
In Burma, if one of us got sick, the nearest hospital was ten days away. In the States, medical care is minutes away. In Burma, we'd go months without bread. Once we asked our daughter Karen to say grace before a meal, and she said, "Why do I have to pray for my daily bread when I don't ever get any?"
Franklin went on to speak somewhat wistfully of that experience. He said
I have often coveted that experience for our youngest daughter who never had to wonder where her food came from. It's hard to have that sense of helplessness and humility so vital to prayer when you sit down to your daily bread and don't even think about how you got it.
I don't in any way blame people here for not knowing what God can do. We're victims of our prosperity. But I sometimes wish we had a few more hard times so people could experience firsthand how wonderful it is to be totally dependent on God
You see, God shows up in the lives who get desperate for Him. And when He truly comes, there is an encounter with Him that causes us to see His powerful holiness. He shakes us to our core and brings us to full confession and repentance. That’s the wonder of worship. And flowing out of the wonder of worship, then comes this next ingredient. It is
DIV 2: WILLINGNESS
When it comes to “hallowing the Name;” when it comes to genuine worship, willingness follows wonder as night follows day! After seeing God and being brought to a wonder-filled repentance, v8 says: Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
God calls out for a volunteer and Isaiah speaks up immediately, “Here am I! Send me.” I get the picture here of a second grade classroom with a visiting magician who is doing magic tricks and asks for a volunteer. You’ve seen it happen. Every single kid is half-standing in their desks, their arms are stretched out as far as they will go and they’re saying, “Oo, oo, oo, pick me! Pick me!”
That’s the eagerness that Isaiah demonstrates here. One writer says:
Isaiah’s response is immediate. A moment before he had feared that there was no hope for him; now, however, that he has received the assurance of the forgiveness of his sins and understands that God will not banish him from His presence, he is ready to do service for the sovereign LordIt is the readiness of true faith. Indeed, even before the prophet knows what God’s bidding is, he is willing to do that bidding.
Listen Christian! Real worship is willingess! Romans 12:1 says, I beg you, in view of God’s mercy, that you present yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto God. This is your spiritual act of worship! And this willingness is coming from the right place, in Isaiah’s case. He’s not responding out of guilt-ridden coercion. No! He genuinely wants to do whatever God wants him to do!
And I know what you might say if you were to really be honest this morning: “But that’s just it, Rusty. I am NOT WILLING. I don’t want to keep the nursery; I don’t want to go on a mission trip; I don’t want to go to a Christian College and “throw my money away.” I don’t want to come early and stand in the cold to be a greeter. I refuse to be a tither. I just don’t want to!
Well, again, a commentator adds about this verse: Here in this matchless passage we find the reason why so few are willing to serve God. They need above all the conviction of sin. Only when a man has been convicted of sin and has understood that the Redeemer has borne the guilt of his sin is he willing and ready joyfully to serve God, to go wherever God may call him.
Ed Young Jr. writes of taking his family to a high school football game. During the third quarter, his daughter, Landra, asked, "Dad, can I have some money to buy some candy?" So Ed said, "Landra, here's $5. Go and buy some candy." Landra soon returned with a sack full of Skittles. He said that he’s not really much of a candy lover, but he started wanting a couple of skittles, so he said "Landra, can I have some Skittles?" She looked at him and said, "No." I said, "Landra, just give me a couple." She said, "They're mine."
Ed says, “My little daughter didn't understand several things. Number one, she didn't understand the fact that I was the one who bought the Skittles for her. Number two, she didn't realize my strength. I'm strong enough to forcibly take those Skittles from her and eat every one of them. If I wanted to, I could have done that. Number three, she didn't understand that I could have gone to the concession stand, put 300 packages of Skittles on a credit card, come back to her, and given her so many Skittles that she couldn't have eaten them all in a year.
Listen! We all have Skittles. Some of us have a pretty nice size pile of Skittles; others have a medium-size pile of Skittles; and some of us have little bags of Skittles. Our loving God comes to us and says, "Would you bring me some Skittles? Just a few Skittles?" What do you think our reaction is? "No! They're mine!" God says, "Just bring me some Skittles." But we still say, "Uh-uh. I made those Skittles. I own those Skittles." Like my daughter, we don't understand several things. God is the one who gave them to us. They're his Skittles. He bought them. In an instant, God could take all of our Skittles. Also, we don't understand that God could rain so many Skittles on our lives, we wouldn't know what to do with them. We couldn't possibly spend or enjoy all of them.
Listen, there are probably about three things that keep us from being willing to serve Him. We refuse to serve God because we have no vision of Him. Now I want you to notice very carefully that I didn’t say we’re not willing because we do not have a vision for ministry. You see, if you were to attend some of the church leadership seminars today they would tell that the reason people are not motivated to serve in your church is that you haven’t cast a proper “ministry vision” for them. “You have to give them a clear picture of where the church needs to go,” they would say, “and then people will get on board with you. People are motivated by a vision of success.”
Well, that may be true in business, but it is not biblically accurate. I say that because, here in this passage, Isaiah is told that, when he answers the call to go and preach to the people which God gives him in v 9, no one is going to even listen! The ministry vision for Isaiah was not very promising. He was not going to be successful! You see what motivated Isaiah was not a vision of ministry but a vision of God.
You know what will give you a willingness to serve regardless of your success? It is a vision of God! It is learning to truly “Hallow the name;” It is truly worshiping God. We refuse to serve because we have no vision of God.
But we also refuse to serve because, having no vision of God, we, thus, have no vision of ourselves. At its heart, our refusal to serve God springs out of the arrogance of heart that causes us to think we’re good enough to get something done on our own. When we don’t see God for Who He is, we will not see ourselves as the sinners we are and will forge on frustrated with the failure of our flesh. But when we see God for Who He is, we see ourselves for who we are.
Which leads me to the last reason we refuse to serve. Not only do we lack a vision of God and a vision of ourselves, we have no vision of grace. When we don’t see God for Who He is, we don’t see ourselves for who we are and we miss the great grace He is willing to show us. In the final analysis it is this experience and understanding of grace that brings us to a place of real worship. It is God’s grace that makes us hallow His name to the point that we are willing to do whatever He wants us to do.
And what does he want us to do? Well, not only are we unwilling because we have no vision of God and no vision of ourselves and no vision of grace. We are also unwilling because we have no vision of our purpose. Immediately, when God asks who will go for Him, and Isaiah volunteers, God tells him to go and tell this people. The whole purpose of our vision of God and of our worship of Him is for us to come to the place that we are willing to GO AND TELL. Now notice, I didn’t say go and WIN, for as we’ve already said, Isaiah was going to preach to a people who were not going to listen. The point is not the result of the telling, the point is the TELLING. Somehow our willingness to go and witness to the world of Who God brings Him glory. So many are unwilling to go because they think they are not qualified or they expect results that don’t happen, or they see the culture as being so hard that they will never be moved. But the point is not the impact we have; the point is that we are willing to stand and proclaim the message and give Him glory. Because we do not see the real purpose for our witness, we are often unwilling to do it.
You see, in the final analysis hallowing the name is not about you or me, it’s all about God! We come to the place of seeing Him for Who He is and then we are brought face to face with who we are. And, when we see who we are, we realize that we need His grace. And, when we receive that grace and that forgiveness, we are willing to go and tell, regardless of the response because we’re not out, in the first place, to win the world, but to simply witness to the world of Who Jesus is. And Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.”
So let me draw all of this together by just asking you three questions. First, are you a worshiper? Now understand what I mean by that: Do you regularly come into the presence of God and view Him as He really is? Are you moved by His majesty? Do you sit in His presence and adore Him for Who He is? Are you constantly confronting the sin in your life because you constantly confronting the holy character of God? Do you hallow His Name?
And then, are you willing? Is your service forced? Do you go for God because you have a passion for Him or are you just serving because you don’t want to disappoint someone who is depending on you? Only “hallowing His Name” will bring you to the point of heart-felt willingness that springs from the right motivation.
And last, are you witnessing? Are you proclaiming Who God is in your life out of a passionate heart that cannot keep quiet about Him? Have you quit talking about God because you allowed a lack of response to steal your joy? Have you been intimidated into silence by the misunderstandings of others? Only hallowing His name will bring you to the point that you can stand and proclaim with confidence in God. Only hallowing His name will give you the courage to speak up when you know that others may not appreciate it.
When we hallow the name, wonder brings willingness and willingness will always bring witness.
He was the youngest of 15 children. Standing six-foot three-inches tall, his piercing eyes and leadership ability gave him such recognition that he soon was apprenticed to become a lawyer, even though he had never been to college.
But then something happened. He had an Isaiah experience. He found himself at age 29 as ignorant of the gospel as a heathen, but he did believe that the Bible was God’s word and started reading it. He began to be severely convicted, till, on one Sunday evening in the autumn of 1821, he made up his mind that he would settle the question of his soul’s salvation once and for all and make peace with God.
For two days he wrestled with God and it seemed to him that his heart grew harder and harder. Finally a verse came to his mind, then you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for me with all your heart. Eventually he came to seek God. He describes that he was struck with a “rising of my sould” so great that he rushed into the back room of the office to pray. He said
There was no fire, and no light in the room; nevertheless it appeared to me as if it were perfectly light. As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me then, nor did it for sometime afterward, that it was wholly a mental state. On the contrary, ti seemed to me that I saw Him as I would see any other man. He said nothing. He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at His feet. I wept aloud like a child and made such confessions as I could as choked up as I was. I continued in this state for a good while, but when became calm enough to break off the interview I returned to the front office and . . . as I turned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity going through and through me. Indeed, it seemed to come in waves and awaves of liquid love; for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God . . .
That was the conversion of Charles G. Finney. He had an Isaiah experience and from that encounter he became a mighty evangelist who shook America during the second Great Awakening. His hunger drove him to seek God; His search led him to encounter God; his encounter led him to wonder; his wonder led him to willingness and his willingness led him to witness. In short, He learned to “hallow the Name!”