ENTER INTO HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING:
I don’t believe that God cares about record sales and popularity and chart position. And I somewhat wonder if the C.C.L.I. organization (Christian Copyright Licensing International) – which charges money every time the church sings a praise and worship song which is registered by their society – is cause for vexation in the Heavenlies? After all, if a song is written FOR God, to worship God, then shouldn’t it be GIVEN to God? If it’s FOR Him, shouldn’t HE own it?
God doesn’t charge us a fee to worship Him. Isn’t it enough that the publisher and writer make money from the CD sales? Do they also have to be paid every time a congregation sings their song? They also get paid for the sheet music which choirs use to memorize their compositions. Isn’t that enough money?
And if the praise and worship staff writer says “Well, it’s not exactly written FOR Him, it’s supposed to be TO Him. It’s for people to use when they sing TO Him” – then what is its true purpose? Adoration through worship or royalty accrual?
Should the church be forced to pay when they use music to “Enter into His Gates with Thanksgiving, and into His Courts with Praise.” Is it wrong to praise God or worship God in song unless there is payment to a licensing organization?
As a matter of fact, this idea of paying on a “per song” basis reminds me of ancient church history when a prayer was believed to be more speedily directed to Heaven when accompanied with a lit candle – and each candle had a price. The people were told that the prayers ascended more effectively up toward Heaven, carried by the wispish curl of smoke from the wick and flame.
When Jesus came into the temple and cleansed it by driving out the “money changers,” the problem was the same. Only temple money could be used to buy a sacrifice. Secular money had to be traded in for temple money. If Ten World Dollars can only buy One Temple Dollar, then the worshippers are being told that their sacrifices aren’t good enough unless officially sanctioned by the church; that their candles aren’t holy enough; that the New Song which springs from a believer’s lips is not as spiritual as an official praise and worship song, seen via the overhead projectors.
Am I making any sense? I find that words are sometimes so ineffectual. Let me ask you a different question. What would you think of a contemporary culture where one person was chosen as “the winner” for the BEST PRAYER OF THE YEAR Award?
“And now this highly coveted prize for The Best Prayer Of The Year goes to Ronnie Repettis. Ronnie, that was a GREAT prayer. It has warmed the hearts of people all over the world. It’s made such an impression upon the pop culture that it was featured on the Time Life CNN Aol.com website download called ‘WOW, THAT’S WHAT I CALL PRAYER.’ Ronnie, this must be your proudest moment...I mean...your humblest moment.”
“Well, thanks, everyone. I really appreciate this award. I’d like to mention a few names here...I wasn’t sure if I was going to pick up this award again this year but...I didn’t want to forget anyone so I wrote all of the names down. First of all...I’d like to thank my support team, all the staff at Intercession Publications, all the undocumented factory workers in the print house who have been listed as voting members of the Academy...and of course, my wife and kids for really inspiring me to write down this prayer. And I just want to say to any of you kids out there who might be having a flagpole prayer meeting at school in the morning, or who might even just be praying before your big test....you never know when you might get the inspiration for that special prayer...and then, if you pay your dues and work hard at it...you’ll be up here someday, encouraging others.”
I guess that sounds preposterous. But in actuality, there have been “hit” prayers, written down and recited by others, centuries after the original author has passed away. Top Ten Hit Prayers. How about the Serenity Prayer, (“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...”) the Prayer of St. Francis ("O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace! Where there is hatred, let me sow love...”), The Irish Prayer (“May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind be ever at your back...And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”) and of course the famous bedtime prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep.”
And while we mortals DO give out Grammies and Dove Awards and other graven images for Best New Artist, Best Album Of The Year and now even for Best Praise and Worship Album, we certainly don’t yet give out awards for Best Prayers. In fact most of the written “prayers” which are read at political forums, national holiday events, inaugurations and state funerals have one thing in common. Most seem, at least to me, dreadfully boring, formally rigid and only vaguely sincere.
Let us consider the nature of prayer. When you worship God, does your prayer have to be “memorable”? Does it have to be quoted by others, circulated on the Internet, printed on posters and wall plaques for God to take note of?
No. Of course not. The Bible says that when we pray, God inclines His ear toward us. He hears the prayer of our heart. God inclines His ear toward those who pray with sincerity.
PRESERVING THE MOMENT:
What about trying to freeze-dry “worship” or “praise”? If someone is feeling inspired to worship God, and they are suddenly struck with an awareness of how powerful their prayer seems to be, should they stop addressing it to God so they can run and get a notebook?
Should they start writing it down to distill it and “capture it” for other people who maybe aren’t as “gifted” at worshipping God with such great sincerity and clarity? Should they carry a portable cassette recorder when they spontaneously worship and praise God so that their inspiration can later be shared with others? No. That is not what worship is for. Your praise and worship is not for the multitudes, it is for YOU. You benefit from your time spent with God.
What does God consider to be a beautiful prayer?
“For praise from the upright is beautiful.”
God rejoices in our uprightness, in our righteousness. He is glad for us when we carry out our lives in a right way. He is more interested in us than in what we say.
Micah 6:6 says: “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before the high God. Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgressions; the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"
And then Micah answers his own questions with this: "He has shown you, oh man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”