This week we are looking at the word most commonly translated as “worship” in our English Bibles. The word is proskynein (pross-kai-nay-ine). This word is embodied in the concept of bowing down in honor or reverence. There have been tomes of writing on this aspect of worship, so guess what? I’m probably not going to tell you anything you have not already heard. But you might, just might read something from a different perspective.
I grew up attending a large (2000+) member Southern Baptist Church. Our worship services were very textbook. They followed the Baptist liturgy we talked about last week in the post about the latrine. But our pastor saw a need to change things up a bit one Sunday. He asked us, in the middle of the service, if possible, to kneel down and have a time of prayer. I can still see the room when he asked this small request: shock and awe (and not the good kind of awe). The people were very resistant to follow this simple request. Fast forward about 6 months, and that kneeling prayer time had become a ﬁxture in the service. In fact, the church is still doing almost the same kneeling prayer time 20 years later.
Two things stand out to me in this situation.First, people really are resistant to bow. People do not like to surrender. I mean we sing songs about it, “I surrender all” or “I….. I…… I….. surrender all to You, all to You” if you’re on the contemporary side of things. We hear sermons about giving our “all” to God. We are even offered a trade, “Jesus gave his all for you, so you should give your all to Him.” Sometimes this feels like this is some weird pseudo-spiritual manipulation. I digress…..
We are told to bow our heads when we pray. Why? Have you ever thought about why you bow your head in prayer?Being a fan of history, I love watching those crazy shows on TV about ancient aliens and secrets of ancient civilizations revealed and such (yes, I am a nerd). One thing they show a lot are ancient drawings or hieroglyphs. One thing that all of them have in common is that all of the people are ALWAYS bowing in the presence of a king or deity.
They got it. You either bow, or the king will have you executed for disobedience and disrespect. Remember the whole deal with the 3 guys Shadrack, Rip Shack and Tobedwego? (that’s close, right?) They refused to bow, so the punishment was execution. Those guys rightfully were not willing to show reverence and surrender to King Nebuchadnezzar. So why is it that we are so unwilling to bow? We’ll answer that in a minute.But ﬁrst, let me tell you the other thing that stood out in the prayer story from earlier.
Second, the pastor himself, knelt down on the steps of the stage during the prayer time. Why was he so willing to bow? One simple word: humility. See, he understood his place when coming before God, on his face, in total surrender. He knew that bowing before God was much more important than wrinkling the leg of his pants. He knew that God’s presence was much more important than watching the people respond. And at the root, he understood that when he came before God, he had no image to maintain. He knew his place was to kneel down as a poor, destitute wretched sinner in a pool of innocent, pure saving blood, and simply surrender.
This is why people do not want to bow; they do not want to humble themselves. Ironically, in the Christian life, this is the only true place of power. What was the result of his surrender? God asked him to rise in a robe of pure white, because he was willing to kneel in the pool of blood and be cleansed. He got “humble”. He embodied it. And for the church, the result was an attitude change. Within a few weeks of the beginning of this prayer time, even those who were almost physically incapable of kneeling got down on their faces.
They saw humility in their pastor.
So how are you leading worship in that type of humility? It does not always look like a quiet, somber prayer time. All things in life should be done with humility. You can crank out some face-melting guitar solo with humility. You can play the greatest drum ﬁll that would make Neil Peart jealous with humility. You can sing like Steve Perry with humility.