"I guess it's just more room to pray"

Having a worship service in our church fellowship hall has it's advantages. For someone like me who likes to keep mixing things up by moving around the chairs each week it can be fun. At other times it can be a bit of a pain having to set up and tear down week-in and week-out. This past week I set up in a hurry at the end of a 3rd-5th grade lock-in I attended and was not in much of a mood to be very creative. So I set them up in a traditional 2 sides, 8 rows, 8 chairs in each row, style.

On Sunday morning I was at the front of our stage when I commented to two of our band members that I had accidentally set the chairs up to far from the stage and there was a huge gap where normally it's a much shorter space. I jokingly made the comment, "Well I guess it's just more space for people to come pray." You see although our church is filled with some very spiritual people who are amazing prayer warriors, having mobs of folks around the alter isn't really a common site.

Our worship service begins and everything is moving along as usually: welcoming, greeting, a few songs, praise time,..and then that's when things started to shift in a different direction. I opened the floor for any praises people may of had. Most weeks we may hear from 3-5 people. This week we heard from 5 people, then 5 more, then 5 more, and well you catch my drift. As each person shared about what God was doing in their lives, you could feel a heaviness gripping our church family like God was giving our group a huge corporate hug. As the last person spoke I prayed for the group and we went into another song. I remember sitting there and closing my eyes as I tried to just enjoy the moment of God's pleasure. When I opened my eyes the alter was full. Young, old, men, women, friends, and family. They were all on their knees saying what they needed to say to God. The band just kept play, the people in their chairs kept singing, and the ones at the alter kept praying.

I was at a lost as to what to do next. I knew if I got up and even attempted a sermon then I would destroy the whole moment, but I felt like God wanted me to do something. As the band played softly and with the alter still consumed by people I stood and simply read the passage for the morning:

John 20:15-17
"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "

The point of the scripture I wanted to make was Jesus' response to Mary, "Do not hold on to me". You see we have a hard time letting go. We hold on to our past, both good and bad, we hold on to our dreams, our loved ones, our control, our habit, our bad emotions, and so on. The problem with holding on is the same as Mary. There is no way we can hold on and still experience the new life Christ has for us. Jesus knew that what he was going to do would benefit Mary more then if he allowed her to hold on to the old way. I very briefly challenged our church to let go and experience this new life. I stepped away and allowed God to work where he needed to. After some more praying, singing, and letting go, we closed things out.

I guess God knew we needed more room to pray.


Joel Smith said…
Of course you know, I'm now your bitter enemy ... eaten alive with envy.

Actually, that's pretty cool. Worship in a worship service. Who'd have thunk it?

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