gail song bantum

blog on identity, leadership, discipleship

desperation and worship

do you ever feel like your worship is so much more intense when you find yourself in a desperate situation or circumstance in life? or, on the flip side, if you don’t think you’ve ever been that desperate in life (perhaps, you’ve led a pretty comfortable life?) do you ever look at other folks who worship so intensely and wonder why or how they can let themselves go like that?

i often think about this connection between our experienced or felt “need” for god and how it often relates to our expressions in worship, both individually and corporately. i remember growing up as a young child, remembering the congregation at my church (a lower middle- class immigrant church) just wailing away in corporate prayer….i mean, just wailing and beseeching god as if their lives depended upon every word and tear! frightened me at the time but thinking back, these folks were DESPERATE! as well, many of the african-american churches that i have been apart of have rung with similar timbres of such desperation. both of these experiences seem to be under-girded with a kind of worship in the midst of struggles –identity, social, economic, etc..

there is something really raw about this that i find myself constantly grasping after. what does it mean to “depend” on god if we know ourselves to be self-sufficient? would we approach someone differently if we were asking them for food and shelter because we’ve lost our job and have been evicted from our home as opposed to asking the same person to help raise funds for our child’s girl scout troop by buying some cookies? of course.

in this way, how do we approach god? is god someone who merely adds depth or meaning to our lives or do we know god as our sustainance, our very breath, the one in whom we find our identity or personhood? in our corporate worship, is there space to allow for such worship? so many people around us are struggling, suffering, desperate for god and sadly, many struggle quietly and alone. do our churches allow for these moments of desperate encounters with god?

would love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences on this….


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4 thoughts on “desperation and worship

  1. anonymous on said:

    I’m not so sure if I would equate desperation with an intense or experiential worship moment. I personally go to a church where the worship is intense and if your hands aren’t up and you haven’t shed a tear… people wonder if you’re saved. I’ve been to silent and taize prayers/services, and have had the most intense experiences with God just being there and speaking to me in the silent moments. I think the church should be careful about equating our worship with the intensity of emotion or music.

    • anonymous2 on said:

      I think this is a great reminder that worship is not always about who we think we are. Sometimes we think we worship out of our knowledge or strength and the intensity of worship comes from what we think we understood about the word or the music. I think Gail seems to be saying that oftentimes the intensity of our worship comes out of or being confronted with what we do not understand and abandoning a certain sense of control and certainty. Some of us worship out of our lack… it is not so much an offering but a prayer… a plea a need that suggests if it were not for God… Sometimes this happens in written liturgies sometimes in moments similar to the one above.

      anon… I am not sure the point here is to judge the style but rather to ask what is the posture we have regarding the moment of worship, or our very lives for that matter. Desperation can be found in moments of quiet or exuberance. I don’t think she is trying to judge the style but ask us what we think we are doing and what are sure we can’t do… what should become of us through these moments?

  2. Sue Corley on said:

    I agree that there is often a connection between our need for God and the intensity of our worship. As I heard it put, “God will never be all you need until He is all you have.”

  3. Pingback: i need you « gail song bantum's blog

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