“Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi” ~ “Praying Shapes Believing”
Humans worship. It’s as simple as that.
You and I are creatures who instinctively offer our devotion to some thing, or one, above and beyond ourselves. We inevitably fill our need to be filled in some way. Everyone worships something, even though it is often called by many alternative names: ideology, politics, almost any “ism” of which one could think, religion, even football at this time of year. The need for transcendence is as basic to us as the need for love, because love is what worship ultimately is: the act of loving beyond yourself, and in turn, finding yourself loved beyond your own smallness.
Our friends at Second Presbyterian might here point us in the direction of the Westminster Shorter Catechism when it famously asks, “What is the chief end of man (and woman!)?” The answer: “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Now this seems a rather large claim to make — that nothing is as important in all of life as the worship we give to God. But the Church makes this claim vigorously, knowing definition and meaning in life can be found no place quite so perfectly as in worship. Which makes sense, because, after all, the God who formed you in his image might just have something of importance to say about the shape and structure of your life.
In worship we locate our truest selves because we are there located by the God who crafted us for relationship with him – and others through him. For instance, I find I am endlessly being emerged into my most fundamental identity in baptism. Those worshipful waters are forever insisting that I am named by and sealed as Christ’s own forever. My identity, therefore, is not up for grabs. Nor is my life’s purpose and vocation: I am called to “seek and serve Christ in all persons,” and “respect the dignity of every human being.” In worship, I engage in the most wonderfully counter-cultural activities imaginable, like getting on my knees in order to confess the hard realities about myself which I spend most of life trying to mask. Yet by carving out this space in life, I find the courage to own up to the truth and get over myself enough to turn to Jesus for help and salvation.
None of this comes naturally. It is not how any of us act without ritual practice. It’s not just going to happen, in other words. Each bit of it must be learned and lived into through God’s grace. On my own, I wish to serve myself and am as apt to give into evil as resist it. When working out of my own resources, when I fall into sin, I am liable to stay put and wallow around in it for a while. It is only in offering myself to the Maker and Creator of all life that I learn who and whose I am, on whom and what I am to rely, and where life’s meaning is ultimately found. It is solely in adoration of the One beyond me that I best elbow my ego aside, embrace the other, and subsume my own little story into the expansive narrative that is the Kingdom of God.
Your mother always told you, “You are what you eat.” But I tell you, “You are what you worship.” You will become that to which you give your devotion and praise. For this reason, Anglicans have always maintained the rule: “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi,” which simply means, “Praying Shapes Believing.” You will become in belief what you give your prayerful heart to in worship.
Of course, there are many would-be deities out there wishing to gain your worship and thus bend the definition of your life. They would gladly insist that you are nothing but a consumer, or a libido, or a part of a voting bloc, or a paycheck, or a dress size, or a party member, or any number of countless other lesser identities unworthy to own one as precious as you. But God in Jesus rescues you from those lesser gods in your worship of him, and establishes you as rightly loved, embraced, called and sent forth. You become what God in Jesus says you are: a light to the nations, salt for the earth.
So come this week and find yourself in worship. Realize in praise, adoration and prayer that you are redeemed, sealed, gifted, called and, above all, living a life of infinite possibility and eternal purpose.
You know how I know? Worship.
The rule of prayer determines the rule of belief.
You are what you worship.
See you Sunday,