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In private worship, prof urges, be refreshed by ‘living water’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Private worship is an essential part of a healthy relationship with God, author and professor Donald Whitney said in a lecture series at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“How can once-a-week worship satisfy the heart of those who know and long after God?” Whitney asked in a two-day lecture series at the Institute for Christian Worship on the Louisville, Ky., campus.

“How in the world can anyone walk out of a worship service where God has been exalted and they claim they have met with God and say … ‘Well, I don’t need any more of that for a week’?

“How can you meet with God and not be compelled to want to meet with Him more often than just what is convenient once a week?” Whitney, associate professor of spiritual formation at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., continued.

Ministers are especially prone to ignore personal worship as they settle into the daily routine of ministry, he noted in his Oct. 14-16 messages.

Ignoring personal worship, however, will transform a minister into “the politicking and the ladder-climbing and the name-dropping and the prideful string-pulling sort of person that seems to take more delight in politics than preaching sermons or preparing for ministry,” Whitney said.

Statistically, only one of every 20 seminary graduates will remain in ministry through age 65, he said, attributing the attrition rate largely to a neglect of private worship.

Without private worship, ministers “will burn out because there’s no drinking from the wells of living water,” Whitney said.

“In private worship God reveals Himself through His Word, shining divine light upon the divine book so that we might find our minds instructed by God, our hearts encouraged by God, our hopes refreshed by God and our spiritual hungers satisfied by God,” he said.

“Here we can delight in God, sing to God, weep to God, pour our thoughts to God, confess our sins to God and feel the worth of God. When with God alone, we can rejoice in His forgiveness, revel in His goodness, thank Him for His blessings and bask in His love.”

Whitney said private worship includes three essential elements, beginning with the intake of God’s Word.

Reading, studying and memorizing the Bible all are vital parts of taking in God’s Word, he said, but meditation on the Scriptures is perhaps the most important activity of private worship.

“Meditation on Scripture is not just leaning back and staring at the ceiling after reading a bit of the Bible. Meditation as worship means focused thinking on the text of Scripture, and thus on God and the things of God revealed in the words of Scripture,” he said.

Second, private worship includes prayer.

Despite an active public ministry, Whitney noted that Jesus took significant blocks of time to pray by Himself — and followers of Jesus must do the same.

“To pray during the intake of Scripture is a valuable way of absorbing and applying the text and a way of conversing with God about what He is saying through these words or how He would have you put them into practice,” Whitney said.

“… Some passages lend themselves to such prayerful reading more easily than others. Frequently you might read an entire chapter and pray no more than, ‘Lord, please keep me from ever sinning like the man in this story.’ But whatever the text, don’t just read it — respond to it.”

Third, private worship includes worshipful song.

Singing praises to God is “part of letting the Word of Christ richly dwell in you,” Whitney said.

Citing the example of 18th-century theologian Jonathan Edwards, Whitney encouraged Christians to sing their prayers and praises to God in private.

“In some situations it may be impractical to sing aloud in private worship,” he said. “But unless there’s a compelling reason to sing in a whisper or only in your mind, why not sing aloud? It’s almost impossible to envision public worship without openly singing our praise to God. What makes private worship so different?”

Whitney warned students, “The risks of rushing through life without resting beside the quiet waters of daily worship, virtually unmindful of God, are many and great. But so are the benefits and blessings [of private worship].”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: WONDERING ABOUT WORSHIP.