Recently I have been praying for the extension of the kingdom of God, the family of God, and inviting others to do so. After a while, my prayer was so filled with cosmic meaning and divine assurance that again and again it moved easily and spontaneously into worship. I would contemplate the Lord of history and the wisdom of his laws that are inherent in matter, mind, and spirit. And I would fill with certainty that, in an age to come, the glory of God will fill this world with God-knowingness, thanksgiving, worship, and loving service.
Worship is our most direct experience of God. In some measure, we know the Creator through the creation. But the Father of love we meet most joyously and transcendently in worship. How could we not worship the one who has sent his spirit to live within us, so that we may experience him, know him, realize his truth, and do his gracious will.
After some months with this prayer for the extension of the Father’s family, a friend told me of a group that had asked him for help. They wanted training in how to be gospel messengers. My friend had started praying for them every day for two weeks. He shared his prayer list with me, and I decided to join that daily prayer for these people. I recognized in the group several persons whom I already knew; I connected easily with some, others less so. And some people in the group I did not know. They all believe saving truth; their desire now is to live that truth more fully and share it more effectively. So I began to pray for their progress. The first day it took a fair amount of time, because I had to pray through the roughness in my relationships with some of them. Then I began praying for them from the inside out. I began by bringing to mind each one’s unique personality and divine spirit. The joy began to flow. Then I prayed for each person’s soul. And finally for the whole person—body, mind, soul, and spirit. After a couple days, the roughness that I had experienced earlier was gone. Seeing each name became an occasion for a smooth flow of love. I could easily review their names on the list and embrace them all in a prayer of faith and support.
This morning, I realized that if prayer dwells mainly in the high realm of meaning and value, it naturally tends to move into worship; while if prayer focuses on the level of fact in a problematic situation, it is the beginning of service. Of course, prayer in its fullness bridges and unites these realms, so that we can go forth amid difficulties sustained by sublime meanings and divine values. Gradually, gradually, the mind is transformed. Unbeautiful thoughts, emotions, and behavior recede, being replaced by true thinking, beautiful feeling, and good doing.
Service can be—and in truth is—a wonderful privilege. We get to help others with real needs; and we have needs too, and those we aim to serve may well be the ones who can help us. Above all, God is the one who upholds us creatures as we struggle with imperfection. Service brings us into contact with material reality, including facts that are horrible, emotions that offend us, and actions that are destructive. Learning to serve is part of becoming God-like, as followers of Jesus learn day by day. Today we remember the good shepherd who laid down his life for his friends.
Prayer turns to God for access to that quality of relating with our heavenly Father which constitutes worship; and prayer seeks access to divine wisdom and to that beautiful wholeness of righteousness which enables true service. At its height, service is an expression of worship—doing an errand for the divine Parent. And service also prepares us for worship. It mobilizes our energies, leads us beyond self-centeredness, and activates our dignity as persons who do the will of God. Prayer, worship, and service are special zones of friendship in the family of God.