Getting Past Religious Performance

I read these verses and the prayer that follows a couple of days ago.

Isaiah 29:13-14 “The Lord says, ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish'”.

We have been skilled in religious performance. We can say all the right words, but still leave our hearts far behind. We have contrived our worship to make it predictable and safe, becoming as bored as we are proud. We’ve even become haughty of how well we conduct our rituals and routines. Thus we’ve approached You heartless and high-minded. Break through our pride. Gather our wayward hearts and ravish us with wonder. Astonish us in Your presence. Surprise us with Your supremacy. Stun us with how dangerous You are. Bear down upon us so brilliantly that the cloud of our clever religious pride will evaporate in the radiance of your glory. (Prayer guide from Waymakers)

When I first read this, I was a bit surprised at the strong language, but connected with the heart of the prayer. I started to think of the people or churches I’ve been a part of who have tended toward “religious performance”. But then my heart began to break (again) for those in the US who are stuck in tradition, focused on things that in the grand Kingdom-scheme of things don’t really matter. I felt my heart really echoing this prayer, not just for others but for myself. God, help me not get caught up in the surface things that don’t matter. Break down my own pride. Fill me up with more of You and less of me.

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