Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.
Know this: GOD is God, and God, GOD.
He made us; we didn't make him.
We're his people, his well-tended sheep.
Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.
For GOD is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.
Psalm 100 (The Message translation)
Have you ever forgotten how to enter the presence of God? Or felt like there was no way in, especially when you are feeling low or just plain filled with doubts or having a great fit of unbelief. Or maybe, you just are in a rut, and all the old ways of talking to God or praying to Him or praising His name, just don’t move your soul. I am in a place like that these days, and this morning I feel I have had a breakthrough. That the sun is shining through my overcast soul.
These encounters with the holy, living God are not something we can pencil in on our calendars, or make time for in our planners. Yet they do take time, so while I was sitting still and was crying out to God in my stuckness, I was ushered into His presence. I didn’t know how he would respond or where this crying out would lead me. In God’s sweet way, he drew me into his presence through my heartaches. Through my resentments about life, and how I think it ought to be going right now. As I was allowing myself to feel today-- the impact of missing my sister and her family, and the crush of all my supposed responsibilities, the Lord let me cry and blubber and get all messy in my chair situated in the corner of my family room. I grabbed the box of nearby tissues, and we had a good cry together.
In the midst of the crumpling up of myself, God invited me back to one of our favorite pastimes—looking up words in the dictionary. Over the past few weeks, I was developing a creative way to jumpstart my prayer life. I had taken a coupon organizer with twelve dividers and labeled three each for different aspects of prayer. I had three slots for praise, and three more for confession and for thanksgiving and finally intercession.
For the praise section I used affirmations, adorations and praises. For confession I labeled the section with confessions, laments and impossibilities. For the thanksgiving section it was a bit more difficult to make three subcategories. Thanksgiving to me just seemed like one aspect of prayer that was easily enough defined by calling it thanksgiving. But I pressed into it and added to thanksgivings, benedictions and doxologies. I thought it strange to add those to this section because both words seemed more like types of praise or blessings. Since I couldn’t come up with anything else, I kept those labels. Lastly, for intercession I included supplications, intercessions and offerings.
So as I was sitting here today wondering how God could possibly pull me out of this sadness and frustration of not really connecting with Him lately, I turned to the dictionary and looked up benediction and doxology. Big words that boil down to benediction meaning “to speak well of” and doxology meaning “a good opinion, honor, glory”. Both have rich uses in the liturgy of the church.
A familiar doxology is “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” and also Psalm 100 is considered a common doxology. There is so much more to explore regarding the use and practice of these two ideas, but what really jumped out at me was that thanksgiving does include these concepts of speaking well of God “from whom all blessings flow” and when I thank God it does open up my heart to enter his presence with praise and thanksgiving. Thanking God can be a means of expressing my good opinion of him or if you want to be more formal, thanksgiving gives honor and glory to God.
I leave you with this doxology, Gloria Patri:
"Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen."
P.S. Next time I’ll share some of the “prayers” I have been collecting in the coupon organizer and filing under their categories. I plan to add the doxologies of different church traditions to the doxology section.