Worship as Story

Christian worship rehabituates our loves because it embeds us in—and embeds in us—a different orienting Story, the story of God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. But Christian worship doesn’t just rehearse the outlines of this story in a kind of CliffsNotes, bullet-pointed distillation of some “facts.” It does so in a way that is storied, imaginative, and works on us more like a novel than a newspaper article. Story isn’t just the what of Christian worship; it is also the how.

—James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love:  The Spiritual Power of Habit, 106

Trained Hearts

Worship is not some escape from “the work week.” To the contrary, our worship rituals train our hearts and aim our desires toward God and His kingdom so that, when we are sent from worship to take up our work, we do so with a habituated orientation towards the Lover of our souls.

—James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, 187

Prayer

Almighty God, gracious Father, we are not fit for Your presence, but we look to Jesus Christ, who takes away our sin. Through Him we would now come to You, listening to Your voice, trusting in Your love, delighting in Your Word, and leaning on Your arm. We joyfully beg to see Your face! Now cleanse our minds of all error and our hearts of all idols, that we may shine in the world with Your radiant light.

—D.A. Carson, Worship by the Book, 225

Prayer for the New Year

Almighty Father, we pray Thee graciously to lead us through the uncertainties of this new year of our earthly pilgrimage. Protect us from the dangers of the way; prepare us for the duties, the trials, the joys, and sorrows that await us; and grant that each change the year brings with it may bring us nearer to Thyself, and to the eternal joy and rest that await the faithful in Thy blessed and glorious presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Church of Scotland, 1952

Grace for the New Year

John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace” for a New Year’s service at his church:

[GOD’S PAST GRACE]
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!

[GOD’S PRESENT GRACE]
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

[GOD’S FUTURE GRACE]
The Lord has promis’d good to me,

His word my hope secures:
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.