Thursday, August 2, 2018

Audacity of Praise and Sincerity of Heart

I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.
Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.
Psalm 66:17-20

Two things are important: First, that I not shy away from being vocal in my praise. I'm using the NRSV this morning, but some translations translate the Hebrew more literally, saying "I called to him with my mouth," which, I suppose is a bit more elegant (according to the rules of Hebrew poetry) when paired with the expression in the clause that comes after it, "with (Hebrew 'under') my tongue." The point here is the physical expression of worship.

But then the psalmist throws a monkey wrench into my praise by reminding me that the physical expression is only part of the equation. In fact, it's not even the more important part. I must also feel the praise emotionally. I need to be careful before I take v. 18 too seriously, that is, the psalmist isn't telling me I need to be perfect in order to pray or praise. The point here is that God knows the heart, and there are many who use the outward expression of devotion to God to mask an inward devotion to greed or lust [f]or power.

So once again I am reminded that it's not the outward trappings of religion—regardless of how glorious or pious they may seem—that matter, but what's in the heart. Faithfulness requires both audacity of praise and sincerity of heart.

Forgive me those times, Lord, when I have lacked the courage to speak the love for you that I feel. And forgive me those times that I have worshiped you with my mouth while my heart was devoted to another god. Give me both the words and the feeling, that my head and my heart may be one. Amen.