carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
The Issues and Elements of Worshipping God
Part 3 – The Prayer of Invocation
What does it mean to worship God? We might have very different responses if we all shared our thoughts in answer to that question. But in Scripture, the most clear understanding of what it means to worship God is to call on the name of the Lord. After the fall, we read as early as Gen. 4:5 that “men began to call on the name of the LORD”.
Invocare is a Latin word and it means ‘to call upon” or “to appeal to” and the Invocation is the name of the first of our prayers offered to God in the service of our worship. After God calls us to come into His presence, we answer that call by gathering, singing to His praise and then praying, invoking His name.
This starts the process of dialogue in worship. The entire service is structured so that communion and communication go back and forth between God and His people. And, as with any sense of dialogue, there is not only a flow of thought but a movement of purpose – there is a beginning, a middle, and an end to the worship service. At each step along the way, the singing and the prayers play a vital role. But they are also fashioned specifically for the particular part of the service for which they are used.
The prayer of invocation is the prayer by which we greet God - of extending to Him our praise, adoration, and blessing. Later in the service we have the opportunity to lift up to Him our prayers of petition and requests as God’s people, prayers asking Him to open our hearts to His word or to seal and apply the lessons from the preaching to our hearts. But here, at the beginning of the service, we greet Him and give Him our holy salute.
There are three major parts to this prayer. First, we recall His many names and titles as He is revealed to us in Scripture. The names of God themselves are given to us by Him – we don’t make them up according to our imaginations – and these names not only label and identify Him but they also describe Him. He is the Lord, God almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, the Lord Sabbaoth, Jehovah Jirah, the great I Am, and He is known to us by many others. And each of these names carry a meaning about who He is. We call on Him by remembering His faithfulness, His justice, His righteousness, His everlasting glory, and that also reminds us of the true nature of the God we come before and worship.
The second part to this prayer is that we petition Him to dwell in our midst as we worship Him. To call upon God’s presence is no small matter. We are saying that, yes, we have prepared ourselves individually for this beforehand, that our leaders have also prepared our service that it should be pleasing to Him, and that we desire more than anything else to obey Him, responding to His command to worship in Spirit and in truth. We profess and confess in this prayer that the name of our God is holy, holy, holy and that should strike fear in the hearts of men. We profess our allegiance to God, confessing that He is the only true God and we are His people, and that He alone is worthy to receive power, glory, wisdom and blessing.
The third part of this prayer is our sealing of this adoration and profession in the acknowledgment of the fullness of the revealed godhead – that He is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Christian worship of God is distinctly and uniquely Trinitarian. We call on, acknowledge and adore God the Father, through Jesus the Son, by the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. God has said He will not receive any worship that does not acknowledge His Trinitarian character.
And throughout this prayer and the entire service as well, we are recalling the privilege that the true worship of God as His people truly is to us. In the Old Testament, the Jews became used to not speaking the name of God in what they regarded to be its highest form: YHWH. In Hebrew, this name has four letters and is called by theologians the tetragrammaton. That name was too holy to pronounce and, out of fear of violating the 3rd commandment, they would never, ever say it. Jesus came along and gave us an even more amazing four-letter name for God: ABBA, Father. We boldly call on the name of God as His children and enter into His presence with the expectation of family members. Jesus even teaches us to greet Him as “Our Father”.
But this gift is ours only by what Christ has done. The only true Son became sin and was rejected by the Father just so that Christians today might be adopted into His family through Christ and be received by Him and never, ever be rejected. Our “routine” worship comes at a priceless cost.
But how should we physically greet God during such a prayer as this? There is no command in Scripture as to what our posture should always be in prayer but obviously, appearing before a holy God could not be simply casual. To be merely casual itself mocks the preciousness of the gift of such worship. People in the Scriptures are depicted in a number of different postures as they pray: standing, kneeling, bowing, even lying prostrate on the ground – not because they felt merely obliged to do so but because they realized in Whose presence they stood and it humbled them. But … let me check … nope, no record of people praying to God as they sit back in their chairs with their legs crossed.
For the prayer of invocation, we physically stand before our God. In doing so we are acknowledging the respect and honor due His name but we are also saying that we stand together. We are not merely individuals, or even individual families. He is our God. We are God’s people.
David G. Barker, 2003
|David G. Barker