In 1991, I had the opportunity to visit a church in Russia. After flying 18 hours, we landed and met several church members from Siberia.
The church had a special service planned for that evening. While we prepped to sing a few songs for the congregation, our leader shared that the people of this church held a high view of God and their worship services reflected it.
While on stage, I noticed a few people standing to pray. I closed my eyes and waited. Soon I heard scuffling around me, but I remained standing trying to comprehend bits and pieces of the prayer.
I lingered waiting for someone to give us the go ahead to sit down. However, the longer I listened to the prayers, which I could not understand, the sleepier I became. Much to my chagrin, I dozed off. After a swift jab from my teammate, I awoke to the congregation smiling at me.
“Would you like to pray Leeza?” ask the pastor.
“Um, I hadn’t planned on it,” I whispered.
“Oh, but you are standing!” he said.
Then, our team leader murmured over my shoulder, “If you stand up it means you want to pray – it shows reverence to God.” Oh dear. I dashed off a quickie prayer and then sat down.
The rest of the evening, I notice the people in the church. They neither crossed their legs, slouched, nor chatted to one another during the service. They sat at attention and appeared to hang onto the words of our pastor. Their simple acts of reverence stayed with me the rest of the trip and years later.
In his sermon, “The Holiness of God,” (linked here) Paul Washer, Founder and Missions Director of HeartCry Missionary Society, says, “I like to describe holiness as someone placing a cutting board on the counter and positioning a carrot on it. When you use a knife, you are not only cutting – you are also separating the pieces. The idea of being holy is to cut and separate from all others. Above every other thing, God, in his holiness, is distinct, unique, and sacred. There is no one like the Lord in absolutely everything. Reverence then is the understanding that I am dealing with someone who is not like me.” (Paraphrased)
Psalm 99:9 says, “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His holy hill. For holy is the LORD our God.” (NASB)
I fear that in our desire to understand God, we have reduced him to our BFF (best friend forever). We have spent so much time trying to condense his character to what is manageable and human that we’ve forgotten that God is not like us.
It is no wonder we do not trust God when we pray. Honestly, how can you trust someone whom you do not respect? We must acknowledge then, that only someone who is outside of humanity can answer our prayers.
We have forgotten what our relationship to God cost him. As sinful people, we cannot have a relationship with a righteous God. Something had to happen to wash us of our sin and give us the ability to approach his holy throne. Jesus made way for us. As God, he is holy and sinless; yet, he condescended and became a man. Jesus then suffered on earth, endured beatings, mocking and then, willingly laid his hands and feet on a piece of wood and allowed evil men to pound nails into his body. Hours later, he absorbed all of our sins and died. His death on our behalf washed us clean so that we can have a relationship with a holy God. No one could do this for us. Thus, the cross is an example of God’s holiness, in that Jesus in his sinlessness is the only one who could accomplish the task of salvation for us.
If this truth is not awe inspiring, then our hearts are too casual in our response to him. We need to pray that God will give us an understanding of his divine attributes so that we can worship him in his holiness.