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deconstructing worship (malachi 1:6-14)

The book of Malachi is chock full of questions about God, about life, about faith—which makes it the go-to book for those who are in the process of deconstructing their faith. In Malachi 1:6, the Lord offers a test with one multiple-choice question to make a point. Which of the following is true? 

A) A decent son honors his father and God

B) A principled worker respects his boss and God

C) A noble citizen fears the king and God

D) All the above are true

E) None of the above

During Malachi’s day, God’s people were doing none of the above.

It’s easy to sit in judgment of Israel. But just look at us at rock concerts, football games, and red-carpet events. Our hands are raised high. Would we rather praise our favorite celebrity or sports team than worship God? “You despise my name,” says the Lord (Mal 1:6). Despise? That’s a bit extreme, don’t you think? “How have we despised your name, God?” (Mal 1:6).

We may not admit it, but we feel it sometimes during worship when we secretly mock, “What a weariness this is … I can’t stand it!” (Mal 1:7-8, 13-14). The songs are boring. The sermon is boring. The Bible is boring. Church is boring. Even God is boring. And it’s everyone else’s fault, right? When the “worship of God is no longer a priority,” we’re stuck, and we know it (Mal 1:7). How does God respond?

“Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased” (Mal 1:10, MSG). Ouch.

If you’re going to deconstruct worship, I think the best question to ask is: “How can I break out of this funk of boredom?” Thankfully, Malachi provides the answer. “Plead with God to be gracious” to you (Mal 1:9). Pleading with the Lord is the key? Why? And how do you do it?

Early on, Christians understood that the name of Jesus had great power. Just to say his name was itself a form of prayer. One prayer, known as The Jesus Prayer, dates to the fifth century. This short “arrow” prayer is based on the blind men’s simple appeal to Jesus for mercy (Matt 9:27; 20:30; Mark 10:47; cf. Luke 18:38). They would simply say under their breath at any time of the day or night, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!” It’s such modest prayer, but it’s especially useful while undertaking mundane tasks (e.g., grocery shopping, driving, housecleaning, sleeplessness, etc.).

When you first begin to pray The Jesus Prayer, it may feel stiff, mechanical, and weird. But keep going. You’ll soon realize that the “Lord Jesus Christ” is not boring. Surrendering to the “Son of God” a few moments a day will transform all the other remaining moments. A little “have mercy on me!” and you’ll feel very much alive. Buh-bye boredom.

Worship is not dead or alive. Worship is either bogus or true. Yes, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!”