The most recent National Church Life Survey results were released this week, and one area surveyed was the reason Australians who label themselves ‘Christians’ go to church (see https://www.ncls.org.au/news/reasons-for-attending-church-services). The results were contrasted between Roman Catholic and Protestant (i.e. everyone else) worshippers.
Some of the results were predictable – three quarters of Protestant Christians go to church ‘to worship and experience God’. Half of Roman Catholics claim the same, but taking the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist is the second major motivating factor for them. For Protestants, encouragement and inspiration is the second most cited reason for attending church.
One area that did surprise me was how 19% of Roman Catholics, but only 8% of Protestant Christians come to church because they ‘need a time of prayer and reflection’.
The Bible encourages prayer and reflection, especially in the Psalms. Often, the Bible uses the word ‘meditation’ to describe the spiritual discipline of reflecting on God’s Word and wrestling with it in prayer.
‘…but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.’ (Psalms 1:2 ESV)
‘Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.’ (Psalms 119:27 ESV)
‘I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.’ (Psalms 143:5 ESV)
Maybe it’s because we’re nervous about the idea of meditation, and its association with Eastern mysticism. Maybe it’s because we feel our meditation should only take place in the context of a private ‘quiet time’. Or maybe it’s because we’re scared of silence being ‘dead time’ in our worship services. But our corporate worship, where we take time out from the world, together, to sit under God’s Word, is an ideal time to spend seriously in prayer and reflection, together.
There is a kind of approach to church where my desire for personal devotion and worship becomes entirely selfish, and I all but ignore my brothers and sisters in the seats next to me. We’re certainly not talking about that.
Coming to church with a desire to pray and reflect as we respond together to God’s Word in worship could only enrich and help us engage better with the gospel as we gather.
Live it: What place does prayer and reflection have in your reasons for coming to church?