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28 Mar 2022

Lenten Devotional, Day 20, Holy Expectancy, (episode 80)

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I discovered two house finch eggs today. About a week ago, I noticed a male and female house finch building a nest above a light fixture on the outside of our garage. I’ve been checking it periodically for eggs, and woohoo, discovered two today.

I’m not sure when those eggs were laid because I had not checked the nest since mid last week. However, Friday, I was working near the nest and the momma and daddy were extremely protective. I’m guessing the eggs had been laid.

The promise of new life is so exciting. We have a couple in our church for whom we will be having a baby shower next week. Plus, my nephew and his wife are expecting twins in June. The planning and excitement are energizing and are setting the stage for a great celebration.

This set me to thinking about how expectation shapes not only an upcoming experience, but the energy and joy we have as we wait. This came up in a sermon I preached one week ago on The Spiritual Discipline of Worship. This sermon is the fourth part in a series on spiritual disciplines inspired by the book, Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster. In his chapter on worship, he introduced a phrase to me that was new, “holy expectancy”.

What is “holy expectancy?”

Holy expectancy is consciously preparing for worship, anticipating that you will encounter the holy. For example, you may arrive to worship ten minister early to pray: praying to lift your heart to Jesus, praising him, praying for leaders of the service, and praying for others as they enter the room.

Holy expectancy may mean you find out what passages are being preached on, and explore them prior to worship. Or, you may read through music lyrics being used in service prior to worship, so you sing have more meaningful experience. More importantly, you could also sing with great conviction.

We cannot force an encounter with God no more than we can force life into this world. However, just as you prepare for a baby’s arrival by getting a nursery ready (or in the case of our feathered friends, a nest), you can take steps to be open to God.

Also, just as you have a baby shower to be responsive to a baby’s arrival, you can come to worship anticipating God desiring change in your life.  Come ready to be obedient, for as Foster says, “Just as worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience.” He even goes so far as to say that if worship doesn’t change you, then you haven’t truly worshiped. Imagine how differently you would listen in prayer, bible study, or worship if you came expecting God to give you directions.

How may we practice holy expectancy during the week?

Richard Foster also asserts that turning to God conversationally throughout the week, can enhance how you encounter God during worship. Inspired by Frank Laubach, an influence in Foster’s life, Foster chose to “pray without ceasing” for year. He did this by turning to God conversationally throughout the day. He had varying degrees of success, but reported one of the principle benefits he experienced was better worship. I suspect this was due to both deeper intimacy with God, and more developed spiritual sensitivity.

I’m sure you can prepare for worship in many other ways. But, you only need to make one adjustment to experience improvement. So, why not try one of these suggestions?  For there isn’t a new life better for you to prepare for than your new life in Jesus. Blessings to you as you strive to deepen your relationship with God through holy expectancy.

Question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your holy expectancy, or in other words your preparedness for worship? What one simple action could you take this week to be closer to a ten?

A Collect for Holy Expectancy: Most holy God, who desires us to worship with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, reveal to us one way we can exercise holy expectancy so that we offer you more of ourselves in worship, in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

PS: While writing this post, I discovered that Celebration of Discipline, Special Anniversary Edition, is available for free on Kindle if you have a Kindle Unlimited membership. Click here to for details.  

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