One of my observations of long-time Christians is that they easily lose a sense of passion concerning their faith. Theirs is a logical kind of faith often driven by traditional views of how it operates rather than by honest response to the Scripture or sensitivity to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Prayer becomes routine and ritualistic; Bible engagement is regular but lacks a sense of deep wrestling with the meaning and relevance of the text. Devotional expressions of this nature are characterized by a sense of duty rather than true faith. Even public prayer follows the same regular script. There is little sense of the presence of God or an expectation that something will actually change because of prayer. Bible Study collaborates about interesting data in the text, but little attention is given to obedience and actual life-change.
It is not that there shouldn’t be some kind of regularity to our private and public worship or to other aspects of our Christian faith such as participation in a small group for fellowship, or some form of Christian service. And it’s true that we sometimes refer to spiritual exercises as discipline or the disciplines of the Christian life. These might include such things as daily prayer, Bible reading, public worship, sabbath, fasting, even witness and various forms of Christian service. But do such disciplines have to be done in a way that lack passion or emotion? Is there some merit in simply doing a thing rather than doing it with heart and soul? Some would say, Yes. There is a place for dutiful worship and service even when we don’t feel like it!
But one can’t help but feel that this isn’t exactly what God had in mind when He redeemed us or, for that matter, when He created us. Seems to me, God is looking for more than mere cognition in our inter-change with His truth. He wants us to wrestle with the structural nature of the truth, because that is important to a valid sense of faith, but there is no doubt that He also longs for our engagement in much more than merely to that which is academic. It is His intention that true faith should also engage our hearts, our souls, our emotions. Again and again, this is what we find in the Psalms. If there is one thing that characterizes the Psalms, it is this sense of passion — even when the writer is struggling with faith. It’s what make the Psalms so attractive to us. We can identify with the various emotional expressions that are found there because they are what we feel in the depth of our own souls.
Take Psalm 63:1,2 (NLT), for example: O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My should thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water... (and Vs 4) I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. One can’t help but feel the emotion, the passion of these words. All of the Psalms seem to have this characteristic. They are, I think, a part of what made David’s faith so precious to God. So too the faith and expression of the early church. They were responsive in a way that made them sensitive to the voice of the Spirit, even if it meant a radical change of direction. And it was in this atmosphere of love and devotion that God was able to move otherwise in the hearts and lives of people.
Isn’t this what Jesus was talking about when he said that the law could be summed up in one commandment: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind (Matthew 22:37)? It is this all-engaging nature of faith that he commends. Equally, it is the lack of such that He finds it difficult to countenance. This was His concern about the Ephesian church near the end of the first century: … I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first (Revelation 2:4). I’m sure it has often been the case in my own spiritual life and experience that I have lost the passion of my first love. I too can become more cognitive, more academic, than is healthy. May God help me to exercise my faith with a sense of what might be described as reckless abandon. “God give me a passion for you that fills me with strong emotion in all that pertains to faith. Amen!”