“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)
In prayer we approach the God of the universe face to face. Although the word ‘awesome’ has been devalued to our contemporary ears, this reality of prayer is truly an awesome thing.
The prophet Isaiah found out how awesome this is when he had a vision of God while at prayer in the Temple in the year that King Uzziah died. The heavenly throne room was unveiled to Isaiah’s mortal eyes, and he was clearly overwhelmed at the sight of the Living God and the angelic beings around His throne. Isaiah’s response is both familiar and strange to us: “‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty'” (Isaiah 6:5).
Most of us rarely think about God in this way, let alone approach Him with such an awareness of His awesome holiness. The American writer Annie Dillard comments on this reality with language so strong it may catch us off guard:
On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.
Of course, we should remember that as New Testament Christians we stand on this side of the Cross, the tearing of the veil, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus who lives now as our eternal Mediator before the Father. Even so, it is good for us to consider the awesome holiness of God. It is good to enter the place of prayer aware of the awesome Being whom we are approaching. It was this reality that caused the prophet Habakkuk to pause in the midst of the raging of the nations around Jerusalem to say: “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20).
Holy, holy, holy, are You,
Lord God Almighty.
Although I do not approach You with a crash helmet,
I am aware of how great You truly are.
And so, I humble myself before Your power,
even as I worship You with all of who I am.
There is no one else like You,
and there never will be.
I stand in awe of You
as the only, awesome God.