The Word & Prayer as Worship with Marilyn Harapnuik

This post is part of a 12 week blog series that highlights the many ways we worship the triune God.


When Marilyn hears the word “worship”, she admits her first thought is “music”. Years of growing up in churches where those two concepts were synonymous have ingrained that thought in her. “But I know it’s so much more. [Worship is anytime we are] thinking and meditating on the worth and weightiness of God.” It only takes a few moments of talking to Marilyn to see her deep love of God which is firmly rooted and sourced in the Word. Over the years Marilyn has intentionally (and unintentionally!) cultivated a beautiful dependence on the Word of God. “Words mean a lot to me. That’s why I love John 1:1 - ‘In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was God.’ This is for me!”


Although she grew up in a Christian home, Marylin would say her faith didn’t really blossom until her twenties, when she experienced nearly a decade of suffering in a spiritual wilderness. During this season of pain, regret, guilt and heartbreak Marilyn was forced to confront what she really believed about God. Was He in fact sovereign over everything? Could He really work all things for our good and His glory? Did she believe that for her own life as well as for those around her who were affected by her life choices thus far? In her suffering, Marilyn turned to the Bible for truth about who God is and how He sees us. She came to truly believe His grace is more than enough to cover her sin and weakness and suffering, and to offer her real hope. “Really understanding how He sees me changed the way I worship. Knowing that He does not see me as a sinner any longer because of Jesus, but that He sees me as perfect, that He calls me a saint! Grace changed everything for me.”

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for God, for those called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28

There is an underlying peace and joy in Marilyn’s heart: it’s written all over her face and in the depth of her eyes. A peace that comes from seeing and knowing God is faithful, that His Word is true.

In her day-to-day life Marilyn admittedly has different seasons. Sometimes she reads daily and follows a plan or works diligently through a study with other women. Other times, it’s not so organized. She confesses, “You caught me in a good season.” Her daily routine has ebbed and flowed over the years, changing with days and seasons of life. “Be present, allowing God to work. Sometimes you are just going through the motions, but God is always faithful. God is always working.” Her investment has brought reward. Her obedience to God and reliance on His grace has produced a heart that wells with joy and tears just thinking about Jesus, even in seasons of great difficulty.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”
Romans 5:3-4


One way Marilyn loves to worship is through Communion. “It’s all about gratitude and remembrance. What He has done, what He will do. Concentrating on His worth, in quietness and reflection. We are a people who forget. [But we’re called to fight that.] ‘Remember me,’ Jesus said. It’s so simple.” That is why she loves partaking every Sunday. It is so important to her that it was one of the two main things she was looking for in a church. The first thing was faithfulness in teaching the Word, and the second was participating in Communion every Sunday. “Also song lyrics are very important to me. The music can be good, but if it doesn’t speak truth about Jesus, what’s the point?” Her favorite worship song is “Be Thou My Vision”.

In her trials, heartbreaks, fears and anxiety, Marilyn works to always turn to Jesus. “I run to Jesus in my fear, and trust in His sovereignty. It’s all about Him then. Then I get to see Him work for His glory. That brings worship.”

Prayer is most often very personal for Marilyn. “It’s releasing my concerns and trusting in the sovereignty of God. Sometimes I don’t even know what to ask, but He always knows,” she said with a warm smile and tears in her eyes. “Prayer changes me.” When asked if prayer leads her to worship she replied, “Almost always, but really, prayer is worship.” She expresses with awe how the power of prayer goes beyond what’s physical. “How amazing it is that the creator of the Universe hears us? We can speak to the God who created all things.”


Over the years Marilyn has invested in young women who come into her life. When she needed it most, a godly woman was a wonderful example to her, and Marilyn has “paid forward” the investment ever since. These mentorship relationships have been a huge blessing to Marilyn. “I have reaped more benefits than I have ever given,” she says. Instead of seeking out those relationships she has just let them happen naturally. “It is just being a friend. It doesn’t have to be structured.” Listening to her talk about the relationships she has had and continues to have with younger women as a result of someone else's investment in her life was inspiring. It was a reminder that instead of trying to find someone to mentor or disciple or invest in us, we should also be looking for those we can mentor or disciple or invest in.

For Marilyn, worship is knowing God through His Word, trusting His sovereignty, remembrance of what He has done, and sharing God’s grace with those around her. Worship isn’t something she does whenever she’s got the time and energy. And it’s not the result of religious effort. In these biblically-rooted spiritual disciplines, Marilyn meets God and responds to His call to join Him in His work - and the result has been real joy and peace, which hold up even in the hardest seasons of life.

Melissa Menzel is a community group leader at Westside and is a gifted hairdresser in the community. Melissa is married to Matt who is on staff at Westside Church as Assistant Lead Pastor.

Categories: Prayer,Written