Photo by Doug Wheller.flickr.creative commons So this last week, I was at a church and the worship leader prayed, and as he did, he said something which made me think: he asked God to kindle our emotions and our affections.

I was surprised, but it took me a while to unpack why.

In my experience, emotion is not something I am supposed to pursue. Emotions are dangerous, they lead me astray or get me carried away. Or so I hear.

Not that I haven't experienced the destructive power of emotions, because I certainly have. I have said and done and wanted things that were utterly wrong for me, because of emotion.

But I have to wonder, if emotions are powerful for evil, does it not follow that they are also powerful for good? In the hands of God, emotions may be a means of setting fire to passion, and leading us into deeper community with each other and Himself.

photo by Andras Pfaff.flickr.creative commons

I think that the danger comes in when we rely upon these feelings and experiences in order to motivate ourselves. If I don't feel like it, it must not be what God is asking me to do (for example). I know that I need to be careful not to allow my emotions to dictate my decisions, I know that I need to weigh them carefully, to see if they line up with what I know of God.

But what if there is a wealth to be found in emotion? What if, as this pre-worship prayer suggested to me, emotions are a gift of God, sometimes giving us energy where it might not otherwise be? A breath of God.

This is easy to see in good emotions. I have no trouble seeing the excellence in delight, or in wonder and excitement. But what about the "bad" emotions? Might they have a purpose too?

Shauna Niequist wrote a while back about how paying attention to your jealousy might be productive because when I look at what I'm jealous of, I often gain more insight into what is in and on my own heart. I have thought about that often since.

Perhaps instead of shoving negative emotions away, I could first see if there is something to be learned from them. I don't want to revel in fear, or doubt or envy, but I don't want to ignore what they are trying to tell me about myself, either.

On the other end of the spectrum, I don't want to keep myself from enjoying positive emotion, which seems to me to be a failure to accept the gifts that God has given me.

Perhaps, now, when I pray, I will start to explore praying over my emotions: placing them under watch, but also asking for the grace to appreciate them as a gift, for delight, and for growth.

What have your experiences with emotion been?