All too often, we have a distorted view of worship.
We generally view worship as simply singing passionately, praying boldly, and reading Scripture exceptionally. While these may often be outcomes of worship, they alone are not.
So, what is worship? John Piper defines true worship as “a valuing or a treasuring of God above all things” (‘What is Worship’ by John Piper, desiringGod, episode 848).
Worship isn’t present if your heart isn’t fully engaged. Singing, praying, or reading Scripture isn’t true worship if your heart isn’t connected with your actions for the sole purpose of God’s glory.
In light of this, here are three areas where we can challenge our hearts towards a Christ-like perspective of worship in music, prayer, and Scripture reading.
I am always disheartened when I hear people make comments such as, “I can’t sing, so usually in church I just listen to others” or “I’m not good enough to play (music instrument) during a service“. This attitude is a subtle reflection of a wrong view of worship.
God doesn’t require a certain musical ability or talent before you can worship Him in song. He simply asks you to praise Him with your best. When your mind is focused on all that He is and has done, and when your heart is exploding with praise and adoration so that you can’t help but sing with full gusto and passion – that is what God desires from us, regardless of our musical ability. He yearns for a church’s passionate praise over the brilliant talent of a select few. So what if you consider your voice to be terrible, or if your aren’t the best pianist or guitarist out there? Is God more concerned about the performance or the heart?
Keep right focus the main focus. A way in which we devalue our worship in song is when we misplace our focus. We are so quick to turn our attention primarily to the music’s emotional pull or the vocalist’s talented ability. We can appreciate and praise God for both, but it can’t be all. Our main focus in music must always be on the message of all who God is and His glory. The music and vocals must point our attention to that message – not to themselves.
Whether you are singing or playing an instrument, offer your all to the best of your ability for God’s glory, not people’s praise.
Prayer is one of those areas where we can so easily appear spiritual without ever giving worship. Practicing mindfulness in who you are and who God is, is critical. God has allowed us the privilege to come before His throne in boldness through Christ – let us joyfully do so in prayer:
Pray directly to God. Even if you are leading a group in prayer, you are ultimately speaking to God, not others. You are the spokesman, but your petition is directed towards Him. Pray simply from your heart with love and trust in God – without seeking to impress others by your prayers.
Praise God for all He is and allows. Thank God often for your salvation. Praise God for your sanctification through the trials. Thank God for changing your heart and recognize your absolute dependency on Him.
Focus on the prayer. Don’t drowse off into musing over what’s happening afterwards, what you’re eating for lunch, or even what the message was about (that can wait until after). Be mindful and present in your prayer – whether you are leading or listening in a group, or alone.
If any of you are like me, you know how easy it is to drowse off mentally during scripture reading, or during your personal devotions to simply read words in the text without processing their meaning. Here are a few tips I have found helpful in keeping engaged to the text of Scripture:
Follow along. Some people may be able to stay completely on track simply by listening to the reading, but not me. As my mind has a tendency to continually wander, for me, following along means actually opening my Bible and reading the words on the pages.
Take notes. Mark anything that particularly strikes you so that you can ask questions and study into it – later. The temptation is to try to figure out the answers immediately and only half pay attention to the rest of the reading, but don’t. In doing so, you will more than likely miss the main point and big picture of the passage.
Engage in the passage. Ask questions during the reading:
-> What is the cultural context of Thessalonica during the time of Paul’s letters to the church?
-> What do words such as “sanctification” and “restitution” mean?
-> What are the differences and similarities between the guilt, sin, and peace offerings in the beginning chapters of Leviticus?
Jolt your questions down, and if you haven’t obtained the answers by the end of the message, or text you are personally studying through; take the time to ask the speaker and/or study into it yourself.
Conclusion: Who is Worship About?
“I think the point is that when we worship – right worship, good worship, pleasing worship – depends on a right mental grasp of the way God really is, truth. If we worship an idol of our own creation, we are not really worshipping God. And secondly, worship depends on a right spiritual or emotional or affectional heart grasp of God’s supreme value. So true worship is based on a right understanding of God’s nature and it is a right valuing of God’s worth.”– ‘What is Worship’ by John Piper, desiringGod, episode 848 (emphasis mine).
Worship isn’t about you.
It isn’t about your pastor, your church band, or your congregation.
It isn’t about drawing in visitors, or about keeping members happy.