Some of my earliest memories involve my child-like attempts at worship. I have to believe the times I stood in front of our small church as a little girl and sang my heart out for Jesus must have been pleasing to God. I imagine God feeling the way I feel when Isabel looks lovingly at me and tells me she loves me.
As with most spiritual disciplines, growth was necessary in my view and practice of worship. For a very long time I had a very narrow view of what it meant to worship God. That mindset involved showing up on Sunday and singing several songs with hands raised or while clapping.
Of course, I know that corporate worship is important and vital in our Christian walk. We see examples throughout the Bible of God’s people coming together, unified for the purpose of exalting the one true God. As a singer and worship leader myself, there is nothing quite like gathering with a group of people with one unified purpose in mind: to bring glory to God. We celebrate victories in song, proclaim joyfully the great God we serve, and rededicate ourselves as the unified body of Christ to his purpose.
Yet over the last five or six years, I have prayed, studied and sought after a greater understanding of worship. There have been some key moments that have led me to the understanding I currently have. I will share three with you today.
1. My Life is a Vapor
Psalms 141 is a beautiful psalm of David. In verse 2, we see the concept of our prayers going up before the Lord as incense and our lifted hands as a sacrifice before the Lord. When I think about my life, I imagine a continual vapor rising up before the Lord. Whether or not that vapor is pleasing to him depends on whether I am seeking to worship and honor God in my words and actions. When I pray without ceasing, a pleasing vapor rises to the Lord. When I take time out of my day to lift my hands in surrender, a pleasing aroma ascends to God. When I demonstrate the love God has shown to me to others and carry out my purpose in the Kingdom, the vapor rises and is worship to the Lord.
2. Freely, Wholeheartedly and Without Hesitation
I will never forget the Sunday these words came to me. I was in the midst of a powerful time of worship and these three words came to my mind. I have been forever changed. To me, these three words represent the what, how and when of worship. The “what” is freely. Worship is giving everything. I withhold nothing from an all-powerful God. I am not guarded before a risen King.
Wholeheartedly is the “how” of worship. The manner in which I worship much reflect the greatness of the God I worship. Whatever I do, whether in my everyday life or in a church worship service, must be done with all of my heart. I cannot be lukewarm in worship of a Savior who reigns as Lord of all.
Without hesitation is the “when” of worship. I worship every time I am aware of the greatness of God, without pause. If I see a glorious sunset, I don’t hesitate to thank and praise the God who created it. When singing a song addressing the glory of God, I don’t hesitate to raise my hands in surrender to the God of which I sing. When I see an opportunity to glorify God through my actions, I can’t hesitate to act in the moment. When I have an opportunity to serve, I must decrease that he may increase…. without hesitation.
When my worship only takes place in a two-hour window on Sunday, it is shallow. Some of my most profound times of worship have been in my kitchen or alone in my bedroom or beholding the grandeur of God’s creation. A lifestyle of worship is a daily recognition and celebration of the greatness of God. If we all lived this way every day, just imagine the depth and celebration that would take place when we do gather to worship together!
3. Let Worship Be the Fuel for Mission’s Flame
These are the words of a profound Matt Redman song.
“Let worship be the fuel for mission’s flame.
We’re going with a passion for your name.
We’re going for we care about your praise.
Send us out.
Let worship be the heart of mission’s aim.
To see the nations recognize your fame.
‘Til every tribe and tongue voices your praise.
Send us out.”
I first listened to the lyrics of this song while living in Cuba. As you can imagine, it had tremendous significance to me at that point in my life. The lyrics say it all.
I am sad to admit that while I continually feel the call to be a true worshiper, I often ignore the call. One of my favorite passages about worship talks about worshiping God in spirit and in truth, then goes on to say:
“the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23)
I imagine God looking down on his creation, seeking those whose life is a sweet-smelling vapor of worship… those who are worshiping freely, wholeheartedly and without hesitation…. those who carry out the Great Commission because they want to see every tribe and tongue proclaiming his glory…..
And I don’t want his gaze to pass me by and look to another. When he is seeking worshipers, I want to be found proclaiming the glory and greatness of the God who called me out of darkness and into his marvelous light. I want my actions to be worship to the Most High. I want to be found rejoicing at the beauty and excellence of his creation. I want to be found with words of thanksgiving and adoration on my lips.
Have you worshiped God in some way today? Have you marveled at his creation or had a grateful heart for the change he has made in your life? Have you lifted your hands to him in surrender? Will you sing out songs of praise to him? When he is seeking for worshipers, will you be found among them? My prayer today is one of repentance for the times I have failed and a re-dedication to be found among those worshiping in spirit and in truth.