If I were to take a random survey among Christians, asking them what immediately springs to mind when they hear the word ‘worship’, there would undoubtedly be varied responses. For some, worship is simply that hour on Sunday mornings when they go to church. For others, worship is the first part of the service where we sing praise and worship songs, to set the tone for what is to come. Hopefully for some at least, worship is also a one on one experience where they give God his worth in times of personal prayer.
Worship is that time in an often self-centred or others-centred lifestyle, when we can truly forget ourselves and focus on God. It comes from the very deepest place within us, and is the pure expression of our love for God, Father, Son or Holy Spirit. It is an outpouring of love and adoration from the Bride to the Bridegroom. While thanksgiving is about what God has done, worship is about who God is, his character and attributes. It is an honest, sincere offering from our hearts to the heart of God. It is one of the few things that we can give to God as pure gift.
Our worship can communicate itself in many ways. It can be with words or in silence; loudly, or even in a whisper. We can sing – a song we know, or one composed spontaneously by the Holy Spirit from a full heart. We can dance before the Lord, like David did. We can make music to him. We can kneel, or prostrate ourselves, or raise our hands to heaven. God, who created our uniqueness, can truly appreciate our unique expressions of praise.
We know that God delights in our praises; he directs us again and again to do so! Have a look at the last few psalms, and you will certainly get the message. And Psalm 22:3 (NRSV) tells us that God is ‘enthroned on the praises of Israel.’ Of course God is with his people all the time, but he comes in a special way, in all his fullness, when we praise and worship him.
Revelation 4:8 tells us that the heavenly beings praise God day and night. They never get bored with this, because they never come to the end of God! Throughout eternity they bring their worship in humility, reverence and awe. In chapter 5 of the Revelation to John, we read about the angels, ten thousand times ten thousand, encircling the throne and singing in a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!”
What a great example the angels have set for us! But we have even more cause to praise God, for unlike the angels, we can cry, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain… for me.”
If worship is focusing solely on God and bringing our love and praise from a pure heart, then it seems rather self-centred even to think about what we might get out of it. Yet this is the nature of God. When we give to him, he gives back abundantly to us, “pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” (Luke 6:38)
One of the things we receive in worship is a changed perspective. Our priorities change as we focus on God. The things that have been troubling us assume their correct importance when seen in the context of worship, and the power they have over us is diminished in the face of the awesome power of God. When we have been battling in some area and we feel our resources depleted, then worship nourishes, strengthens and refreshes our spirit.
Worship often brings revelation – a word or picture, a Bible verse, a conviction, an understanding, or a reaffirmation of the authority we have in Christ. So there is a continuous cycle of worship – revelation – action – worship – revelation – action etc. It’s an integral part of our life and ministry as Christians.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism claims that “man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” So let’s be true to our calling and our nature, and worship God as he deserves. And, because he can’t help himself, God will also bless us as we do.
Colette Williams | Freelance Writer