The Outward Joy of Worship

My relationship with Jesus gives me daily strength that may or may not be accompanied by a feeling of euphoria. My relationship with Jesus gives me joy and peace that may or may not be accompanied by the need to sing and shout. My relationship with Jesus gives me confidence and a sense of security that may or may not be accompanied by a mountain-top sense of revival and rapture.

Corporate worship should lead me to new heights of spiritual excitement, but it should also reinforce my existing levels of spiritual belief. It is not a wasted worship experience that says “You are on the right track. You are headed in the right direction. Keep fighting the fight. Stay on course.”

Should I ever become satisfied with the level of my devotion to Jesus? Of course not! But is it wrong for me to be pleased that I am growing in Him? I don’t thing so.

I don’t feel a time of corporate worship must be deemed a failure if I am not transported to the throne of God and emotionally thrilled by the activities that transpire there. If I approach Him in my own quiet way, if I take joy in my time with my brothers and sisters, if the Holy Spirit reinforces my devotion and submission to Him I will feel my time has been well-spent.

There are times of corporate high, holy excitement. The valleys are endurable only because of the mountain tops. But it may be unrealistic to think that every Christian can attain a mountaintop every Sunday morning. And undue efforts to attain such worship levels may prevent other desirable worship experiences.

My Part in Corporate Prayer

Corporate prayer, when one person leads a group by offering an audible prayer, is the spiritual equivalent of elevator music. In both cases there is a sound that can be heard by each person present, but it is ignored by most of them.

Usually a time of corporate prayer on Sunday morning begins with an announcement that Brother So and So will lead in prayer. Then Brother So and So intones something like “Let us pray” or “Please bow with me.”

And just what are the rest of us supposed to do?

Therein lies the problem. Exactly what are those of us in the pews expected to do while the good brother is praying aloud? There seems to be three courses of action available.

(1) Listen carefully to the audible prayer and in our minds say “amen.” (This is the equivalent of “I second the motion.”)

(2) Listen to the topics mentioned aloud and then personalize them to our own situation. (When the audible prayer asks for healing for the sick, we silently ask God to heal Uncle George or Cousin Betty.)

(3) Completely ignore the audible prayer and pray for our own specific, private concerns as we are led by the Holy Spirit.

No matter which of these we choose, it requires us to intentionally enter into our spiritual closet and communicate with God. It requires that we make the effort necessary to shut out competing thoughts and focus on what He wants to hear. After all, prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue.

To do anything else is to have a form of godliness but not truly be as spiritual as we want people to think we are. And wasn’t that the sin of Ananias and Sapphira? (Acts 5:1-11)

My Worship Relationship with Jesus

I worship God on the basis of my relationship with Him. I recognize Him as “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1) but I also enter into his presence “boldly” (Hebrews 4:16.) Such confident worship is available only to God’s children.

It is only because of my relationship with Him that I am allowed to approach Him at all, except to say “Please forgive me. I am a sinner.” I am his child (Romans 8:16.) This father-son relationship between us gives me access to Him, no matter what my failures or shortcomings might be.

So when I worship Him I recognize that his power, knowledge, majesty and holiness are far beyond my understanding. BUT I also know that his fatherhood provides love, mercy and protection that will never end.

If I knew God only as a stranger I would have to worship Him only in fear and trembling, resembling Isaiah’s “Woe is me” (Isaiah 6:5.) But I know Him as my Father, so my fear and trembling are accompanied with a confident “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15.)

Nothing can change this relationship. It is secure for all eternity.

My Sunday Responsibility

As a Christian, what is my responsibility toward the Sunday morning worship time? What does God expect of me concerning that one hour of “holy huddle” each week?

It begins with prayers on Monday morning. I need to set aside time each weekday to pray for the pastor and each person who will have a leadership roll during the next worship service.

Then I am to ask God if He wants me to invite anyone to attend the next service with me. Do I know anyone who needs what He will provide then?

I should also begin to pray for myself that I will learn what God wants to teach me during that time. I need to give the Holy Spirit permission to start preparing my mind and will to receive His message.

Throughout the week I should plan my weekend so that nothing interferes with my attendance at God’s house. It is my responsibility to control my time to guarantee I will be in my place.

On Sunday morning I must get out of bed early enough to be on time without any hassle, rush or last-minute confusion. The self-discipline of time control is vital.

When I arrive at the worship site I need to focus on God. I must yield my will to Him so I can be taught and molded. The actions of the pastor and worship leader should be secondary to my understanding of God’s word and will. The Holy Spirit will speak to me during the worship time if I want Him to and if I block out distractions.

Throughout the worship time I should be in prayer for others. I should be asking the Father to lead the pastor to say only the things He wants said, praying that all of us hear clearly and correctly.

Lastly I am to continue praying for myself that God’s message will produce His desired results in my life during the coming week. Then, with gratitude for the opportunity to worship and for those who have helped me do so, I must remember the Golden Rule as I drive out of a crowded and confused parking lot.