As Christians we are called to worship God. What does this mean, and how do we do it? These are important questions that need to be answered. There are 2 types of worship mentioned in the Bible:
Worship as a Lifestyle
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Romans 12:1
People are created to worship. We all worship something. Everything we do comes from a place of worship. As unbelievers it can be fame, money, a person or a career. All the decisions we make, the way we live our lives, the way we spend our time, is an outworking and reflection of what it is that we worship.
As believers we are called to offer every aspect of our lives to God.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.Matthew 22:36-38
Everything we do for God, we do as an act of worship to him. Whether it’s loving others, serving, working, washing dishes, we do ‘all things unto the Lord’ (Col 3:23). It’s a natural overflow of our relationship with the Father. We love him and respond to him in worship ‘because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). We walk in faith and obedience to Him in every aspect of our lives.
An important part of this worship to God is when we express adoration to Him through music and song.
Worship as Glorifying God through Music
The Scriptures speak to us about worshipping God with instruments and voice, through music and song. This is a vocal, and often times public expression of our adoration to Him. God in His supremacy has given us very clear indications in Scripture as to why, when, where and how we are to worship Him.
Why should we worship?
1. We are commanded to do so.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.Psalm 150:3-5
God doesn’t ask us to, but commands us to worship Him. Not because He’s an egomaniac who needs it, but because He knows that we need it. It does not benefit Him – He is God and perfect in every way. Not unless we praise Him are we able to have a proper relationship with Him. We need a thankful and praising heart.
- It keeps our eyes on Jesus. No matter what our circumstances, we need to be focused on the truth, not on the difficulties. Focused on the Overcomer, so that we are not overcome. Focused on the Victor, so that we are victorious. Our faith is built up because we declare who He is, and He is always greater.
- It keeps us in an attitude of gratitude
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.1 Thes 5:18
2. God is enthroned in our praise.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.Psalm 22:3
Enthroned means that a King begins His rule in that place. We want His kingdom to come, and His kingdom is there where we praise Him and proclaim Him to be King. By declaring His truth, we are establishing His kingdom in our hearts, our church, our community, our city.
- It keeps us humble, as it gives us the proper perspective of who His is. We are completely dependent on Him.
- There is power in praise. When we stop fighting our own battles and praise Him, He fights the battle for us. It increases our faith as we look to Him. Joshua and the battle of Jericho is a good example of how praise was used to overcome in battle (Joshua 6:1-27).
- It is a good thing to praise the Lord.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High.Psalm 92:1
3. He is worthy of our praise (Rev 4:11)
How great is the Lord, how deserving of praisePsalm 48:1
4. We were created to praise Him (1 Peter 2:9)
my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praiseIsaiah 43:21
When should we worship?
1. When we feel like it
Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.James 5:13
2. When we don’t feel like it
Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him againPsalm 42:5
Praise is a function of our will. We must choose to do it regardless of our feelings – it is based on God’s greatness, and that never changes. In Ps 103:, David says ‘ Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name ‘. David commands his soul to praise the Lord. Praise functions according to our will and not our emotions. (Ps 42:5-6)
- Now. We can argue that last week I really praised, so I don’t need to do it this week
I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Saviour and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember youPsalm 42:5
Even in those times when it feels like God is far away (the omnihiddence of God), even when we feel completely separated from His presence, it is still fitting to praise the Lord.
3. Rising up early to praise Him
I will wake the dawn with my songPsalm 57:8
4. Late at night
I rise at midnight to thank youPsalm 119:62
5. Continually. In the time of David, the Levites ministered 24/7.(1 Chron 9:33)
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his nameHebrews 13:15
6.In difficult times
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines…yet I will rejoice in the LordHabakkuk 3:17-18
We are to praise God ALL THE TIME!
I will extol the Lord at all times, his praise will always be on my lips.Psalm 34:1
No matter the time of day, our feelings or our circumstances, it is good to praise the Lord.
Where should we praise?
If we are to praise the Lord at all times, then the logical conclusion is that we are to praise Him everywhere.
1. While we’re at home in bed
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honour and sing for joy on their bedsPsalm 149:5
2. From the east to the west
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.Psalm 113:3
Although we are to praise the Lord everywhere, there is a particular emphasis in some places:
3. The congregation of the saints
Psalm 22:22,25, Psalm 26:8.12, Psalm 27:4, Psalm 35:18, Psalm 68:24-26, Psalm 69:9, Psalm 107:32, Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.
We are to praise with unity, but not necessarily uniformity. There can be orderly variety, some people may be standing, others kneeling, and still others raising their hands.
4. Before all men and all nations
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoplesPsalm 96:3
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavensPsalm 150:1
How should we worship?
We don’t praise the Lord our way, we praise Him His way. And His way is described to us in Scripture. Let us look at the Bible to see how God wants us to praise Him.
WE PRAISE HIM FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE, AND WHO HE IS
Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.Psalm 150:2
When we praise we focus on His character, and His acts. We get to know Him more. What we sing is important. Worship is about adoring and glorifying God, it’s not about me, it’s about Him.
2. Lifting our hands
(NEHEMIAH 8:6, PSALMS 28:2,134:2, 141:2, I TIM 2:8)
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.Psalm 63:4
This is the position a child has when he greets a parent and wants to be picked up. This is the same attitude we come to God with, humility, adoration and expectation. It also enables us to concentrate better on praying and worshipping. With our arms raised we are in a physical position where we are unprotected and vulnerable. Crossed arms is a self-protecting stance, whereas arms raised is one of surrender. It’s also a stance of receiving, as we indicate our willingness to accept and receive from God.
3. Clapping hands
Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joyPsalm 47:1
Clapping is part of making a joyful noise to the Lord.
- Playing musical instruments (Psalm 150:3-5)
- Standing (2 Chron 5:12, 7:6,29:26, Psalm 135:2 Rev 4:9-11)
Standing speaks of respect. Even with earthly dignitaries it’s a sign of respect. In the throne room of heaven in Rev, God sits and we stand. Standing shows alertness (of mind) and participation.
4. Kneeling, bowing and prostration
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our MakerPsalm 95:6
- Singing. Music is particularly beautiful and gives greater expression to the words
proclaiming aloud your praisePsalm 26:7
Praise is not praise until it is heard and vocalised. Similarly with people around us, we don’t praise them until we vocalise our thoughts.
5. Visible, dancing
(EX 15:20,21, SAM 6:14-16, PSALM 30:11, ACTS 3:8)
The only exception to audible praise is visible praise. David danced before the Lord
Let them praise his name with dancingPsalm 149:3
Some may think that dancing looks silly, but to outsiders so do many of the different aspects of praise. Remember, it’s for God, not for man. Sometimes only dancing gives full expression to everything we feel (David danced with all His might, Miriam danced when the Egyptian army had been defeated)
(PSALM 66:1, 81:1, 95:1,2, 98:4-6, 100:1)
shout to God with cries of joyPsalm 47:1
The Hebrew word hillel from which we get the universal word Hallelujah means to cry aloud, break out into a cry, especially a cry of joy.
- With our entire beings,
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy namePsalm 103:1
Worship is not about mouthing empty cliche’s, but it’s about adoring God with everything we have, including actions, which reflect an overflowing heart.
In worship there are 3 levels of expression. The vertical aspect is about our relationship with God. The horizontal aspect is our connection with other people around us, and the inward aspect is how we are changed inwardly.
1. The Vertical Aspect
- The primary purpose of worship during the Sunday meeting is to praise God. Not to bless us, but to bless the Lord. Our concern shouldn’t be whether we felt moved, touched or blessed, but whether the Lord was blessed and glorified. We will be blessed if He is blessed, but that is not our motivation. Our primary focus is to look to God and adore Him.
- It opens up communication between us and God. It’s a dedicated time set aside each week for us to fully focus on God.
2. The Horizontal aspect
- It enhances the sense of unity within the body (Psalm 133:1). Whatever differences we may have in theology, we are all agreed on the fact that God is worthy (Psalm 86:11).
- To teach and enforce spiritual truth (Eph 5:19, Col 3:16). We speak to each other in the songs we sing by reinforcing truth. Sometimes we are even memorizing scripture and learning about who God is.
- Worship provides believers with the opportunity to profess their faith before others, in church, and even at weddings (Psalm 108:3). Praise was never intended to be confined to believers only. Do unbelievers see life and vitality, or do they walk away depressed because it was so morbid?
- It fosters a receptivity for the Word. It softens our hearts and opens us up to hear what God wants to say through His word.
3. The Inward Aspect
- It provides a verbal expression of the feelings of our heart. We have beautiful music written by gifted people that helps us to express truths we would find difficult to do alone.
- Worship increases our faith. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. And this is also happens when we say it, sing it and proclaim it.
- We grow in holiness (Psalm 115:8) We become like that which we worship. The more we worship God the more Christ-like we become. We are the company you keep, we become like those we spend time with. 2 Cor 3:18 – with uplifted faces, we will reflect His glory. 1 John 3:2 – the more we see Him, the more we become like Him
- It inspires a greater commitment to a life of worship. It inspires us to live a life of consistent adoration to Him.
- It prepares us for the new things God is saying, because it opens up our hearts and makes us receptive to hear His voice.
Psalm 73:16,17 – in entering the sanctuary, the psalmist gained understanding.
What do our Services look like?
Scripture does not give us a rigid approach to corporate worship because God has not given us, and does not want to give us, a formula for worship. Jesus made it clear that worship is not a ritual but a matter of the heart (John 4:23-24). The Lord is looking for those who will come to Him in Spirit (led by the Holy Spirit) and in truth (praising God for who He truly is as revealed in Scripture, and not how we imagine Him to be), with hearts that are seeking after Him. There is no right or wrong way (slow songs, fast songs), there is only God’s way, so the elders and worship leaders need to be discerning from God where He is wanting to go with a service. We also shouldn’t get distracted with the worship leader, the style etc, the music is a springboard for turning our attention to God. God is not looking for the ministry of musical discernment or analysis, but of praise and blessing to Him.
Responsibility of the Individual Worshipper
Many people come to church with the attitude of receiving, and expect the pastors and worship leaders to see to all the components of the service. But all believers are active members of the New Testament priesthood.
1. The responsibility to worship rests on the individual to bring a sacrifice of praise.
Bring an offering and come into His courts.Psalm 96:8
We are all called to be contributors, not just to be entertained. Come in order to contribute.
2. We are required to invest energy
Make His praise glorious.Psalm 66:2
We serve a glorious God who deserves lavish praise, and it’s our decision and effort to make it so. Make it a priority and be on time.
- Praise Him from the heart, not just sing songs
- Praise God regardless of distractions or circumstances
Praise the Lord at all timesPsalm 34:1
3. We worship all week long, not just on Sundays
He that DWELLS in the secret place of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.Psalm 91:1
There is only One who deserves our praise. There is only One who is glorious. Let’s praise Him because He is worthy of it.