We have been talking about spiritual disciplines. Today, I want to talk about the discipline of worship. It is on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, that the church often gathers in worship. When we think about worship, the Sunday morning experience is what comes to most people’s minds. It is sitting in a pew, singing a few hymns, and having the pastor preach a sermon. But that is a narrow definition of worship that is short-sighted. Worship is so much more.
How would you define worship? Stop reading this right now and right down your definition.
There is a reason we call the Sunday morning experience a “worship service.” In our Lutheran tradition, we call the liturgy the Divine Service. In the broadest sense, worship is about service rendered. Worship is anything that is done in service to honor another. It is to say that this person is worthy of my honor. When we serve our neighbor in need – out of reverence to our Lord – that is worship!
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” (Colossians 3:23, ESV)
While we do worship on Sunday morning, we should not limit our definition of worship to what happens on Sunday morning. We are to understand worship in the boarder sense. But for the sake of this post, as we talk about the discipline of worship, I want to talk about it in the more narrow sense of gathering together on Sunday morning as the people of God. I want to talk about who worship is for and reflect on our priority for worship.
God Serves Us
Worship starts with God. This is the most important aspect of worship that is often missed. It is not about us singing our songs, giving our offering, or serving our neighbor in need. There would be none of those things without God.
Worship originates with God showering us with his grace and mercy. We receive forgiveness we don’t deserve. We receive the assurance of that forgiveness through the sacrament received. The Word that is read and proclaimed assures us of the victory he has won and the abundant life he gives.
We are worth it to him. He sent Jesus to die for us. He loves us beyond all measure. He gives us everything and does not hold anything back. This is the Divine Service of God rendered on our behalf because we are worth it to him. But of critical importance is that we must be present to receive it. Worship is as much (even more so) for us as much as it is for God.
We could never love him back in the way that he loves us. Our worship is our response to his great love. But the worship we give is so deficient of what he deserves. But we give him as much as we can give him – empowered by the Spirit, but with human limitations. All our worship is a response. It is never a work performed for God to gain his favor. Our response is to render our service to honor him because he is worth it and we recognize we have nothing without him.
Habit of Worship
God desires a habit of worship. The 3rd Commandment is to honor the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. Christians set aside the first day of the week for worship. This is because this is the day Jesus rose from the dead. Every Sunday is to be a celebration of Easter. It is appropriate to set aside this time, to guard this time, and to make it our priority. The habit of worship is about the divine priority. To give God those first few hours of our week is to say that we are giving God our whole week. The habit of worship is a way of showing God (and ourselves) that he is our priority.
Heart of Worship
God desires a heart of worship as much as he desires a habit of worship. We can attend worship every Sunday, but if our heart is not in it, we are just going through the motions. In John 4, Jesus says:
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23, ESV)
The discipline of worship is as much about the heart of worship as it is about the habit of worship. They go together and are not mutually exclusive of each other.
I have found that there is a tie to the heart of worship and our preparation for the habit worship. I find that many times I am hurried and rushed for the Sunday morning experience. What that tells me is that worship has not been a priority in my life. My preparation for the experience of Sunday morning reveals the heart I had for worship throughout the week. I need to ask myself if I am showing up eager, expectant, and prepared for worship. I find a lot of us simply show up – often late and unprepared for worship – and then we wonder why the worship service was not meaningful.
Here are some thoughts about preparing yourself for the habit of worship and nurturing the heart for worship:
- Asked God to make me sensitive to the needs of other around you. Ask him to reveal places where you can serve him by offering help to others. Ask for help to recognize “Holy Interruptions” to your plans, so that you can experience his plan.
- If you have children, prepare them for Sunday worship on Saturday night. Set the their clothes (and yours) out before going to bed. Pray with your children about the worship experience the next day. Make sure they know Sunday morning is a special day unlike other days of the week. Have them set aside the offering they might give from their allowance.
- Ask God to show you your hidden sin. Confess areas of your life where you need repentance and help.
- Go to bed early to wake up refreshed with a good night’s sleep. Be ready to receive the most important Word for the week.
- Arrive early to worship. Use that time to read your Bible, pray, or read the songs in the hymnals.
- Pray for your pastor or whoever may be preaching that morning. Pray that the Holy Spirit would speak powerfully through them.
- Bring your Bible with you to worship. Bring a pen and paper or some type of device where you can take notes.
- Reflect on the previous week’s message. How were you able to apply that message in practical ways throughout the week. Thank God for the insight that you had been given.
- Sing. Don’t wait till you get to worship. Worship where you are in song.
Questions for Reflection
- How do you define worship?
- How do you express worship during the week? On Sunday morning?
- What are some ways you prepare yourself to prioritize the habit and heart of worship.
- Share your comments.