As I’ve been reflecting on the importance of worship this past week (yes, I really do sit around and think about Chris’ sermons!) an experience has come back to me that reminds me of the true heart of worship. Several years ago, Chris and I were working in a church that had, I felt, an extremely BORING service. I thought the music was too old and too slow, the prayers too long and the traditions, well, too traditional. One Sunday during praise and worship time, my sister and I were griping to each other about the music. I leaned over to her and made some snarky comment which had us both laughing out loud when I turned around and looked behind me. There was an older gentleman standing just behind us, worshiping with his adult son. He was not a tall gentleman, and it occurred to me in that moment that each time I leaned over to chat and laugh with my sister, I was blocking his view of the screen on which the song lyrics were printed.
God convicted me in that moment in a way that wiped the smug smile right off of my face and tore open my heart. Not only had I hindered myself and my sister from worshiping God that morning, I was hindering the gentleman behind me as well!!
In that moment, there was only one response I could make. I knelt at the altar rail during prayer, humbled and ashamed, and begged God’s forgiveness for my arrogance and insensitivity. I also asked God to be present with me in worship, to help me fix my eyes upon him and to truly cultivate within me a heart for worship.
This became my prayer each Sunday as I entered into service. I prayed for focus, I prayed to experience the presence of God, and I prayed that others would do the same. As the months passed, I found that it was no longer an effort for me to experience God in worship. I stopped being so focused on the outside elements of worship (like music and traditions) and focused on its true purpose—to draw us into the heart of God. Worship became sacred to me in a way it never had before. Now, when I enter into worship, it is with the conviction and assurance that I will encounter the living God, our creator God, my redeemer God. The music no longer matters, the traditions no longer matter, the length of the pastoral prayer no longer matters. God is there and I am there to praise him and receive his Word. That is the heart of worship.
As you respond to Chris’ challenge in the next week, remember that it’s not a question of “fixing” worship but a question of what you would be willing to change about your worship so that people who have never experienced the presence of God would have that opportunity-- that they would learn to worship in the heart of God.
Blessings and Peace,