Written by Jesse Schmidt, Canada
I am easily distracted by just about anything. In some cases, the distraction is temporary and does not really affect whatever I am doing. But then I’ve realized that this bad habit is manifesting itself when I am in the midst of the very thing I don’t want to be distracted from—when I am worshipping God during church service.
This often happens when I focus on the externals of such gatherings—say, when I am at a church that conducts a concert-style of praise (think bright lights, loud music, and a lot of flair). Although I may be singing along or even clapping to the beat, my mind tends to be filled with negative and critical feelings about the way the service is being conducted. My focus ends up not on the Lord, but on the things around me.
The more I’ve mulled over why I get so easily distracted during such times, the more I’ve started thinking about the act of worshipping itself. What, exactly, do we mean by “worship”?
Worship, according to Oxford Dictionaries, is to “show reverence and adoration for (a deity)”. We worship God with our entire lives. In John 4:23-24, Jesus explains that we ought to worship God in spirit and in truth, and that those who do so are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.
Have I fallen short of this definition of worship—especially when I am singing songs of praise in church? What does worshipping in spirit and in truth mean in such a context? How do we know if our worship is pleasing to God?
Worship God in Spirit
Worshipping in spirit means to worship with all of our hearts. Our worship to God, whether it is in singing songs of praise or in our everyday lives, has to come out of hearts that have a genuine passion and love for Him. Without this, our actions and words will be empty.
That means that whether I’m singing by myself in a small room or if I’m in a congregation, I ought to be able to praise God all the same. When we’re focused on God, external factors—how we feel or what circumstances we’re going through in life—will not affect how we praise Him. I ought to still be able to praise Him when I’m having a bad day or when things seem to go wrong.
One good example that never fails to inspire me is that of Paul and Silas when they were praying and singing hymns in prison (Acts 16:24-25). Even in their small prison cells and in their circumstances of tribulation and persecution, the two were able to praise God with all of their hearts. They were able to do so because their hearts truly desired and loved God.
May our hearts be like that of Paul and Silas. May we be able to learn how to sing to God regardless of our circumstances and environments.
Worship God in Truth
Worshipping God in truth is to adore Him for who He is. Jesus says that “[He is] the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). In other words, we need to understand God’s character and acknowledge who He is.
It is impossible for me to develop a strong attachment and affection for someone if I don’t know that person well. I can’t speak of how good God is (let alone sing praises and worship Him) if I don’t know Him personally and intimately. We simply can’t love and worship God if we know Him only through what others say He is like; we need to know Him for ourselves.
Praising God and singing to Him without a proper understanding of His truth and character can therefore lead to an empty expression fuelled by hype and good feelings. I can sing loudly in church and know all the songs by heart—but not have an intimate relationship with God. But that is not what God desires.
Ultimately, to worship God in spirit and in truth—to grow a heart that is passionate for God and to know His character—we need to spend time with Him. By reading the Bible regularly, setting aside time to pray and growing our relationship with Him, we will naturally also grow in our worship of Him. We have to know Him to love Him, and we have to love Him to desire to worship Him and show His worth in our lives.