How Does Worship Change You?

Like many words, worship has become overused. One definition of worship is “adoration or devotion comparable to religious homage, shown toward a person or principle.” The trouble with this definition is that it broadens the word far beyond its original intent. A narrower definition reads “to show reverence and adoration for a deity.  To honor with religious rites.” This gets us to the heart of what worship should be. But even that is not a definition that helps me to know what worship consists of. What makes up acts of true worship? How do I worship?

The first definition broadens worship beyond God. Admittedly, we often worship people and things that are not God. In our passion for sports, we may worship our favorite athlete or team. We may be in love and say we worship the object of our affections. We may worship an object, such as a vehicle or other belonging. Misdirected worship can also be applied to certain aspects of our religious life. We may even worship the church we have attended for 30 years, or a long-time pastor. All of these examples show that it can be easy to direct our worship away from God and to other persons or objects.

Four Types of Worship

There are numerous types of worship and it seems that the list varies depending on who wrote it. I have chosen four that I feel represent most genuine Christian worship. This is not a detailed examination of each type, merely an overview of tendencies.

Liturgical Worship usually occurs as a part of a church service with prayers, readings, and music. The Book of Common Prayer is frequently utilized in this type of worship. This is usually conducted as very formal.

Non-liturgical worship is more informal and less structured. The elements of this type of worship can vary depending on the different types of services – traditional, contemporary, or other types.

Informal worship focuses on the adoration of God and may occur within a church building but also other venues such as an auditorium, beach, or mountain retreat setting. Frequent use of modern, popular Christian music is encountered. These services are often free-flowing. The congregation may discern the presence of the Holy Spirit so these services may be quite spontaneous, worshiping through raised hands, clapping, shouting – worshiping God with their whole bodies.

Private Worship can take many forms, incorporating elements of the other three types discussed. However, it usually is done alone or with family and close friends. It gives the worshiper an opportunity to explore a personal connection with God. 

No one form is necessarily better than the other. As long as the one true God is being worshiped, a believer should worship using whatever method elevates the worship experience.

Why Worship?

We worship God so we can recognize, honor, and express His worthiness as our maker and savior.  Revelation 4:11 expresses the “Why?” of worship. “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”

In Isaiah 6 the prophet enters the presence of God. As he does he is awestruck with God’s majesty and holiness. Isaiah finds wonderment beyond comprehension in God.  Worship is also transformative. We cannot encounter God without being transformed from sinner to someone experiencing the forgiveness of God. As we are transformed, we also are renewed. Isaiah is such a renewed person, crying out to God “Here am I, send me.” And worship is decentering. We become centered on God’s will and purpose for our lives, away from our self-centeredness.

Experiencing Worship

All of us have probably been to worship services that left us empty, unfilled. How can we experience wonderment, transformation, renewal, and decentering in our worship? We can prepare for worship. Have times of personal worship during the week. Try to make getting ready to go to church services a less stressful time. We can participate in worship. Worship is NOT a spectator sport. We can watch a movie, sporting event, or other forms of entertainment. But worship is not entertainment. It is about participating with the saints in praising and encountering God. We should come to worship with expectation.  Why are we there? Are we focused on ourselves or do we come expecting God to change us? Finally, worship should invoke imagination. Can we imagine that God can change our lives? Do we believe God can work in our lives, making us into the image of Christ? This involves faith – we must be able to imagine God can and will do this in our lives. 

As is my custom, I was in my home church for worship. Our pastor was discussing prayer and how we should be consistent and persistent in our prayers. He told us to “Pray it ‘til you see it.” That requires imagination. Can you imagine God doing great things in your life? If not, start praying for the faith to let God move in your life.

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