What is the essential nature of worship? Why do we worship? How important is worship to the life of a Christian? How should we worship? What are some of the patterns of worship?
We are constantly told that worship is the supreme Christian activity, true, no doubt; but what is worship? The first step towards forming sound ideas of worship is to understand its nature.
The history of the word gives us our answer. The noun worship is a contraction of worthship. Used as a verb, it means “to ascribe worth” or “to acknowledge value.” To worship God is to recognize his worth or worthiness to look toward God and acknowledge in all appropriate ways his value. The Bible calls this glorifying God or giving glory to God. This is why we were made and, from one point of view, is our whole duty. “Praise the LORD for the glory of his name; worship the LORD because he is hold” (Psalm 29:2).
Worship is the response of a heart in love with the Lord. The first great commandment is “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).Christianity is a kind of love affair with our loving Lord and Savior. The more days we turn into spiritual Valentine’s Days by talking to the Lord about our relationship with him, the richer and more joyful the relationship itself will become. By Expressing love, worship renews love to our Lord and to the Father, and this is the greatest joy any Christians ever know.
People who are not Christians find the outward motions of worship tedious and boring. But to the Christian, worship is a joy. It will be so in heaven when we se our Lord; it can be so already on earth. If we know God as our Savior, then all the activities of worship will generate joy, as many of the psalms show with vividness. For worship is natural-we might even say instinctive-to those who are born again. It is the most satisfying thing one ever does. Never are Christians so fully themselves, or so happy, as when their hearts are drawn out in the worship of God.
It is already clear that worship is essentially response-response to God as he reveals himself to us. Worship thus assumes knowledge of God. Christians worship only takes place where there is knowledge of the biblical truths of creation and redemption and of the Jesus of the New Testament made real to us by the Holy Spirit. “The time is coming… and that time is here already,” Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23, emphasis mine). By this he meant that through his personal ministry as sin bearing Savior, Master and Friend, worship was being put on a new basis and lifted to a new level.
To worship God in spirit is to worship him from the heart, “in the Spirit” (Revelation 1:10), by reaching to him in mind and will and affection. To worship God in truth is to come to him through his word and Jesus who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me”. (John 14:6)
Those who worship in spirit and truth, Christ goes on to tell the Samaritan women, are the kind of worshipers the Father wants: “You see, the Father too is actively seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23). God desires worship that is a true response to the truth made known in Jesus. From this it follows that what finally matters about the Church’s forms for worship is not whether they are new or old, but whether they follow the plans for worship that God gave us.
Worship that is Spirit-led and truth-based takes many forms but includes six basic elements:
1. Praising God for all that he is and all he has done.
2. Thanking him for his gifts and goodness to us.
3. Asking him to meet our own and others needs.
4. Offering him our gifts, our services and ourselves.
5. Learning of him from his word, both read and preached, and obeying his voice.
6. Telling others God’s “Worth” by public confession and testimony to what has been done for us.
Many worship patterns are found in Christian assemblies, and most of them are right and good, minimum expectations for worship should include praise and thanks giving to God; confession of sin and forgiveness for those who change their hearts and lives; reading and teaching of the Word of God; praying for daily needs; and taking the Lord’s Supper regularly. The acid test however is whether one’s involvement in worship is whole hearted, “in spirit and truth.”