When was the last time you thought about what God himself thinks of your hour and ten minutes of worship each Sunday?
While I can’t know what God thinks, I do know what I think. So, if I’m not intentional about truly worshipping, here’s what a Sunday morning can look like to me and God.
Thoughtless Worship I drive to church thinking about anything except worship and God. Susan and I are talking about what we did yesterday or our plans for this afternoon, but God generally isn’t being discussed. As we walk from the parking lot to the church I’m thinking about the nice cars people are driving, greeting friends and sizing people up.
I sit down and read the worship folders to find out what’s going on in the church this week. Still no serious thoughts of God. I’m just killing time until the service begins. When it does, it generally starts with congregational singing. Too often, I sing many songs thoughtlessly – I’m on automatic. And, occasionally I notice certain people not singing at all – just standing there and I’m wondering, “why”? It rarely dawns on me that thinking about them while I thoughtlessly mouth the words, is no worse than not singing at all!
In the past it was so easy for my mind to wander during the pastoral prayer, the missions report and even the sermon. I’ll jot a few notes down on the sermon for future reference, which I rarely followed through on, sing the last song and leave. I’m grateful that God has given our church an incredibly gifted Senior Pastor who stimulates my love and devotion to God almost every Sunday, but it hasn’t always been that way.
Too often, I was a “thoughtless worshipper”, (if there is such a thing!).
Rx for thoughtless worship
1. Pray for a worshipful attitude. So, years ago I started the practice of praying the moment I sit down in church. It’s my practice to do that before I read the worship folder, or do anything. I pray for a worshipful attitude, confess any obvious sin and ask the Holy Spirit to teach me whatever I need to learn that morning.
“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.” Psalm 96:8-9
2. Sing as if God were the only one listening. I pay much closer attention to the words I sing these days. Why not take the next month to pay careful attention to the words you’re about to sing each Sunday. As I wrote in The 10-Second Rule, “You just have to wonder what Jesus himself thinks when he hears us singing with gusto, “I surrender all”, knowing full well that we have absolutely no intention of surrendering all.” Singing songs we don’t really mean is actually an insult to God.
“The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” Isaiah 29:13
So, now I either don’t sing words, which I don’t really mean, or I change the words to ones I do mean. I now sing, “I surrender ______”, and I name a particular part of my life I truly do want to surrender more to God.
Also, I try to close my eyes as much as possible and imagine God directly in front of me. I want to sing to him, not to the worship leader or the words on a screen. I try to forget everyone else in the room except God. He is worthy of my total attention in worship!
3. Pray along with your pastor. It’s too easy to let your mind wander when others are praying. Don’t let him or her pray for you. Let them lead you in prayer! I try to either silently mouth his words, repeating the prayer of my pastor, or paraphrase his words in words of my own. His prayer should be my prayer – our prayer!
4. Give your offering as unto Christ. I try to imagine placing my gift into Christ’s two hands rather than the offering plate. It’s astonishing how much more personal it makes my giving. Not surprisingly, I often find myself pulling an extra amount out of my wallet, embarrassed at how little I’m putting in “Jesus’ hands”.
5. Ask God to give you a “take home” thought from the sermon. I can easily be impressed with the doctrinal correctness of a sermon or one well delivered. So much so, that I can forget that God wants to move me to greater love for him or others. He wants me to “be” or “do” something with what I’ve heard. So, I try to write down a “how then shall I live” statement that I often reflect on for days.
So, there are some of my ideas. What have you done to deepen your awareness that worship is for God and to God?
Following Jesus in Real Life