I love worship. I’ve had many amazing moments of worship, but I also have had times of frustration, confusion, and doubt. My heart is always to please and love the Lord. Yet, about a year ago I found myself lacking effectiveness in worship. I allowed my feelings to dictate my worship. I know the struggle that comes from this. That is why I have decided to provide scripture references with a description, alongside research, and some of my own experiences.
What kind of worship does God find pleasing? Worship that is pleasing to God is categorized by a life of obedience, devotion, love, and purity of heart. God desires that His people follow His word and His truth when they are worshiping Him.
This blog will walk you through God’s commands for worship in scripture. It will also give you a practical action plan to prepare yourself for effective worship and to manage negative feelings.
Effect worship begins by first worshiping the One and only God, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Christianity does not have numerous gods. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one. This is known as the trinity. In order to worship effectively, the object of worship must be correct.
Worshiping other gods or idols in addition to God will negate any worship to Him. The Bible says that God is a jealous God. He pursues His people and will not share them with other gods, that are explained to be demons (Deuteronomy 32:17). Depending on which culture a Christian finds him or herself in, there may not be distinct idol worship. In certain eastern countries, there is continued worship of idols.
However, the western world faces idols of a different sense. These tend to be idols of self, money, power, position, health, comfort, and experience. Entering worship in an effective manner requires laying down these idols or any others. These things are not bad in and of themselves. Yet, when they become more important in our lives than God is, there is a problem.
This is the first aspect of effective worship. There are other elements that we see through scripture that will give us a healthy basis of worship that is pleasing in God’s eyes.
Obedience to God
Pure and undefiled worship is categorized by obedience. Obedience to all of God’s commands is necessary. As born again believers, we should pursue holiness and obedience to the commands of Jesus. We should be on a journey of sanctification throughout our faith walk. We are transformed from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).
There is grace for when we fall short because we can never successfully fulfill all that God would have us to, because of sin. This is why we rejoice in Jesus for He made right the divide that we could never cross. However, grace is not a license to sin. We must strongly resist sin and temptation.
God does not desire sacrifices, lip service, or acts of worship if they are not backed by a lifestyle of devotion and obedience.
- 1 Samuel 15:22: “But Samuel replied: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
Furthermore, a part of obedience requires loving others. God does not desire worship when His people are divided against each other. He desires His people to genuinely love one another and treat them as they would treat themselves. When there is a lack of love and mercy, God is not pleased. God hates oppression and injustice. He expects His people to live above reproach and to instead fight against injustice.
- Hosea 6:6: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
This theme continues from the Old to the New Testament. Jesus advises His people to first be reconciled before they leave a gift to God. This could be applied to our own worship today. Before we enter into worship, we should be intentional to resolve any issues with our family of Christ. We must do the same with our actual family, friends, peers, and other people we interact with.
- Matthew 5:23-24: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Pure worship to God also involves caring for those in need. It is not enough to merely stand against injustice. Believers must take action against it. They must provide relief efforts for the least of these in a holistic manner.
- James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Purity of Heart
Effect worship comes from a pure heart. Those with a pure heart will see God. Those who do not have a pure heart will not be able to draw near to Him. Additionally, those with ulterior motives in worship will not truly connect with God. They will not be effective because they are not worshiping God. They are worshiping themself.
- Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
Pure worship is done through the power of the Holy Spirit. Born again believers who have the Spirit have direct connection and communion with God. They can worship freely with the Lord. They worship in truth by knowing the truth and following the truth. Without truth, God cannot be effectively worshiped.
- John 4:24: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Prepare for Worship
A helpful way to enter into worship is by first preparing yourself. The chaos of life alters our thoughts, actions, intentions, and understanding. It is beneficial to take time to calm yourself and realign yourself with God. Renew your mind with the thoughts of God, rather than those of the world. Intentionally conform yourself to God. Do not continue to conform to the world.
- Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Additionally, ask the Lord to purify your heart. Approach God first in prayer. Confess any sins you have committed and start afresh. Receive His grace and mercy. Leave behind sin and put on the righteousness that comes through the cleansing of Christ.
- Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
Ineffectiveness comes from a variety of reasons. It can come from a lack of obedience, devotion, love, or truth. In my own life, I struggled to worship effectively because I faced such great confusion. Within the first two years of my faith, I was involved with three different churches and ministries. All of which had different theology and belief.
This caused such great confusion that left me fearful and upset. I struggled to connect with God because I no longer had confidence in who He was or how He saw me. I didn’t know what to believe when it came down to important matters. This is only one example of what can bring ineffectiveness.
What I found to be the most beneficial and fruitful, was an intensive study of God’s word. I decided to attend Bethany Global University to study the Bible in greater depth alongside faithful followers of Christ. Attending Bible college is not necessary for all believers, yet it has been extremely helpful for me.
Overcoming ineffectiveness includes fervent prayer because God is the only one who understands exactly what we are thinking or feeling. Various resources, commentaries, books, and studies can help answer questions that leave us ineffective. Reaching out to other believers for support, discipleship, and accountability leads to greater depth in the Lord. Greater depth correlates to more powerful and effective worship.
Wrestling with Negative Feelings
Feelings aren’t a bad thing. They are only bad when they overcome us. When we trust our feelings more than we trust God, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and hurt. Yet, when we recognize our feelings in light of God, we receive healing, instruction, freedom, and an action plan for growth.
When feelings come, or they don’t, we do not need to panic. Instead, we can view it as an opportunity to dig deeper with the Lord. For example, offense is a sign that there is some sort of hurt, lie, or insecurity in an individual’s life. Most likely, there was an experience or belief that is influencing how the individual views the world. The best response to offense is to not blame the other person but to immediately pray and ask the Lord for insight.
Prayer should also be the response to feelings of shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, depression, anger, frustration and every other emotion. Instead of stuffing emotions further down, we should be honest and bring them to the light in front of the Lord. Only when they are placed before the Lord can resolution comes.
In the cause that you do not feel like worshiping, follow the same action plan. Pray. Search your heart to see what might be causing it. Look deep. It can be scary but it is important to uncover what is hidden. Jesus explains that everything flows from within the heart. Once you have searched your heart and asked the Lord, choose to rest in Him with patience, even if you didn’t get the resolve that you hoped.
I speak about this topic in greater depth in my blog, “Worship with Confidence (Even if You’re Not Feeling It)”. Follow the link to read more examples, descriptions, and scriptural truth.