A few weeks ago, I prepared a talk on Personal Worship for some interns in our youth ministries at Trinity. This turned out to be a sweet time together and was a good reminder for me of the importance of an intentional personal worship practice throughout the week. Here are some of my thoughts and the discoveries I have made along the way of seeking to live a life of worship.
“ O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. “ (Psa. 63:1-2, NIV)
Corporate worship is not a substitute for personal everyday worship. Personal worship happens during corporate worship, but flows out of a 24/7 lifestyle of worship to God. What is personal worship? It is a response that flows out of a hunger and thirst to know God. We see it demonstrated in the lives of Biblical characters who knew God and who were most influential in turning people toward God and his ways. It is also demonstrated in the heroes of the faith and well as contemporary influential people in our own journey of spiritual growth. I find the people who are demonstrating the kind of spiritual life of faith that I desire and sure enough it is overflowing with personal worship to God. This personal worship was captured so well in the Casting Crowns song, Lifesong, that shouts, “May my lifesong sing to you.” How do I practice a life of personal worship?
1. It begins with prayer for the desire to know God – to see him, to thirst and be satisfied by him. All too often, we see the way it ought to be and we want it, but we don’t do the work required to grow in our faith. We are overwhelmed by the gulf between where we are and where we would like to be and become so defeated that we quit. Worse yet, we know we ought to desire to know God, but this world has a stronger pull on our affections and our
personal worship is wasted on worldly things. I have found that a prayer to desire the right things is the place to start. I have never prayed such a prayer and not seen God answer it. In my life it sounds like this. “God, give me the right desires. Help me choose the things that please you and draw me closer to you and to your ways. Give me a hunger to know your Word and spend time in study & devotion . . .” and so on. The Bible is clear about what pleases God. When we pray for those things God answers because they are undeniably his will.
2. The second step of growth in my life of personal worship was to pray that God would
make me mindful of his presence all day long. I have had times in life where I have spent a whole day, a horrible day of frustration, anger, wrong responses, failure, and at the end realized that I never once thought of God, nor cried out to him, “HELP!” I remember once in college lying on my bed at night after such a day and the words of an old song drew me back to God. “What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sin and grief to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. O what grief we often forfeit. O what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” I prayed that God would help me to be quick to say “thank you” for the blessings, and “help” for the tough stuff (and thank you as well). That God would be a part of every thought and activity. Sin becomes pretty ugly once God answers that prayer and rightfully owns every area of my life. I find that I am much quicker to identify, hate and then confess my sin. God forgives and is pleased with this type of personal worship.
3. The biggest challenge in my personal practice of worship has always been a true quiet time with God. We live in the world of multitasking. Of course multitasking with God is a wonderful thing and ought to be done all of the time. How else do we fulfill the command to “pray without ceasing?” However, spending time alone with God that is not multitasking, but deeply focused on listening to and responding to him is next to impossible. It is another opportunity to ask God to produce that desire and discipline in my life. I call this making space for God. My theory with prayer and Bible reading is “a little here and there, a lot once and while.” I have come to treasure the times where I really dig in. Slowly the amount of time and regularity of those times has increased and continues to do so. For me, this is Wednesday morning from 6:30 – 9:30 AM. It is sacred time. I read, study and blog. I call it my listening time and it is one of the highest priorities of my week because it is what keeps me centered on God and his will for my life, my family and my church.
4. Lastly, I have discovered the joy of personal worship through a job well done. Delighting in doing good work is a wonderful way to worship God who commanded us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”(Col. 3:23-24, NIV) Once I found out what I was good at, I resolved to do it to the best of my ability as personal worship to God. I even apply this to things I’m not so good at, but am responsible to do nevertheless. Ultimately, a job well done points the spotlight, not at my work, but at my God who gave me the ability to do this work. Do you practice personal worship throughout your week? What does it look like for you? There’s no shame in an honest assessment of our personal worship practices. Once we identify where we are at, we just need to make sure we grow from there and never stop growing. Let’s encourage one another in this area. As we become better worshipers personally, we will find that we experience better worship times with the corporate body of Christ.