There are two purposes in biblical worship: to glorify God (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14; Revelation 4:8-11; 5:9-12) and to satisfy our most basic need: to be transformed (Romans 12:1, 2). Just as Jesus was transformed on the mount (Luke 9:28 ff.), so we are transformed from the inside out.
Unfortunately, all too often, we fail in worship. It could be we were looking for an experience rather than an encounter. It’s easy to mistake feelings for substance. We may depend on worship being sensual: filled with sights, sounds, and smells rather than being filled with the Spirit. Old Testament worship in the Temple was a very sensual experience. The Temple itself was a feast for the eyes. The sounds of the choirs and instruments capture their attention. Even the scents of incense and the burning sacrifices enwrapped the experience. Today we may depend on multimedia and performance to carry us away in worship.
Failure to focus also derails our worship. It can be hard to shift from loading the family in the car, dealing with abusive drivers, and a thousand distractions. Mrs. Peabody’s perfume may cause us to long for burnt offerings. Mr. Abercromby’s snoring is certainly a distraction. Worries about work, relationships, and the big game conspire to blunt our devotion.
Finally, depending on others also dulls our worship. Sometimes we forget God is the audience, and we are the worshippers. Perhaps it seems like worship is becoming a spectator sport! We judge the success of our worship by how we were entertained.
Here are my suggestions.
1. Recapture a sense of wonder. Alfred North Whitehead observed: “Philosophy begins with wonder.” Emerson added, “Wonder is the seed of science,” but Thomas Carlyle wrote, “Wonder is the basis of worship.”
2. Sense the presence of God. Warren Weirsbee says, “[Worship] is an encounter with reality – with God – that brings awe to your heart. You are overwhelmed with an emotion that is a mixture of gratitude, adoration, reverence, fear – and love.”
3. Cultivate a sense of gratitude. This requires honesty. Strip off all hypocrisy and our airs. True confession requires an honest examination of our progress in Christ and a profession of our faith and gratitude.