The main prayer I’ve been praying for myself this year is that I would be a true worshiper.
Verbal praise and singing is only one aspect of worship, though it’s a very important one. It also seems (to me at least) to be a confusing one.
The Bible doesn’t give us a clear description of what music meets His standard and what doesn’t. What is a matter of preference and taste and what has to conform to His will. What mix of instruments is glorifying, and whether there are styles He does not accept.
But I hold the view that God does have a moral standard for music (it just isn’t laid out for us in the Bible in a list of mp3 files for us to reference acceptable and unacceptable worship). This means corporate worship in church can often feel like a compromise, but one where I can’t clearly draw a line of where I’ll stop. We know getting the standard for worship wrong has serious consequences: see Cain.
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”
Aside from all the external issues around worship in church, I want my personal worship of God to be in spirit and in truth. I so easily let the external factors distract me, but with my prayer of being a true worshiper I hope to do better in my personal relationship with the Lord.
I’ve just read Revelation, and with this prayer in mind, the way God is worshiped in heaven stood out.
The feel of worship
Here is how it appeared to John:
- The four living creatures never cease to praise.
- “The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying…”
- “And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying…”
- “After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out…”
- “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out…”
The words of worship
What we should (and shouldn’t) say when worshiping God is no mystery. Here are the passages where God is praised in Revelation, along with some notes on what stood out to me:
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
The holiness of God is very clear through all the praise. God is exalted high above us.
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
Praise is about God in two main ways. One, who God is – His attributes. Two, what God had done – His deeds.
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
We praise God for His gospel, the central act of all time.
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
Noticeably, praise is not about us. Some Christian songs, old and new, have as much focus on us as they do on God. I’m not saying that is wrong (largely because of Ephesians 5:19 “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”) but I don’t think it’s necessarily praise.
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.
So much focus is on the power and majesty of God.
“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
for you brought these judgments.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!
“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
true and just are your judgments!”
God is praised for all His attributes, not just the popular (happy) ones. We don’t sing much about the justice of God. But the holiness of God can’t exist without the judgment of sin. If we thought sin against God was as terrible as it is, we would see that we should praise Him for His judgment. That will also remind us we would be in the same damnation if it weren’t for His grace saving us from our sin. And that will drive us back to praising Him again for His great mercy.
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure.”
The picture these passages paint to me, is one where the worshipers are giving all their devotion to God. They’re not taken by the music or the beat or the performance of leaders. It’s a praise that is led by truth and their spiritual connection with God, not by emotion. But neither is it words just repeated by people with no emotional involvement who are gazing around the building filling in time. The worshipers are consumed by their praise of God.
The focus is not the worship itself. All the focus is on our God who deserves all our praise.