In thinking about various aspects of worship, I came to what I believe is the most important:
Our worship must be our own.
Trust in Him at all times, o people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8 NASB
Since I’ve been recovering from foot surgery, my wife has been driving me to work, so she has been picking me up for lunch each day. We’ve been enjoying the rare treat of time together during my work day, and we’ve been going out to lunch. I saw very quickly how daily visits to fast food franchises have been affecting my diet and my wallet. Sure, I can make decent choices and save some money or some calories. But the fact is, eating out every day is not the most wholesome and healthy option.
It’s so different from selecting my own ingredients, preparing each item or dish to my liking, adding in spices to match my personal taste.
So too when I sit down to worship – whether with worship music (David Crowder’s “After All” and Hillsong’s “Alive in Us” are playing in my ears as I type) or with Bible study resources. How much of my worship comes pre-packaged and processed for me? How much is coming from my own heart responding to the Gospel and the God of grace?
Imagine giving Hallmark cards to your significant other, but when they open the card, there’s no personal note, no signature, no explanation. Just the poem or joke or pretty words provided by the company. How much would that touch someone’s heart?
Resources are great. The huge variety of worship music is a blessing, and the vast array of Bible study tools is helpful, no doubt about it. But these are tools that should propel my own response to God, not take the place of it.
When we worship in church, do we ever take time to use our own words? Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and Jared Anderson are all amazing songwriters who can capture the heart of a message in a thought-provoking song, no doubt. But those words are theirs, written for our benefit and use, but still theirs.
How do we make it our own?
Consider the following:
In Bible study or devotional reading, we can set aside the commentaries and articles sometimes, and go to the God who speaks through His Word. Ask, “What does this passage reveal to me about You? What does it say about how I should live for You?” Pray for the Spirit to illuminate the meaning beneath the surface text.
In singing and meditating on music, the songs of others are a fabulous starting point. Can those inspire us to sing or pray our own additions, our own experiences put into words? For example, the current popular song One Thing Remains can call to mind specific trials and ‘mountains’ of mine, and give me the opportunity to cast those cares upon Him in light of His unfailing love.
In prayer, we may have specific structured methods or even liturgical and rote prayers, but these are likewise starting points that help us get out into the depths. Maybe it’s the Lord’s Prayer, maybe it’s an ACTS model (Adoration Confession Thanksgiving Supplication), maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, I don’t want to stop there. I want to go further, to make my prayer time my own.
At one point, King David wants to make a sacrifice to God. He goes to make an offering, and the owner says, “Here you go, it’s yours, o King.” David says no, and purchases the items. His justification? “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24:24 NASB).
It’s a little bit more costly to take the time to personalize our worship, but the expression of love and the experience of love in return proves well worth the price.
How else can we personalize our time with God? Drop a comment with your suggestions.