We know from scripture that two things God requires of us as Christians is prayer and worship. We have been instructed in God’s Word to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17). As any true prayer warrior will tell you, prayer is two-way communication between God and the person(s) praying.
Too often we deem prayer as only one-way communication, when we talk to God but give Him no opportunity to talk back to us. We want what we want, but have not inquired of God what He wants. We make every effort to carry out our plans when in reality, we have not called in to Headquarters for the proper instructions. We only told God our plans; but did not wait for His answer. God has shown me in my Christian walk that He is at perfect liberty to change my plans, no matter how well-thought-out I had initially deemed them to be. When I went through an extended period of unemployment and the uncertainty in my mind was abundant, He let me know that my agenda meant little in light of His perfect plan for me. He taught me to humble myself all over again, and understand that it really isn’t about my limited ability or resources, but His total sufficiency.
The same is true in our worship to God, be it public or private. When we enter into God’s presence in worship, there should be two-way communication, as well. God wants to speak to us in our times of worship. I believe that we can sometimes attempt to “manufacture” God’s presence and His voice in worship. But we must understand that God is perfectly capable of speaking for Himself. Our job is as watchmen, listening for His voice (Proverbs 8:34). We talk to God in worship – extolling Him for His greatness, wisdom, care, and love. And just as in our times of prayer, God desires to speak to us in our times of worship. Before I go any further, please understand that when I use the term “worship”, I am not referring merely to church attendance. Regular church attendance does not make us worshipers. Having attended a church service begs the questions, “Did you worship while you were there?” “Did you go to meet God or just be part of a gathering?”
Not only does God desire sincere prayer, but He insists upon sincere worship as well. In Luke 18:11-13 as the Pharisee prayed thanking God he was not as other men, the tax-gatherer, aware of his own unworthiness, pleaded to God for mercy. The prayer of the tax-gatherer caught Jesus’ attention because he humbled himself. This was not so for the Pharisee. In Psalm 51 when David prayed for God to create in Him a clean heart, he states in verse 6, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts. . .”. The sole criteria God has given us for coming to Him in worship is “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). This kind of worship is Holy Spirit-led, and in a manner according to the truth of God’s Word. As the children of Israel camped during their wilderness journey with the Tabernacle situated in the middle of the camp, so God Himself desires to be present today in the middle of our prayers, and our worship. As Jesus taught the disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-13, I found it interesting that The Lord’s Prayer (or The Model Prayer) begins and ends with worship. It begins with “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. . .”. The word “hallow” points toward adoration, or reverence. This prayer ends with “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen.” The kingdom is His, and the power and the glory are His also. Psalm 29:2 tells us to give unto the Lord the glory due His name.
There must be an inner devotion on our part toward both prayer and worship. Both are matters of the heart. Our worship to God should be an outflow of what is already seeded in our hearts. That is when worship becomes a lifestyle, as opposed to just a religious ritual performed only on Sunday morning. It is so much easier to talk to God in prayer when we have made prayer a habit in our Christian experience. After the Upper Room experience at Pentecost they devoted themselves to prayer, as well as fellowship and teaching.
Another parallel we can draw between prayer and worship is our total submission to Christ’s Lordship. When we go to God in times of need, we must come with the attitude that God owns everything. There is nothing we could ever ask God for that He does not already have. The silver and gold is His (Haggai 2:8). He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). Psalm 24:1 tells us the earth is His, and all it contains. But the good news for those adopted into the family of God is that, because of the blood of Jesus, we are partakers of His very nature. What is His by right, is ours by adoption, and we have the privilege of receiving from Him when we ask in faith. The best move we can make when we need something from God is to begin to worship Him. To worship God in times of need says to Him, “I love You, You are still God, and I trust You. I have full faith and trust in Your sovereignty and Lordship in my situation.” As we worship God in prayer it takes the focus off the need at hand, so that our focus shifts to God’s power to meet the need.
One often-neglected aspect of prayer and worship is repentance. There are many instances in scripture where God invites us to tell Him what is on our hearts. But sometimes we are so concerned about telling God about our problem that we forget to repent. As Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, He admonishes them to seek forgiveness from God, and to practice forgiveness themselves. As David prays in Psalm 51 he acknowledges in verses 2-4 that he knows what he has done, and he doesn’t blame anyone for it. He admits his sin before God. David was fully aware that he could not approach a holy God just any kind of way.
Both prayer and worship are faith ventures. It takes faith to seek God’s face in prayer when we are tired of trying, and discouraged. It requires an absolute faith on our part to offer worship to God in times of uncertainty. Faith is believing something we cannot see. But habitual prayer and worship in the life of the believer sharpens our spiritual focus. Habitual, or lifestyle worship, does not mean we will be immune from trouble or pain. But it does mean we can have peace in what can feel like the worst of times.
Neither prayer nor worship should be done for human approval. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for offering such empty, self-indulgent prayers (Luke 18:11-12). God is not impressed with our eloquent language in prayer. All He wants is a sincere heart that desires to draw close to Him. So it is in our worship. Sometimes God just wants us to spend time at His feet. I can tell you that during times when I felt mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted, God showed Himself faithful as I just sat at His feet to find rest. As I entered into times of worship, He spoke peace to my heart. And I wasn’t always sitting in church during these times of fellowship; sometimes I was alone at home, or in my car. I have even been at my job when the Holy Spirit rose up in my darkened state, and brought a divine light and settlement to my spirit.
I want to challenge someone today to include times of worship in your prayer life. Rather than always being in petition-mode, why not shift your prayer direction from petition to worship? As God honors the petitioner, so He honors the worshiper.
Donna Renay Patrick serves at the Christian Chapel Temple of Faith C.M.E. Church inDallas,Texas. She is the founder of WORDshop Ministries, which emphasizes the Biblical understanding of praise and worship.