ne thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
Psalm 27:4, NIV.
Psalm 27 can be categorized as a psalm of trust. Throughout the psalm, the psalmist alludes to some pretty frightening circumstances, such as evil men advancing against him, an army coming to besiege him, and a war breaking out against him. But the psalmist places his trust not in himself or his own men, but in the Lord, using language that describes God as his stronghold, his light, and his salvation. He also expresses his hope for God to deliver him. But in the midst of all this trouble, the psalmist pictures worship at the temple.
The temple was the place where God came to dwell among His people—just imagine visiting church on Sunday and seeing the visible, tangible presence of God. What an incredible experience, to be in the presence of God in such a dramatic way. I often wonder what it was like? Did the Israelites feel frightened? Or amazed? Or loved? Or all of it?
And yet, Jesus said that where there are two or three are gathered in His name, He is there (Matthew 18:20). When we gather together in the name of Jesus, we are in the very presence of God. What a privilege, what a joy! Perhaps we, too, should approach worship services with that same fear of God, amazement, and feeling of love.
All too often, I approach my church service feeling a little tired and worn from a busy week, feeling over-extended in my bills, and stressed about a myriad of modern day life complications. Worship begins, and perhaps I think, oh not this song again, or this new song is just not in my key. I sip my coffee, waiting for a little energy to kick in. Maybe I’m dreading facing this person or that one, because they’ve put expectations on me that I don’t like. Maybe life is just really hard and I don’t have much left to give. I came to church to be filled and refueled, but what I feel is empty. Have you ever felt this way? That the church service, in spite of happy-clappy praise music or majestic hymns, just feels dry. I’m not getting what I need. What’s wrong with this church?
Chances are, the problem is not the song choices, the band, the organ, or the volume. Most of the time, the problem is me. I am not prepared for worship. Whether I am the worship leader, the pastor, the praise team, or a soul in the pew, I need to prepare for worship.
Sometimes we forget that worship is not about what we GET, but about what we GIVE. In the Old Testament, the worshipers brought sacrifices to God—usually the best of their livestock or grain. We don’t live under the sacrificial system in that way, but we still need to bring our best gifts to God when we come to worship: a heart that is open to the Lord, full of His praise, and fully prepared. Hebrews 13:15 speaks of a sacrifice of praise. Not just some leftover words, or a few strains of a song, but a sacrifice. Praise takes effort. It’s ok if you don’t feel like praising because He is still worthy of our worship. Our feelings don’t change who God is or His worth. If I am more concerned about what I’m getting from worship than what I’m giving, I need to adjust my expectations and attitude about worship. We come together to worship and be with The Holy One, not hear the perfect songs in just the right keys or be inspired by a perfectly worded sermon.
If I want to truly experience the richness of worship, I need to practice! Musicians spend hours practicing scales, riffs, trills, and chord charts to offer beautiful music. It isn’t unheard of for me to spend 15 hours of practice time on a 3 minute long offertory. But what are we doing about the condition of our hearts? We need to practice that, too. Nothing prepares a heart for worship like spending time alone with the Father. When have you escaped from the world and just spent time enjoying the Word of God? When have you spent a little time alone, enjoying a conversation with the Lord of Creation through prayer? Without regular, consistent time in our Bibles and on our knees, away from distractions, we are going to have a harder time experiencing God in worship. What about practicing worship at worship practice? After working out the musical details, why not spend time worshipping with the music for Sunday?
Worship requires effort, and when our energy is zapped, it is hard to get it together to worship the Lord. How would we be different at our services if we made sure we were well-rested the night before? If we planned and prepared for worship with as much enthusiasm as a rock concert or ball game? What if worship was not just something on our to do list, but a holy event that we, and our household, schedule our week around? What if, like the psalmist, we looked forward to being in God’s presence more than anything else?
The psalmist longed to be in the presence of the Lord. He wanted to be where God was, seeking Him, worshipping Him, and being with Him. His longing was for God; his focus was not on how the temple priests could serve him but on how He could seek God. In times of trouble, he intentionally placed his confidence in God and looked forward to being in God’s presence in the temple again. As Sunday nears, I ask myself, what am I doing to prepare my heart , my mind, my body, and my soul to worship and be in God’s presence? How should I prepare so that I truly desire to spend time in God’s presence, with God’s people, giving Him the glory He deserves?
Amanda is a toddler-chasing, coffee drinking, fashion boot-wearing, Fit-bit addicted, Jesus-loving, American Baptist licensed pastor, and wife and mom to 5 small children. A life-long aspiring writer, you’ll find Amanda’s music and writing here and there, on Yahoo Shine, iTunes, a few blogs, and notes to her children’s teachers. She spends her free time absorbed in fashion, watching Pirates of the Caribbean, Googling, attempting clean eating, all while spreading autism awareness, encouraging adoption and foster care, championing the underdog, and of course, juicing.
Amanda spends her afternoons teaching some pretty lively piano lessons to students of all ages and ability, and her evenings working towards a Master of Divinity from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Church Music from Eastern University and a cosmetology license from Metro Beauty Academy. Her favorite places to be are the local zoo, the church piano bench, Facebook, and anywhere her family is.