(Originally published in Worship Leader Jan/Feb 2016. For more great articles like this one, Subscribe today.)
Worship and prayer go hand in hand. In my mind, I can’t have one without the other. It starts in my personal time of devotion. I make it a point to spend time with Jesus, worshiping him, reading my bible, praying, and going as deep in his presence as I can. I understand that I can’t lead people somewhere I haven’t been. So when I contend and press in for more of him, it is not just for myself. My job as a worship leader is to serve the people I’m leading and help bring them into an encounter with Jesus. Every breakthrough in my personal time with Jesus can become a corporate breakthrough when I’m leading.
As I spend time with Jesus, I get to know more of his heart. My heart begins to open up and expand as I care more about the things that matter to him. My prayer is to partner with him and whatever it is he wants to accomplish through me. Sometimes he will gently press something upon my heart—I may suddenly feel a burden for people who are desperate for breakthrough. If this is the case, I will begin to pray for those people as the Spirit leads me, and in the midst of that I may feel hope coming alive in my heart. Being sensitive to the Spirit in this prayer means trusting that Jesus wants to flood them with that hope. I begin to ask Jesus to bring that hope into the room where I will be leading worship. I ask him to remove their burdens as they walk through the door. With this kind of prayer in leading, before I walk onto the stage, I have a target. I know what I’m going after in the worship service and I have an idea of what Jesus is going to do.
Prayer in Song Choice
While that kind of personal prayer preparation is important, I feel a personal conviction when it comes to the preparation of choosing my songs. I can’t sing songs that I don’t one hundred percent agree with. I must believe every word that is coming out of my mouth. I want to sing songs that I have a personal connection to—songs that I have lived and prayed.
On the new Jesus Culture album Let It Echo, I co-wrote a song called “Alive in You.” This last year was one of the hardest years I have experienced in a long time. I felt like the fire that was surrounding me was also consuming me. In the middle of that, the Lord spoke to me and told me that I wasn’t alone. He said the fire will not consume me, but it will refine me and I will come out stronger. The revelation that Jesus is with me, even in the mess, chaos, and fire, is what carried me through. The chorus of the song says, “Even in the fire, I’m alive in you.”
When I sing that song, I sing it with overwhelming conviction. I know what it is to be in the fire. I understand the battle involved in trusting Jesus. The lyrics, “You are strong in my brokenness, sovereign over every step” and “from beginning to the end, you deserve the glory,” are all prayers I have prayed, cried, and shouted this last year. This is where my prayers become my songs. Knowing my target before I walk onstage helps me choose the songs I am going to lead. If Jesus is going to bring breakthrough, I want to choose songs that have brought my breakthrough. If he is going to bring hope, I am going to choose songs that are prayers and declarations of hope.
Break the Routine
When the worship service starts, so do my prayers. Sometimes people get stuck thinking that prayers are only requests, but prayer is so much more than requests we bring to God. Prayer is a bold declaration of faith in the face of fear. It is a shout of joy in the middle of a storm. Prayer is sometimes softly spoken words of trust through many, many tears. Our corporate times of worship are not meant to be a routine we fall into. It is not a necessary introduction before the preacher preaches. They are meant to be a time for us to encounter Jesus and to have our lives changed. How could we stay the same after spending time with him?
Our songs are not just words we are read off an overhead screen. Our songs are prayers and weapons of warfare against our enemy. When we lift our hands in surrender and sing out our love to Jesus we are praying the way Jesus taught us to pray: not my will but yours be done! Jesus, You deserve the glory! As we fix our eyes on him, our burdens fade away. The ache inside our hearts is replaced with hope. As we surrender all to him, he brings the breakthrough we have been waiting for. At the end of our worship service, our prayer becomes overwhelming gratitude. We are overflowing with thankfulness for all he has done. We pray that he will teach us to walk in the atmosphere of worship and prayer every single day, no matter where we are. We are filled up and we keep running, we keep singing, and we keep praying.
Kim Walker-Smith has quickly become one of the strongest voices in worship music. She is a passionate worship leader with an anointing to bring an entire generation into an encounter with God. Her heart is to see people transformed by experiencing God’s love and for this generation to see themselves the way God sees them. Kim has been a part of Jesus Culture since the beginning of the ministry and now serves as president of the Jesus Culture Music label. She carries a genuine heart to see worship change the course of lives and nations. Kim is married to Skyler Smith and together they have two sons, Wyatt and Bear.