The topic of praise and worship has come up lately in a few different settings.
Because people have different personalities and upbringings, there's a lot of variation in the way people participate in praise and worship.
Some enjoy the music but don't ever sing along. My husband always sings (and truly worships from the heart) and occasionally attempts to clap, but he's not really a hand-raiser. Some sing with eyes open to read the words on the screen. Some close their eyes in order to focus on God and not be distracted by their surroundings.
Roughly a year ago, I told my sister-in-law that I was craving more freedom in worship. I'm part of a Nazarene church, and I attend our more contemporary service. We have a praise band with electric guitars and drums and all the usual suspects. We sing songs that are popular on our Christian radio station as well as songs that have been around in churches for years. Clapping is certainly acceptable, although Nazarenes either don't have the rhythm to keep a clap going while singing or don't feel the need to clap. A handful of people will raise their hands while worshipping, but it's usually the same folks each time.
And then there's me. Over the last year, the depth and breadth of my worship experience has grown in an amazing way.
It started with crushing frustration! You may remember when I was at the Beth Moore conference and asked for prayer that didn't turn out as I had hoped. Then God challenged me by asking me if He was still worthy of praise. You can read more here.
I've always loved singing praise songs, especially in a church setting. I feel the music in me, and I can't actually not move. I tap the pew in front of me, stomp my heels or tap my toes, rock back at forth, or act as the lone clapper.
I know pretty much all of the songs, so I don't need to read the screen. I also find that closing my eyes makes me forget about the people around me so I can focus solely on God.
Then there's the controversial issue of raising my hands. I don't know the churchy explanation. I just know that for me, sometimes singing isn't enough. My soul wants to jump out of my skin in praise, and raising my hands is like an outlet for my praise to burst forth toward God. It can also feel like an expression of agreement or exclamation. "Me! Right here! I agree with these words!"
Being broken and raw before God in a painful way can allow us to connect with him in praise. That day when He asked me if He was still worthy of my praise, it wasn't just about my unanswered plea for physical healing. It has become my praise principle.
When I start singing that first song of the service, my mind is still replaying the kids' drop offs or someone's passing comment.
My soul remembers He is worthy of praise.
My mind recounts my current circumstances and the long list of requests I want God to answer.
But my heart reminds me He is worthy of praise.
I think I have to look and sound and act a certain way when I'm gathered with familiar and new faces in church.
God is worthy of praise.
Worship isn't about me. I don't sing to impress others (I actually have to try not to ruin their worship experience with my voice!). I don't raise my hands to seem like a good Christian. When I start wondering how my outfit looks or if the people behind me have noticed the weird spot in my hair that wouldn't curl right, I remember one thing: God is worthy of praise.
Singing praise and worship songs is like praying without the pressure of coming up with the words. That's another thing I absolutely love. All I have to do is think about the words and make them come from my heart. There's no pressure on me. Someone else has written the words, and someone else is playing every instrument needed to make it sound beautiful. I get to simply participate by agreeing.
My worship time has become my very favorite way to spend time with God. It's like I have a date with Him, and it is the most refreshing way to spend my time! God has planned our date, and I just have to show up and pay attention to Him. It's the only time I stop thinking about my world and what I need to do for everyone else. My time spent in worship is when I remember who God is and that I belong to Him. Nothing else matters during that time.
I praise God because He is worthy of it.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom. Psalm 145:3