Have you ever considered why we worship God in song? It’s an integral part of how we do church, it’s a major piece of our culture, and all too often it’s done on automatic pilot. We can spout off lyrics as if we’re reading a grocery list, we can lift our hands or sway in time to the music without connecting with who we’re singing to. Let’s take a look at the purpose of it, and reignite our passion for worship.
There are over 400 references to singing in scripture. God himself is a singer (Zeph 3:17), and the gospels describe how Jesus sang in worship among friends and community. In Ephesians 5 we read that singing is a fruit of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Singing is valuable to God, and it is woven throughout the trinity. When we sing in worship we are drawn into an intimacy with God that is unique. It’s an act of humility, to acknowledge the One who created us and redeemed us. When worship is done well, it takes the focus off of ourselves and those around us, and lifts our heads until we’re face to face with God. And when we get face to face with Him, He is able to reach new places inside our hearts.
I don’t know about your church, but the songs that I sing are all about declaring Truth. That’s a capital “T” Truth, not the lower “t” truth. The difference is truth is based on what is tangible, what we are currently experiencing. On the other hand, Truth is constant despite what we see, feel, or hear. So even if the truth of your circumstances today tell you that you are unloved, even hated, the Truth is that you are completely and abundantly loved by God. When we sing that out, we are prophetically declaring what is True. We’re calling a little bit of heaven into earth, and into us. Next time you’re singing “How He Loves Us”, try instead singing “How He Loves Me”. I promise the people around you won’t notice, or at least they won’t turn and give you a funny look (probably). When you feel racked with fear and you sing “You Make Me Brave”, it changes you. Declaring that kind of Truth out loud is powerful.
If you’re like me, you probably hold more song lyrics from high school in your head than actual facts from history class. You can still perform the opening rap to Fresh Prince of Bel Air even though you haven’t watched an episode since 1996. When great songwriters work from the Psalms or other scripture they are helping us memorize God’s word, and the Holy Spirit will bring those lyrics to mind exactly when you need them. You may find that once in awhile a song gets stuck in your head with seemingly no trigger – my friend, that is the Holy Spirit.
There’s a lot that happens in the unseen world while we worship through song. I don’t think we will understand it all this side of heaven, but we can note that it is powerful. The great and True story of the battle of Jericho shows how God used song to topple the walls of the city. Worship is a weapon of spiritual warfare, and should be used as such. When you’re stuck and don’t know what else to do, sing. When your home needs a good spiritual cleaning, sing. When you want to teach kids about Jesus, teach them to sing about His love.
The other night I was at an event where hundreds of women were gathered to worship. As the voices rose around me I asked God what He loves about worship. I believe His answer to me was “Beloved, I’m not here for the worship, I’m here for the worshippers”. God does not rely on our songs to fill some quota, or to fuel His power and position. He calls us to worship because it brings us into intimacy with Him through the Holy Spirit. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8). Worship is about intimacy, pure and simple.
Let’s turn our habits of worship upside down. Worship alone more than you worship corporately (but still worship corporately). Spend more hours on your kitchen floor, in your car, or walking through the woods, singing to God. Raise your hands, kneel down, close your eyes, take off your shoes – whatever it takes for you to feel comfortable and free. Learn what it means to worship in spirit and truth, and identify yourself as a worshiper. It will change you forever, because you will become addicted to the intimacy it brings.