What comes to mind when you think of the word "worship"? For many, visions of Hillsong dance through the head. The default image is that of a dark, crowded room, a stage lit in various colors, words on a screen, and hands raised high. For others, pictures of worship might be composed of ornate churches and the wafting of incense, or of simple wooden altars and well-loved hymnals. Though our practices of worship may differ, there seems to be a few archetypal thoughts that swim through our brains.
But what comes to mind when I talk about individual worship? While the word might invoke memories of church services, what images present themselves when you imagine worshipping alone? This, I think, is a bit harder for most of us to fathom. However, along with Scripture and prayer, worship has a role to play in our practice of quiet time.
A quick Google search defines worship as "The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity." I think this is true, because worship is certainly the way in which we lift up our reverence and adoration, but I also want to expand the definition to include the truth that, in worship, we not only express our affections to the Lord, we offer our very selves. When I worship, I am coming before the throne of God and saying, "I love you, I want to experience you, I bring all that I am and nothing more." What better time to do this than when seeking to sit with Jesus the stillness?
Worship can and should absolutely be done communally, but unpacking the beauty of corporate worship is for another blog post. Today, I want to reflect a bit on the practice of individual worship as we finish up this mini series on quiet time. God both desires and deserves our praise and cultivating that discipline on our own is essential.
If we want to lift ourselves in worship during our moments alone with Jesus, there are so many ways to do so. Here are just a few:
1. Stick to the classics.
Most worship leaders always have a guitar strapped to their backs, and a good set of praise music always goes over well. If music is what comes to mind when you want to worship, roll with it! Grab your chosen device and crank some of your favorites. Or search out some new songs. Or grab your own guitar and go to town. Lifting up our voices is a clear cut way to let God know we adore and revere Him. While engaging in this tried and true method, we lift up the parts of ourselves that are like good denim, well-worn and familiar and comforting. But my challenge is to take it a step further. If you normally have worship music playing in the background, bring it to the forefront. Sit and listen without any distraction. Sing along. Better yet, close your door and dance. Stick to this classic expression, really focus on it, and be renewed once again by presenting all of your familiar self through rhythm and lyrics. I recommend checking out Page CXVI, Audrey Assad, and Ghost Ship.
2. Worship as only you can.
It was no accident that God created each of us with unique hobbies and gifts, and this is where the truth of worship being the act of lifting ourselves to God really comes into play most clearly. I believe that there is power in giving back to God what He has given us, and so another way to bring worship into quiet time is to simply do what you love and do it in the name of Jesus. For me, poetry is a form of worship. I am a writer and using that gift to worship the Lord gives me so much life. Some of you might be runners, so you might incorporate that into your time with the Lord, moving your body and praising Him for strength and endurance. If you are a painter, then paint Him something beautiful, which shows your reverence for our Creator God. While it may be wonderful to stick to the classics, there is also so much joy to be found in not trying to fit yourself into any one mold. Be who you are and bring yourself to God with the versions of worship that only you can provide.
3. Step outside your comfort zone.
There is one more exhortation I have for us as we seek to incorporate worship into quiet time: try new things. It can be very easy to get stuck in a rut and not experience the joy of true worship simply because we are going through the motions. In my experience, one of the best ways to get out of that rut is to shock the system. For example, I am not a gifted visual artist, but there was in a time in my life in which I was sculpting clay because it helped me to worship the Lord who formed us from dust. I was not good at it, and my creations were weird to say the least, but this was the sweet spot when the offering of myself was vulnerable. I worshipped God through the use of something that was uncomfortable for me and, while I did enjoy it and I did grow, I also learned the difficult beauty of coming to the holy throne with obvious imperfection. I was able to show my human side, which wasn't stellar, but which was present and simply wanting to adore God. So, may the tone deaf lift up a song, may the runners paint a landscape, may the painters break a sanctified sweat, and may the writers be covered in clay. Try something new, and worship God as you fail and enjoy.
So the challenge is this: give individual worship a try and don’t hold anything back. Adore and revere God in any number of ways and trust that He will be honored by your praise. All He wants is all you have to bring, so bring it with all your heart.
And keep practicing quiet time, and let me know how it goes! The act of getting alone with God need not look any specific way, only do it. Keep showing up and allow Him to slowly transform you.
Now pour some coffee and get to it.
Cross-posted from "Reflections on Faith, Words, and The Holiness of Today"