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This article is based on a talk given at the Service on 15th April 2012 at which the bible readings were: Revelation 4:1-11, 2 Chronicles 5:7, 11-14 and John 4:19-24.

Worship is a huge topic - but today I am going to restrict myself to looking fairly briefly at 3 questions:

What is worship? Why worship? and How should we worship?

But first let me ask you to imagine that you are given a ticket to your dream concert or show or play - it is every bit as fantastic as you imagined, maybe even better. As the performance comes to a close it builds to a crescendo and has a spectacular finale, then it is over, a moment of silence - then what? Tumultuous applause, standing ovation, stamping, cheering ........?  Why do we do this? Possibly, to show our appreciation of amazing skill and talent, and to express our enjoyment? But, if this is true how much more praise do we owe to our Creator God who has given us so much?

Worship means to “ascribe worth” to what we value most. No one is more worthy of our praise than God. Selwyn Hughes calls worship touching the heart of God. When we cry from the depth of our beings. “You are worthy, O Lord”, we come close to the heart of worship and the heart of God. William Temple wrote:

“Worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God and to devote the will to the purpose of God.”

and Richard Foster says:

“worship is our response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father.”

This response that we make can take two forms - it can be a personal response, or it can be part of gathered worship. Both are important but gathered worship can take on an extra dimension and be very powerful - look what happened in the Chronicles reading - when the singers and instrumentalists played in unison God “turned up” so tangibly the priests couldn’t continue, “for the glory of the Lord filled the temple”. I think the clue to this amazing occurrence is the unity with which the people worshipped. Do we expect that might happen when we gather for worship?

Why Worship?

Two main reasons:

1. we are created to worship - it is in our spiritual DNA

By design we are created to worship Him. God has made us so that when we experience something transcendentally great, we have a need to praise it. Our experience is incomplete until we can express it. When we see a double rainbow or a fantastic view, something in our spirits demands that we express the joy we receive, and most of us would also say that our joy is even greater when we can share it. Because it is God who is the Creator and Author of all, it is Him we should praise. And, this praise of God will not be stopped it is going on in Heaven all the time, and when the Pharisees asked Jesus to rebuke his disciples for praising God as he rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday he said “if they keep quiet, the very stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

2. we are told to worship throughout the bible:

In the psalms - "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker" (Psalm 95:6); "Worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth" (Psalm 96:9); "Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs" (Psalm 1001:2).
St Paul -“Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). [Please see below for further references.]

So why does God insist on our worship? Does he really need us to tell him how great he is?…. Worship is not about filling God’s unmet ego needs but about bringing us into relationship with Him, about bringing us closer to His heart. We need to worship to keep us in right relationship with Him. John Ortberg puts it like this:“I need to worship because without it I can forget I have a Big God beside me and I would live in fear. I need to worship because without it I can forget his calling and begin to live in a spirit of self-preoccupation. I need to worship because without it I lose a sense of wonder and gratitude and plod through life with blinkers on. I need to worship because my natural tendency is towards self-reliance and stubborn independence.”


There are many ways of worshipping described in the bible but sadly the word worship has become associated with style and this can be a contentious issue.

So, before we try to answer the question “What style does God want?” I’d like us to consider some of the very varied ways in which people worship. The images below show people worshipping with joy, with reverence, by being still, in awe and adoration, with song, with liturgy, with instruments, with submission, with humility, with dancing, with hands, with tears, with heart, and with service.


All these ways of worshipping are mentioned in the bible (with the possible exception of liturgy which is only mentioned by inference). [Please see below for references.]

In worship we come to meet with the living God - so how should we respond? While there are many different styles of worship within the church, I don’t believe God is as interested in the style of worship we incorporate as He is that we are worshiping Him, and that we are worshipping Him from our hearts. He says: “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6), and He promises blessings: “if we obey the LORD our God, ....and turn to Him with all our heart and with all our soul.” (Deut 30:10).

Our worship should be all about God and not about us, it is not about what we like or don’t like but about who God is and ascribing worth to Him. George Barna offers a real challenge here when he says: “People whose eyes are riveted on themselves cannot focus on God... What will it take for us to develop a united family of believers whose first and deepest desire is to worship God rather than get their own way.”

It is authenticity that matters and how worship spills over from Sundays into every aspect of our daily life, it should be the full time occupation that shapes our lives. Worship is not something we just do in church. In this morning’s gospel reading Jesus makes it clear that the location of worship isn’t nearly as important as the attitude of the worshipper.

When Jesus says that God is spirit this tells us he is everywhere and therefore can be worshipped anywhere. It is not where we worship that counts but how we worship. He says: "true worshippers must seek to worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24). No matter how we express our worship, we should guard against allowing it to be entirely cerebral, in the mind, we need to connect spiritually - this can transcend our normal understanding, and thinking. And, “in truth” - I think this means we need to know the truth of who God is, who Jesus is and who the Holy Spirit is and the enormity of what has been done for us and the grace that has been outpoured for us. To quote John Ortberg again: “When I worship God I use every tool at my disposal to magnify God in my life...In worship my perception of reality is changed and sharpened. In worship I remember that reality is more than what I can see and touch.”

No matter how we express it, we must put all we have into our worship. As the Psalmist said, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Psalms 103:1). True worship is choosing to actively glorify God with your life. Worship is, ultimately, about a whole life – heart, mind, soul, strength and joyful service– given over to God, for his use: a life that glorifies God. Paul calls this being a living sacrifice - “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1 )

So to answer our question how does God want us to worship?

With - Our heart, Our minds, Our Lives ...everything!

Additional Bible References on worship:
1 Chron. 16:29; 2 Chron. 29:28; Neh 9:6; Psalm 29:2; Psalm 97:7; Psalm 99:5, and 9; Psalm 132:6-8; Matt 4:10-11;
For images:
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) “they lifted their voices to God with one accord” (Acts 4:24). “Shout to God with the voice of triumph” (Psalm 47:1) Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!” (Psalm 47:1) “Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name” (Psalm 63:4) “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands (1 Timothy 2:8) Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:1-2). “Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). “Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;”  (Psalm 150:3-6).
Also for a discussion of the hebrew and greek words for worship and their meanings (reverence, submission, service, bowing down, kneel, awe, adoration, humility) see “Understanding worship” by Chris Jack (in ‘The Heart of worship Files” ed Matt Redman, 2003.
John Ortberg, ‘If you want to walk on water you've got to get out of the boat..’ (2001).
George Barna quoted in Matt Redman et al , ‘Inside out worship’, 2005

Written & presented by Janette Mullett on 15th April 2012 

Thy will be done

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"Our Father ….
Who is in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom
The power and glory
For ever and ever

Jesus gave us this prayer as a pattern for all the prayers we make - not all the prayers with the same words - but to contain this attitude - this way of thinking.


Our Father: He is our father - possibly not like our earthly father but a pattern of what we expect from a father. The supplier, the giver of daily food, living space and all the things we need. This is God who wants us to look at him as a Father, beloved and loving, a provider, someone who is vitally interested in our lives and our happiness although He is in heaven and we have never seen Him - although often aware of him. In many ways far off although actually closer than anything or anyone.

But after "hailing" him (Hallowed be thy name) and acknowledging his power and presence we change the mood. We order him

  • Give us - Food
  • Forgive us - Our lapses
  • Lead us - Into good places
  • Deliver us - Take us away from harmful things

and this is how his son tells us to speak to his father!

I have just recently begun to listen to the prayer when I say the "Our Father" which we learn so young and don't think about what it is saying because we know it so well.

I began to hear this sentence particularly - "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven." I think it should be said " Thy kingdom done, Thy will be done on Earth (As it is in heaven)" this way emphasises how things should be. His will is done in heaven and should be done on Earth.

For this emphasis to become habitual for all of us it will need change from the habits of a lifetime!

Ursula Saner - published 18th August 2011

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