What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. (I Corinthians 14:15)
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24)
Scripture tells us how God wants us to worship Him. Jesus says that we are to worship Him in spirit and in truth. What does He mean by these words? I believe He means we worship God with our emotions and our minds. It means we worship God from the deepest center of our beings and according to the principles God has given us in Word.
Worship is serious business. We must be thoughtful about our worship. We are to engage in worship with all our minds — thinking about the words we hear, the songs we sing, and the prayers we pray. We must not pray using vain repetition, “heaping up empty phrases” (Matthew 6:7). For instance, when we are praying the words of the Lord’s Prayer, we are to think about what we are praying, every sentence, every phrase, and every word. When we recite the words of the Apostles’ Creed or our liturgical words of confessions, whatever we do in worship, we must engage our minds, our thoughts in deep dialogue with God. We must hear what He has to say to us and then we are to respond to what we are hearing.
Yes, worship is serious business. It must be heart-felt. Our worship must not suppress our emotions. In fact, true worship is highly emotional. There are times in a worship service when I cry and other times when I laugh. I feel the emotions of joy and of sorrow. My soul cries out to God. And, believe it or not, there are times I want to shout out and even dance. God forbid that we Presbyterians would do such things! But we should have the freedom if we choose to do so. However, we are not to distract others in their worship. It seems this was the real problem that Paul was addressing with the Corinthians.
Therefore, our worship is to be in spirit and in truth. We are to worship God with our emotions and our minds. Paul says, “I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” (v. 15). You see, it is both.
I have been focusing on public worship. But what about my private worship? The same principles apply. When I am meditating upon a passage of Scripture, I am to seek to understand what God is saying to me. But I also must feel the emotions that flow out of God’s words to me.
Notice that I chose the word “meditate” not just “read.” I have often found myself reading a passage of Scripture but am distracted. My mind nor my emotions are really engaged. I have to prepare myself. I must get alone, get quiet, and get focused on what I am about to do. I am about to enter the throne room of the King of kings, to go behind the veil into the Holy of Holies. I think about the One with whom I am going to meet. My mind and my heart go to HIs awesome holiness (His transcendence) and to His welcoming arms (His immanence). I then pray that He will speak to me and that I will listen. Both of these requests are essential.
Now that I am prepared, I open His Word and begin to read. I look for the passage in my reading that stands out. Then I begin to meditate upon the words. I think about them. I try to determine what God means by these words. Then I ask, what does God want me to hear? I think, I chew upon the words (which is what meditation is). I write them down. Then I begin a dialogue with God. I write down what I want to say to Him. I express my thoughts. I feel with my emotions. Now that is true worship.
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