Last Thursday we began examining the spiritual discipline of worship. In that post, we looked at corporate worship. While we can worship privately, the weight of the Bible’s teachings on worship is carried by corporate worship, the body of Christ gathering to worship God together. Yet, we all know that sitting is a church worship service is no guarantee that worship is occurring in our hearts. I often hear people (particularly men) say, “I can worship in the deer blind just as well as I can in church.” One can, but to do so exclusively will bring about the cessation of worship for that person all together. Worship best occurs when the community of believers gather to worship our glorious Lord. But there is a connection between private, personal worship and corporate worship.
If worship springs from the individual’s heart, how can I worship alone?
Personal worship requires some cultivation. We prepare our hearts for worship. Here are some ideas:
- Confess any known sin. Get your heart right with God so sin is not in the way.
- Express thanksgiving to God. In my daily prayer time, I have a prayer prompt that simply says, “Thank God for three things today.” Some days I discover many times three things that I can thank God for.
- Listen to God. When I am asked by some friend, “Is God trying to talk to me?” I always answer “YES!” Principally He speaks to us through the Bible and everything we think we hear from God must be gauged by the Bible. But, he is always talking to us through our friends, music we hear, sermons, things we see, etc. How many times when I am outdoors do I sense God’s direction and voice? Events occur and I reflect on them and hear God’s voice. I believe God is always talking to us. C.S. Lewis but it this way:
“We – or at least I – shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have ‘tasted and seen.’ Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of experience.” – C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, San Diego: Mariner, 2002.
God is arranging patches of Godlight all around us. He will give us patches of his light and by them, we learn more about him. His Godlight patches are invitations to worship him. When my son Jonathan was about ten years old we took a father-son trip to the destination of his choice. Even at ten, he was a Civil War buff. He chose Vicksburg, MS. We toured on a day of showers and intermittent sun. We walked up the long steps to the Illinois monument. As we stood inside the magnificent rotunda which has an opening in the ceiling. The rain was pouring into the rotunda when suddenly, brilliant sunshine broke in at the same moment. The sound of rain falling on the marble floor and the shaft of sunlight took our breaths away. We knew, at least from an American history perspective, we were standing on holy ground. Jon left even more in love with our history and a deep appreciation for the human sacrifice on that field of battle. It was a divine moment for both of us. And later, he earned his Master’s degree in military history.
- Be present in the moment. The evil one wants to distract us from God’s voice. One way he succeeds is that he fills our heads with noise and static. He wants us worried about future things and worthless things. He tries to get us to major on the minors. The spiritual battle field is not “out there” somewhere. It is planted between your ears and behind your forehead. The battle field is your mind. Practice being in the moment and you will discover God’s promptings all around you.
- Read your Bible daily and pray at least once a day. Filling your thoughts with the things of God will help you develop an awareness that he is with you and desires to communicate with you. God gave us his word and has supernaturally sustained it through the centuries so we can have it. Shouldn’t we love it and honor it and read it? Praying daily opens the lines of communication with God and he delights in us and our time with him, just as I delight in spending time with my sons. Oh, how he loves us!
- Expect to find times and places for personal worship. Purposefully looking for worship times as you go about your day will help you find worship times.
Here are some actions you can take to worship:
- Pray scripture to God. I love the Psalms. They give us reasons to worship God and a vocabulary to worship God. So many can be prayed right back to God. Don’t just mechanically read the psalm to God. Put your heart in it and make is yours.
- Journal about your personal worship times. What happened? What did you do? What did you learn? What difference did meeting God make in your day? Journaling is just for you. You cannot journal wrong.
- Sing to the Lord. I can hear you objecting on this one. But, singing to the Lord is easy and has zero risk. Get yourself an old hymnal and sing with it when you are alone. Stream Christian music and sing along with it to the Lord. Read hymn lyrics and reflect on them. God exalts in our worship. Every voice lifted to him in sincere praise is a beautiful voice to him, no matter what.
- Get outside. I love to read my Bible outside. I have God’s specific revelation, the Bible, open in my hands while sitting in God’s general revelation, nature. It is total immersion. Use your porch or the park. Sit in the yard. Walk. On two very important occasions in my life, I saw ants and God taught me life lessons. The natural world marvels us and points us to the Creator. The Bible marvels us and points us to Jesus. Wow!
- Be silent and alone. Silence, free of all noise and music, in a solitary location sets us up to worship God. We don’t have to worry what anyone might think because no one knows.
What does all the personal worship activity do for us? We draw near and fellowship with God. Then, when we gather with the family of faith for corporate worship, our hearts are ready. Our spiritual pumps are primed. Our hearts join with others who also worshipped during the week for a joyous celebrate of our God. It is a little glimpse of heaven.
Scripture: Read Psalm 8. Do you think this psalm came to David as he was outside, maybe tending the sheep on a starry night? How does this psalm encourage you to worship personally, privately, and regularly? Can you pray this psalm back to God?
Now It’s Your Turn: What do you think are the challenges to personal and private worship? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.