Worship is for the worshipped i.e. God and not for the worshippers, that’s you and me: us.
5 make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing, Psalm 98:5 (NIV)
It is particularly relevant at this time of year, the prevalence of carols filling the worship “slot” in all churches across the world (apart from those churches that don’t sing in worship). We all have a favourite carol and we all have carols we don’t like for various reasons. I won’t mention which are on my lists and I prefer not to know others preferences because sometimes I am in a position to choose hymns for singing worship in our church. Criticism therefore abounds because favourites aren’t chosen, or for some people only old carols are used.
Me, you’ll find if you look really hard, hiding under the projector screen with a microphone in front of me with the aim that with the rest of the praise team we help the congregation praise, glorify, worship the Lord through a singing medium. Sometimes we stumble through a song that we don’t know well, or the notes are too high or too low, sometimes we are too loud, sometimes too quiet. Sometimes I get so lost in my own worship that I forget the job I have to do. I love to sing and I love to dance and bringing these two things under the mantle of worshipping the Lord, I just think it is wonderful and freeing. When I do remember the job I have, when I forget that the Lord is with me, my voice is at the very least more pitchy than usual and totally off key and I feel like a startled rabbit.
One particular time two musicians were not at all synchronised, one instrument was so loud I couldn’t hear the sound coming out of my own mouth, the hymns were old standards and one new one. At some point I decided I couldn’t add anything to the mix so stepped back and sang from my little toes because I knew no one could hear me. That’s wrong thinking because the Lord always hears, he hears our individual joyful noises and he hears our collective voices, a choir of joyful noise. He loves to hear us sing, together and individually. I enjoyed belting out this song to the Lord.
1 I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name Psalm 138 (NIV)
So if the only purpose of us singing praises to the Lord then we should do it fully with our hearts, our minds, our bodies, just like every part of our lives. It should therefore not matter if we like a particular hymn or carol, we should sing it fervently and with joy, because the Lord wants to hear us.
11 Teach me your way, LORD,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths,
from the realm of the dead. Psalm 86:11-13 (NIV)
On his blog, http://nathanielclaiborne.com/how-to-worship-when-you-think-the-songs-suck/ , Nathaniel wrestles with the disliking certain worship songs from a different angle. But concludes “Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could sing your favourite songs every Sunday. He died so that you might learn to die to self as well. Part of doing that might just be singing songs you don’t like, and singing them as genuinely as the songs you do.”
Couldn’t have put it better myself, and the Psalmist says:
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63 (NIV)
So to summarise, when we worship in song, we are not doing it for us, it is not for the warm fuzzies we get because we love a song, or singing, it is not to play perfectly or sing perfectly with the right number of beats in between each phrase. It is an exclamation of our worship to our God. And when we get this right we get rewarded by His presence.