by Michael Shaughnessy
Come, bless the Lord,
all you servants of the Lord,
Who stand by night in the house of the
Lift up your hands to the holy place, and
bless the Lord!
- Psalm 134:1-2
At your service
The word "worship" comes from the Old English
word "weorthscipe", which means to acknowledge
the value or worth of something. When we
worship God we are saying something about his
worth. The words in Hebrew and in Greek, which
we usually traslate as "worship", are rooted
in our relationship with God and our behavior
In English we normally translate one Hebrew
word either by the word servant or the
word worshippers. Thus in 2 Kings
10:23 Jehu calls together the
worshippers/servants of Baal. "Then Jehu went
into the house of Baal; and he said to the
worshippers of Baal, 'Search, and see that
there is no servant of the Lord here among
you.'" It could also be translated: "Then Jehu
went into the house of Baal; and he said to
the servants of Baal, 'Search, and see that
there is no worshipper of the Lord here among
you.'" The word for servant and worshipper is
the same word. In some translations this same
word gets translated minister. The
simple point is that in Hebrew, one of the
words for worship portrays worship as service
we give to a master. Here worship is rooted in
the relationship of humility we have with God.
The same relationship exists in Greek and can
be seen in the New Testament.* Revelations
7:15 says of the saints in heaven who are
worshipping the Lord, "Therefore are they
before the throne of God, and serve him day
and night within his temple." Their worship is
described as service.
It is from this position as a servant that we
can rightly honor God. It gives us the right
point of view. We can have the mind of a
servant. We can have the attitude of a servant
and the behavior of a servant in worship. Our
attitude can be. "I am here to honor the Lord
God as a servant before my master." When we
are honoring the Lord it is helpful to be
aware of who he is and who we are. He is God
almighty. We are his servants.
At the heart of the
The connection between the concept of being a
servant and being a worshipper is important to
us. Worship of the Lord should be right at the
heart of the Christian life. Our life as
disciples of Christ can encompass a wide range
of service and activities, such as mission,
evangelising and bringing people into radical
discipleship, working for social justice, and
promoting the unity of the Body of Christ. It
is more than just a desire to live community
life as the early Christians did in the Acts
of the Apostles. Central to who we are and
what we do is being the Lord’s servants, whose
duty it is to give him the worship he is due.
Servanthood is not a popular concept in the
post-modern era. It involves humility. Like
Christ, we must empty ourselves to become a
servant, humble ourselves, and become
obedient. (Philippians 2:5-8) The servant has
duties to perform. He or she is expected to be
faithful and responsible, doing what is
required of him or her according to the mind
of the master. One of the duties of the
servant of the Lord is to worship. We do not
worship because of what we have to gain from
it, but because it is our duty. We live in a
consumerist society that puts "me first", even
The consumer asks, "What's in it for me?"
whereas the worshipper is always "At your
service." Doing the master's will is the work
of the servant, thus it is right to think of
worship as the work of a servant.
servants of the Lord.
Worship is our work
He is our master Jesus
All our joy in you our
Lo we have come to do
I will offer
to you burnt offerings of fatlings,
with the smoke of the
sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering
of bulls and goats.
- Psalm 66:15
Old Testament ritual worship involved some
pretty serious manual labour, that is, labour
demanding real physical effort.
Some of it was also gruesome, involving the
slaughtering of rams, bulls and goats. It
meant raising them, getting them to Jerusalem,
butchering them, building the fire, placing
the meat on it and saying the prayers.
The work of worship today is not so demanding
in terms of manual labour. The work of worship
mainly demands mental, emotional and spiritual
effort. In order to worship well, one must
pray with more than one's lips.
Do you ever sing a hymn at church and
afterward find yourself unable to remember
what the hymn said? Distraction is one of the
chief problems we need to work at. One of the
devilish things about distraction is that we
are not aware of the problem when we are in
the middle of it. It is only when we remember
what we are supposed to be doing that we even
realise we have just been distracted. You
can't fight distraction when you are
distracted. The main thing you can do is
discipline your mind to avoid being
distracted. This is mental work. It is only
one of the ways we need to apply our minds in
order to pray well. We also need to know what
constitutes good worship so we can do it
better ourselves. This too (including reading
an article like this), is the work of worship.
Pray for the grace to
We need to work at prayer spiritually as well.
We must pray for the grace to pray well and
then respond well to the grace the Lord
provides. Praying is itself probably the best
way to learn to pray. Praying with others, who
know how to pray well, in addition, helps us
to learn to pray well and motivates us
besides. To this end it is good to prepare for
our times of worship, as Paul exhorts:
Brethren when you come together,
each one should bring a hymn, a lesson, a
revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.
(1 Corinthians 14:26)
We also need to work on prayer "emotionally". We
can cultivate the right sentiments and attitudes
toward prayer. Recognizing where we have a bad
attitude or wrong sentiments, then renouncing
them, often will help us in our experience of
prayer. Love of prayer doesn't just fall out of
the sky upon us. Love of prayer, like love of
another, is work. Joy in prayer takes work.
Fervor in prayer takes work.
Now, if that sounds like a lot of work, it's
because it is. Having said that, there is
great joy found in worshipping God well. We
were made for this. There is no higher use for
our voices than singing the praise of God.
There is no higher use for our eyes than
seeing his face. There is no higher use for
our hands than raising them to honour the
Lord. There is no higher use for our minds
than knowing God truly. Although worship is a
duty, it is a joyful one.
Finally, it is important that all who are
present participate. Worship is not something
one watches others do. Each person contributes
his or her voice, his or her hands, his or her
mind. No one can do it for them and if they
are not doing it, the corporate offering of
praise and thanks is diminished. As servants
of the Lord we all have an important role to
play in worship, not just the musicians and
the singers, but each one of us. Let us each
bring in the full offering. (Malachi 3:10)
It is a great privilege to be called into
this service of worship but it is also our
duty. It is a great joy to serve the Lord with
gladness (Psalm 100:2), but it is also work.
Although we may well have a good spiritual
experience when we worship, our desire is to
please God, not have a spiritual experience.
Bless the Lord
oh my soul.
Let all that is within
Bless his holy name.
- Psalm 103:1