Several years ago, I joined a local business
organization. Their stated intention was to help
business people do their job better; a kind of coaching
through semi-monthly seminars.
At the opening and close of each session, we sang a
song that went something like this: “Yes, I can do
it; Yes, I can do it; I have a positive frame of mind.”
(I kid you not—truth is stranger than fiction.) By the
end of the evening, every face was aglow with
expectation; and two weeks later, everybody needed
I also found their teachings to be less substance
and more selling. Instead of nourishing tips
on handling angry clients, I received frothy,
double-shot lattes of motivational, positive thinking.
The talks were inspiring but insubstantial; caffeine
without fruit or vegetables. Or protein.
Then I began to wonder how close my worship-music
experience paralleled that seminar jingle feeling; maybe
a boost to my spirits to face another week, but mostly
just a jolt of java.
Bear with me. Worshipful music is wonderful. But I
began to examine the nature of worship. I
asked myself, “What is the essence of worship?
Does worship require music?”
I tried an experiment: I took a six month sabbatical
from any form of worship music—personal prayer time,
worship CD’s, and even singing during a church
service—and I found I love it.
Song-free worship taught me how to worship better.
Because real worship changes us
Real worship is a two-way street. The English word,
“worship,” comes from the Old English phrase, “worth-shape.”
The worth of our subject shapes our souls.
Everyone worships something—fame, wealth, or a good
family—and the value we give it drives our lives.
Psalm 115 says the gods of the peoples have unseeing
eyes, unhearing ears, and unfeeling hands. Then it
claims, “Those who make them become like them, and so do all
who worship them” (vs. 8). It says that
the act of worship re-forms us in the image of the thing
If we worship success, we become arrogant (or
depressed) and if we worship people-pleasing, the fear
of rejection rules our behavior. Our object of worship
controls our lives.
If we examine our biggest problems—our anger, deepest
sadness, anxieties, or most uncontrollable behaviors—we
will always find an object of worship cracking its whip.
Our problem in life is that we functionally worship
other gods, taskmasters with whips in hand.
So what is worship?
Real worship is more than singing praises; it is the
act of giving away our hearts. Worship is attributing
ultimate value to something; it thinks, “If I had that
I’d be happy;” it is a deep belief of the heart that
says, “That is all I need.”
Worship is what we most deeply value. It’s not just the
times we set aside to sing praise songs. We are
constantly worshipping. Moment-by-moment, we live for
something. “Where our treasure is, there will our hearts
and minds be also.”
Archbishop William Temple wrote, “Your religion is what
you do with your solitude.” What do we think about when
we wait in line or drive to work? Where does our mind
naturally drift when no external force (like TV, work,
or screaming kids) engages it?
Our minds drift to what we most deeply believe we need.
It imagines kids on the honor roll, our names in lights,
bank accounts full, a different spouse, our bosses
serving us, or our ministries suddenly exploding in
success. Something deep down inside us believes that is
our greatest need; that “that” will make us happy.
This is worship.
Instead of singing, I meditated on the Psalms; in place
of rhythm, I read the gospels. Worship is not a feeling
as much as the place of our deepest trust. Worship is a
heart-rest on God.
do we do?
We need a change of mind; we need a vision of God that
destroys the earthly religion of what we do in our
solitude. We need an intense focus (of heart, mind, soul
and strength) on the beauty of God. It means looking,
gazing, meditating, and reflecting on the majesty of God
We can reform our worship by a conscious decisions to
attribute ultimate value to the Ultimate Being who is
ultimately beyond us; and yet who sits beside us on our
front porch and lives within us as we wash the dishes.
It is a decision to think and meditate on God. It’s
Singing can be an act of worship, but it
isn’t worship itself. It is ever-so-possible (and we’ve
all probably done it), to sing a half-hour of godly
worship songs—and even temporarily be inspired—and then
return to our “normal” lives where we grasp for
appreciation, praise, health, or financial peace.
Real worship, instead, is an inner vision of the
reality of God, and giving all our hearts to him.
And worship music can open the rusty doors of
our heart to spiritually see what the dust of the world
obscures. The gods of this world constantly tempt us in
Superbowl commercials and the success of others around
us. Singing truths reminds us of how reality really
It is in the truth of the songs—which the
music unveils—that changes us forever. We come to see
the amazing God through singing of his Amazing
Grace; and that sight shifts the deep song in our
hearts to a new rhythm that remains. Even when the
emotional high dissipates.
Substance over hype
That seminar jingle, “Yes, I can do it; I have a
positive frame of mind,” was vapor-ware, a sales
pitch to myself based on nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Worship of the real God reveals rock-solid truths to my
heart: that he is all I need, that he has done
it, and I’ll never be the same. Only worship of the
real God will really
I’m glad I’m singing about God once more. It comes
from a real positive frame of mind.