Why do we worship? What does worship really mean? Why do we sing in church, sing to praise, sing to worship?
Worship. Reverence. Respect. Adoration. Affection. Love.
Worship is a way that we show love to God.
So why do we sing? Why do some raise their hands? Why do we move or even dance?
I think of Worship as... an art form that expresses my love for God, my deep respect for what He does in my life, an expression of my reverence for Him.
I sing. Often with abandon. I've been getting bolder. I've been singing louder, moving my body more, raising my hands, allowing the emotion to wash over me.
When I sing, it's usually between me and God. Sometimes, as part of our Worship Team, it's about connecting to the congregation through music.
I raise my hands sometimes when I sing. Sometimes, I raise my hands as a sign of praise. Sometimes, I raise my hands because I am reaching for God. Sometimes, I raise my hands because I desperately want Him to reach for me.
But why do we sing? Why do we start our church service with singing? Why do we end with singing? Why does music fill me when I am praying?
I'm not even going to try to get into a history lesson on music and churches. Gregorian chants and hymns written by Martin Luther and all that...
But if I'm going to look back at history, I think the piece that stands out to me the most is all the mention of singing and dancing in the Bible. In the Old and New Testaments, there are many references to praising God through music and movement.
Psalm 100 starts out with one of my favorite verses about worship - Make a joyful noise to the Lord! Come into His presence with singing!
The Psalms are full of verses about singing and praise.
Psalm 95:1-2 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
Psalm 147:1 Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
Psalm 144:9 I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
Psalm 33:3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
Psalm 104:33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
Psalm 105:2 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!
But there is more than just the Psalmists telling us that our worship should include singing.
Ephesians 5:19 Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Exodus 15:1 Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
One of the most moving examples of singing being part of our faith comes in the book of Mark - they sang at the end of the Last Supper. These followers of Christ, who have seen His miracles, witnessed the imapct He has had on people, who have travled with Him, given up everything for Him... they sit together for this meal and hear from Christ about this bread being His body, this wine being His blood. It was anemotional experience on many elvels - Jesus spoke of one who would betray Him. Before leaving the supper...
Mark 14:26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
They sang together.
We sing together in church. I sing alone in prayer or at random times of my day.
So why is it that we come to church and we worry so much about what the people around us are going to think of us? We become self-conscious and don't sing loudly in case someone doesn't think our voice is pretty enough. We don't raise our hands because it feels weird or someone might look at you funny. We don't allow emotions to come into the song - we just stare at the screen or stare at the page and mouth along with the words.
I grew up in a church where we sang good, solid old hymns. And I had a voice that I could raise with the best of them and I could loudly sing the melody or the harmony. And I thought I was really praising God because I was singing so loud and studying the notes. But God wasn't in my heart when I sang.
I remember the first time I went to a church and saw someone raise their hands in the air. I'll be honest - it was a bit much for me. It was weird enough coming into a church with a praise band and guitars and drums and contemporary music that I hadn't ever heard before. It was several years before I returned to a church with any sort of contemporary music.
If you come to my church, I will most likely be singing up on the platform with our Worship Team. There will be drums and guitars. And there will be some of us on the platform who raise our hands when we sing, who might cry, who grin with immense joy. And there will be some in the congregation who raise there hands, who sway or move with the music. And there will be some who stand still, staring at the screen, waiting to be able to just sit down again.
I don't think worship is defined by how loud you sing, how well you sing, if you dance, or if you raise your hands.
Worship is defined by what is in your heart.
When you take time to focus on God, whether in church,at home, in a forest, in your car, walking down the street... if your heart is open to Him, if your intention is to lift your heart to God through this song... that is worship.
If you are focused on the chores to do when you get home from church, the annoying person you share a cubicle with, the frustration you still have towards your kid from the day before... your heart isn't in worship.
But when you are focused on the blessing God has given you, on opening yourself to the message God is bringing to the church that day, on turning to God to carry you through a struggle... that is when you are worshipping. No matter what you are doing with your hands, with your voice, with your body.
Why do I sing?
Because it's what I was created to do.