Connection with God in worship is critical for a healthy relationship with our Creator. Despite its importance, emotional and intellectual baggage can weigh us down in times of worship. The enemy of our souls wants us to focus on the things that would stand between a closer relationship with us and God. Satan wants to take the focus away from Jesus where it belongs and to instead think about… just about anything else. God seeks intimacy with us in worship, and Satan hates that. He wants us to instead feel as far away from God as can be.
It’s horrible that this baggage, and the enemy of our soul, gets in our way in moments that can be so healing and holy. In my journey as a Christian, I’ve learned several important lessons that have helped my worship to become authentic, joyful, relationship-based, and less religious and empty-feeling. If you’ll open yourself to these ideas and be willing to feel a little odd at first, soon you’ll experience new closeness to God in worship.
Learn to Raise Your Hands
I grew up in churches where it was really weird for people to raise their hands during worship. Our hands were attached to hymnals as we sang traditional songs.
You could feel the congregation’s relief as we went back to the chorus after singing the third verse that no one but the oldest church members knew. I share that, not to be critical of churches that still worship this way but to contrast that with my current worship life.
I raise my hands in worship. It’s an outward expression of what I’m feeling inside. Raising hands has gone from something that I thought only weird people did to being something that I can’t imagine not doing.
I was exposed to more expressive worship during my teenage years- a time when everyone feels insecure with their bodies and social life. That insecurity made raising my hands even harder. For years, I thought people would judge me if I raised my hands. It felt like admitting something was wrong with me. Spoiler alert: there was!
Satan compounded that insecurity with pride.
When a worship leader asked the congregation to raise their hands, it yanked me out of worship. If I were at peace and was connecting with God the moment before, it didn’t matter.
It made me angry when a worship leader said, “Let’s all raise our hands to God.”
“Who do you think you are to tell me how to worship God?” I would think to myself.
God pointed out a flaw in my thinking: If this person is leading the room in worship and I believe that God appoints people to places of leadership (Romans 13:1), then the question turns from “Who do they think they are?!” to “Who do I think I am?!”
If I believe that this person can hear from God and they ask me to do something for God’s benefit, I should be willing to raise my hands and do all sorts of other things as long as they are Biblical- even if it makes me feel foolish. Resistance to raise my hands had nothing to do with a Biblical objection (see 100 verses regarding lifting hands). It was all about pride in my heart.
Soon after that, I was raising my hands and it was the purest act of worship I could give at the time. It was still painful for my flesh. I felt silly at first. But that was key. It was a physical representation of surrender and it brought me closer to God every time.
It still does.
Learn to Smile at God
A man named Dave Powers was preaching at Rez.Church years ago. It was a unique message that was 50% worship service and 50% spoken message.
In this service, Dave made a comment like, “Just smile at God. Did you know that you can smile at God? We so often get stuck with this stink face on us while we worship- like we’re in pain or something. Sometimes that is natural, but did you know that you can smile and worship with joy?! Smile at God while you worship sometimes!”
I wish I could find a recording- especially a video of that message- because it was a powerful lesson for me that I’d love to review every once in a while. We can smile at God!
The first time you do this, you might feel a little goofy. But as we’ll get to in a minute, if you do it with authenticity it is natural.
You are worshiping a person- not an idea. You’re not worshiping the song you’re singing. You’re not performing on stage. You’re telling a person how you feel.
When you talk to other people, you smile when you’re happy. You smile when someone does something that makes you feel good. God does SO much for us! He gives us a lot to smile about!
So when you’re worshiping and making a joyful noise, make a point of expressing that joy with a smile on your face!
Learn to Worship with Authenticity
In worship, we should not put on any pretense. If we are hurting, it’s okay to hurt. When we sing a line that’s hard to sing because of where we are in life right then, it’s okay for it to be hard.
Don’t worship if it’s a lie.
When I was a teen, I came to a crossroads moment during a Sonshine Festival concert. We were singing I Love You, Lord. I’d sang that song countless times before, but I realized that I was telling God that I loved him and it wasn’t true!
I was singing it out of religion. I believed in God, but it wasn’t a loving relationship from my end. I was practicing my parents’ religion and not truly worshiping.
It broke me but in a good way. I decided that I would pursue a love relationship with Jesus and over time, after shaking off empty worship and embracing worship as communication with my savior, I fell in love with God for real.
Pursue the same thing for yourself. Make your worship mean something. Just be honest with him. You can talk to him when everyone else is singing. If you’re feeling far away from God while everyone else is worshiping, take a moment to speak out loud, “God, I feel far away from you.”
Try to get out of your head. Stop analyzing or being dramatic and focus on connection. I actually struggled with worship for a while again, because of Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins.
The guy is hilarious, but his bit about worship positions messed with me. I couldn’t assume any sort of physical position without thinking about whether I was “carrying the TV’ or doing the ‘goal post’.
I watch that Tim Hawkins video now and I can kinda smile but I felt more mocked than being able to laugh at myself. I told you: I had baggage about this!
I hope that video doesn’t trouble anyone reading this but I share it because Satan would use that to mess with me. Authentic worship is a dangerous weapon of spiritual warfare. The forces of Hell will do anything to keep us from it. In my case, it was persuading me to take offense at a little Christian comedy. Stupid!
I got over it and moved on when I realized Satan’s ploy.
When I moved and started going to Renovation Church in Mansfield, MO, I was taken aback at first because they use televisions and lyric videos for worship rather than having a worship band. But within a song or two I realized that I loved it!
It was far less distracting. At the start of worship, the lights go down, they crank up the speakers, and it’s just you and God and the words on the screen. I can’t tell you how often I have been distracted in the past by what was happening on the stage during worship.
“I wonder where So And So is? Did she have her baby?”
Or “Wow, that guy should not try to rock that haircut. It doesn’t work for him,” I would think.
I was never so distractible or shallow as when I was worshiping with my eyes open during those services.
Do what you need to do to enter into authentic worship. Get out of your head and worship your little heart out! Raise your hands or don’t. Smile or don’t. Don’t let the act of worship be about you or your church or even the song that you’re singing.
Worship is about appreciating the majesty of our God.
Learn to Worship Without Music, Without Ceasing
Worship is more than good music. My favorite worship songs are written from a first person point of view where “I” is in the lyrics a lot when I am singing about me and God is referred to as “You”. That’s why, I Love You, Lord is still probably my favorite worship song. I’m old school that way.
If it’s a we/us song sung to God, I love that too. Talk about old school: We Exalt Thee can change the atmosphere in a room! But when it’s I Exalt Thee, I really get excited!
Songs with lyrics about God but not directed to God are great on the radio, but don’t feel like worship to me. I have nothing against modern Christian music or music that comes from a dusty hymnal. Worship needs to be about communication. That’s all that matters.
We need to leave our drama behind us and enter into the presence of the One who has given everything to save us and to be with us forever.
Try taking time to find a place alone with God. In absolute silence, try raising your hands in worship. Close your eyes if you need to ignore your surroundings. Then start speaking Biblical truths about who he is. Compliment God on his glory! I’ll close this article with some of my favorite “confessions” if I can call them that- things to speak out loud, to God in worship.
Worship with music or without. Raise your hands in a physical act of surrender if you can. Above all, use worship for its intended purpose- to devote your entire being to recognizing God for who he is. You can do this in tiny moments throughout the day. If you do, you will grow closer and closer to Jesus.
Some Worship Confessions You Can Use
God, you are so good.
You are the King of Kings.
You are my King, Jesus.
God, I’m yours.
Lord, I worship you.
You are worthy, Jesus.
I trust you, Lord.
Thank you for being here, Holy Spirit.
Father, I love you. (if you need to, you can add, “Help me to love you more!” Kinda like this.)