“I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned,” you sing along with the worship leader. You try to stir yourself up to worship, closing your eyes and maybe even lifting your hands, but to be honest, you’re just not feeling it.
For many of us, worship is one of the key elements in our relationship and response to God. The majority of our church services have times of corporate sung worship, our music collections are saturated with worship albums, and people often know Bible verses not from reading the Scripture but from singing the words. This is, of course, a good thing. Worship is from God, and it is right that we offer songs of praise to Him.
However, with worship playing such a big role in shaping our faith, what happens in those times when we don’t feel like worshiping? What happens when you desperately try to engage with worship but nothing seems to happen? When there is no connection, no response, no affirmation that your worship is going somewhere?
Here are five small steps to help you reengage with worship and meet with God afresh.
1. Remember That Worship Isn’t About How You Feel.
The Westminster Catechism puts it perfectly: “Man’s chief aim is to glorify God.” At the end of the day, worship isn’t about how we feel. There is no doubt that worship does provoke an emotional response in us, and that is a good thing. We can find ourselves overwhelmed at the love of the Savior, comforted in times of need or reassured when the path seems dark.
But these responses are not the purpose of worship. The reason we worship is to give God the glory and honor He deserves. We love because He first loved us, and we worship because He deserves the praise.
The minute we start to enter into worship with our own agendas and our own wish lists is the minute we begin to miss the point. We lift our voices to God in recognition of who He is. Often God blesses us by responding to us and meeting with us in that place—but that is never the primary reason. If you’re struggling to engage in worship, remember why you are doing it.
2. Try Different Styles of Worship.
Worship has become a bit of a buzzword in the Church and has come to signify musical response—and that does form a big part of it. But worship doesn’t only come with a guitar and stage lights.
If you are finding that you aren’t engaging with your regular pattern of worship, try something different. Listen to some older songs or songs from a completely different genre. Try worshiping in a completely different way—through art, dance, writing or whatever you enjoy.
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. David danced naked before the Lord—and while that’s not necessarily the most appropriate model to follow, his reckless abandon to worship his God is a powerful challenge to us to lose our inhibitions and worship in whatever way we feel led.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Stand in it and Let it Surround You.
One of the most beautiful aspects of congregational worship is that it lifts many voices up in one song to one Savior. Communities gather together to proclaim the same truths about God and push into His presence together.
But there is no rule that says you have to be singing all the words to be worshiping. Sometimes, just resting and abiding in the moment is just as (if not more) powerful. Standing in the middle of a sea of voices praising God can be incredibly moving and poignant. Sometimes with worship, less is more—don’t be afraid to take a step back to listen.
4. Find a Rhythm of Worship That Goes Through Your Week.
One of the big downsides of the way the modern church culture has developed is the way worship has become associated with Sundays only. Worship gets slotted in at the beginning and end of our services. We schedule it in for specific times.
But worship is something that should be weaved into everything we do in our lives. Each part of our day should be soaked in worship. That doesn’t mean we’re spending our days singing, but that everything we do is done against a backdrop of wanting to glorify God.
Matt Redman, when asked recently in the latest print edition of RELEVANT what he would say to people who don’t feel the joy of worship, put it beautifully: “You can’t breathe out till you’ve breathed in.” Breathe in God’s love regularly. Pray. Spend time in His presence. Then breathe out through worship.
5. Do it Anyway.
Sometimes, nothing beats crying out in worship when you feel least like doing it. There’s power in persistence and perseverance, and God recognizes when we are worshiping despite our desire not to.
God’s love is the same no matter how we feel, and our response to Him doesn’t depend on our emotional engagement. God is love, God is good—and those are permanent truths. Proclaiming those things can help us to worship when we don’t feel like it, and bring us back to a place of thanksgiving and wonder at the vast love God has for us.