Excerpt from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

Wor­ship is a word most often asso­ci­at­ed with reli­gion. But wor­ship can be found in the lives of sec­u­lar­ists, agnos­tics and even athe­ists. The sim­ple truth is that every­body looks to some­thing or some­one to give their lives mean­ing. Wor­ship reveals the some­things or some­ones we val­ue most. What we love and adore and focus on forms us into the peo­ple we become. Some of us high­ly val­ue our inde­pen­dence. Oth­ers pour our time and ener­gy into totems of pow­er, approval, suc­cess, con­trol or hap­pi­ness. We may not con­sid­er our obses­sion with these things acts of wor­ship, but they are. They are what we look to, to get us up in the morn­ing and keep us going through­out the day.

True wor­ship does not equal going to church on Sun­day. This is not a par­tic­u­lar­ly new thought. Jesus knew peo­ple could attend the syn­a­gogue while focus­ing on the clos­ing of their busi­ness deal on Mon­day or the new house addi­tion on Tues­day. He put it sim­ply: These peo­ple hon­or me with their lips. / but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Wor­ship can be offered in the pow­er of the self rather than in response to the Spirit.

True wor­ship of God hap­pens when we put God first in our lives. When what God says mat­ters more than what oth­ers say, and when lov­ing God mat­ters more than being loved. Dis­ci­pline, willpow­er, gift­ed­ness, and going to church can be good things. But they do not guar­an­tee trans­for­ma­tion. Trans­for­ma­tion comes through valu­ing God above all else. Jesus knew peo­ple could do the same things he did: they could heal and per­form mir­a­cles and preach — but that did not mean that they loved and wor­shiped God.

His words are dev­as­tat­ing­ly clear: Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not proph­esy in your name, and in your name dri­ve out demons and per­form many mir­a­cles?’ Then I will tell them plain­ly, I nev­er knew you’ ” (Matthew 7:22 – 23).

The heart of wor­ship is to seek to know and love God in our own unique way. Each one of us ful­fills some part of the divine image. Each one of us loves and glo­ri­fies God in a par­tic­u­lar way that no one else can. It should not sur­prise us then that wor­ship styles and tastes dif­fer: tra­di­tion­al, con­tem­po­rary, litur­gi­cal, folk, emerg­ing. One style of wor­ship is not bet­ter than anoth­er. The qual­i­ty of wor­ship emerges from the heart and its focus.

Wor­ship can touch our deep­est feel­ings. But that is not the lit­mus test for wor­ship. Feel­ings can come and go. But the joy­ous Trin­i­ty remains for­ev­er wor­thy. In light of the Trinity’s beau­ty and love­li­ness every­thing else on the hori­zon of our atten­tion takes its prop­er sec­ondary place. Above and before all oth­er good things remains the Pearl of great price, the King of all kings, and the Lord of all lords.

REFLEC­TION QUESTIONS 

1. How has a par­tic­u­lar style of wor­ship — charis­mat­ic, tra­di­tion­al, con­tem­po­rary, litur­gi­cal— shaped you and your image of God? 

2. How does a par­tic­u­lar form or style of wor­ship shape you now? 

3. Who is God to you? What name for God — Shep­herd. Lord, Father, Day Spring, Bread of Life, etc. — best describes your rela­tion­ship with him right now? What does this name mean to you? 

4. How does wor­ship­ing alone and wor­ship­ing with oth­ers affect you? 

5. What about God moves you to worship? 

SPIR­I­TU­AL EXERCISES 

1. Con­sid­er the many names God uses to reveal him­self to us. Which of these names iden­ti­fies where God is in your life now? • Talk to God about what this rev­e­la­tion of who he is means to you. Use this name when you pray. 

2. Since God reveals him­self to us in wor­ship, vis­it a wor­ship ser­vice with a dif­fer­ent tra­di­tion or style than you are used to. Attend a cul­tur­al­ly dif­fer­ent ser­vice or a children’s ser­vice, if you wish. Ask God to open you up to see­ing him in new ways. What do you sense about the wor­shipers? Do you see any­thing new about God in their worship? 

3. Think of the times you have been deeply moved in wor­ship. What was hap­pen­ing in your life at that time? • What was going on in wor­ship? • Put your­self in places where you most eas­i­ly con­nect with God in worship. 

4. Write a let­ter or song to God express­ing your love and hon­or of him. 

5. Come before God with an open and lis­ten­ing ear. Write the ques­tion, What do I val­ue most?” at the top of a sheet of paper. Answer the ques­tion. • Then answer this ques­tion from the view­point of your kids, your spouse, your col­leagues, fam­i­ly mem­bers, church friends and God. What do you see about your­self through their eyes? • How might what you wor­ship need to change? 

Cal­houn, Adele. Spir­i­tu­al Dis­ci­plines Hand­book: Prac­tices that Trans­form Us (Revised). Down­ers Grove: Inter­var­si­ty Press, 2015. pp. 50 – 51

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

View Selections & Learn More >