There’s something spine-tingling and beautiful about looking out over a crowd and seeing hands raised and eyes closed as those present belt out music in worship to God. Worship takes many forms and should be a part of our ordinary day, but there’s special beauty in a group of Christ-followers worshiping through raising their voices together.
It’s not a strange concept to worship through song. Over and over again we read in the Old Testament about singing songs to God or dancing and making music to Him. But do we truly understand why singing to God is worship? Or do we just get caught up in the emotion and assume we’re worshiping as we react to that emotion?
We must first understand what worship is in order to know why we call the 20 minutes in church each week “worship time.” Webster’s Dictionary 1828 has a few beautiful definitions of the word.
“To adore; to pay divine honors to; to reverence with supreme respect and veneration … To honor with extravagant love and extreme submission.”
In light of these definitions, let’s take a look at a few reasons we use song to honor God “with extravagant love and extreme submission.”
God commands us to sing
Glance over the Psalms, and you’ll see just how important singing songs of praise to God is. It’s not a recommendation, either. It’s a command. We’re told more than 400 times to sing, and Jesus Himself provided us with an example, singing hymns with His disciples the night before He was crucified.
Since God commands us again and again to sing songs to Him, He must truly enjoy listening to His children raise their voices to honor and praise Him.
But we must remember this is a way to show supreme respect and submission to God. It’s not a time for you to prove how you can harmonize or to show the people around you how much you can get into the music through raised hands. If you are presenting those things as offerings to God, by all means harmonize and raise your hands high. But the moment it becomes more about the people around you, you are no longer worshiping God.
The words we sing are a way to express our adoration and respect for God
The words in a song of worship matter. This is why hymns prove so beautiful — they are doctrinally sound and describe God’s character and His glory. We use songs to worship God because they are a way to express verbally how great our God is.
Worship songs should not be focused on us. Yes, we can use lyrics to remind us of our humble state before God, but ultimately, the songs we sing should be about adoring God, honoring Him and submitting to Him. When we worry about the style of the music or the melody we don’t really love, we are completely missing the point of worshiping through song by making it about what we get out of the songs instead of what we give to God.
If you find yourself distracted during singing, focus simply on the words of the song. Hopefully they are theologically sound and will help your heart and mind focus on the reason you’re singing: to show supreme respect and honor to the King who created you.
Music helps our hearts connect to the words
Singing songs of praise should not be about getting an emotional high. However, there’s a reason many people feel emotional when singing. Music arouses emotions within us. Think about the times you’ve heard songs sung in a different language. You feel the emotion of the song based off of the notes written and the way people sing it, even if you don’t understand the words. Or when a speaker is on his conclusion, and the pianist begins to play quietly behind him. All of a sudden, the words feel weightier and stronger. There are strategies to writing music that create specific emotions, and we often feel those while singing to God.
More than just the way a song is composed, singing brings out emotions in us because it helps us to feel the words instead of just listen to them. If you have the right attitude while singing, words will linger on your voice and in your mind. You will repeat words over and over as the chorus comes back around again. You will be more involved in remembering truth because you’re singing it.
Again, we shouldn’t get caught up in singing just to feel emotional about it. That cheapens singing praise to God by acting as if the only reason we use song to worship Him is so we can feel good. Feeling emotionally connected to God is a wonderful part of worship through song, but it should not be our sole purpose for honoring Him.
Are you prepared to make music to God?
Obviously these three points are not an exhaustive list on why we should worship God through song. And as with all things on this sinful earth, Satan will try to mess with our way of praising God, so we must be on our guard. Watch out for worship songs that seem more about us than about honoring Jesus. Don’t allow a different style of music to take away from words that can glorify Him. Be careful to not think an emotional high from singing can carry you through your week — still spend time with Jesus and with other believers.
Above all, prepare your heart before you worship through song. God does not accept offerings given with a sinful attitude. And that’s what singing praise to Him is: an offering of our voices, words and affection.
Elisabeth Elliot described the concept of worship beautifully when she said, “Worship is not an experience. Worship is an act, and this takes discipline. We are to worship ‘in spirit and in truth.’ Never mind about the feelings. We are to worship in spite of them.”
Let’s Talk About It: What are ways you need to rethink what worship is besides just singing?