Let it be understood at the outset that the worship I am contemplating here is scriptural worship. Jesus said that those who worship God must do so in truth (John 4:24). By this He meant it must be scriptural or according to the revealed pattern (Heb. 8:4,5). Anything less than this is already vain worship (Matt. 15:9). If you are engaging in unscriptural worship practices, you may feel satisfied, at least for now, but God is neither glorified nor pleased. That is not even under consideration here. We are dealing here only with scriptural worship.
Having said that, another aspect of true worship about which Jesus spoke is worshiping in spirit. To worship in spirit is to worship with the right moral attitude and with the proper emotional response. In the worship of Jehovah, the heart and spirit must be actively engaged. Sometimes in the courses of our lives, we may grow calloused and our worship may become commonplace to us or mundane. It may become old hat or just a matter of going through the motions. It is then that we must try to rekindle the fire of our first love (Rev. 2:4).
In this article, let me presume to make some practical suggestions that may rekindle the fiery flame of zeal in our worship.
Get a good night’s rest
I think I would list this as the most important thing you can do individually to maximize your own worship. So many times people come to worship and Bible study only to use it as a place to sleep. (I confess that I have struggled with this problem at times.) I realize that in our day and age we become so exhausted because of work and family activities. But we need to make a very serious and conscious effort to find a way to truly rest and sleep before coming to worship.
I know how hard it is sometimes to stay awake, especially if the speaker is flat or dry. But while a gifted speaker will try and make his sermon interesting, as long as he is speaking the truth, that is the most important thing and deserves to be heard. I also know many people have medical problems that could affect their ability to stay awake. Even taking a short nap just before coming to services would help greatly in staying awake and lucid. A lot of the time, however, the attitude of the listener affects the way the speaker is heard. The listener often prejudges the speaker and shuts down emotionally and cognitively before the lesson is even had a chance to develop.
On one occasion, the apostles Peter, James and John fell asleep when Jesus asked them in His most trying hour to watch with Him. When He came back and found them asleep, He asked them this pertinent question: “What, could ye not watch with Me one hour” (Matt. 26:40)? That is a question we should ask ourselves. It would do well to remember Paul’s admonition: “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11). Many places stand to sing the song just before the sermon. This helps to get the blood flowing and rejuvenates the worshiper some before sitting to hear a sermon.
Let Your Devotion Be Centered On God and Not Yourself
Worship services are not for our entertainment. God did not command worship so that we could be amused or awestruck by the activities. Worshiping God means offering our praise and adoration of Him. It is a solemn, holy occasion. David said, “But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple” (Psalm 5:7). Again, David wrote, “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2). And again, “Exalt ye the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy (Psalm 99:5). Worship is not about us. It is all about God.
Make sure there are no hindrances to your worshiping God
Another problem we sometimes face is that we bring the rest of our problems with us when we come to worship and they preoccupy our minds so that we cannot concentrate clearly. Are you thinking about what you will have to eat later? Are you thinking about work, friends, your upcoming vacation, etc.? Does a problem with a brother or sister cloud your thinking during worship? Take care of this problem first before you come to worship lest your worship be hindered (Matt. 5:23,24).
Get your wardrobe ready the night before
This has been a practice of mine for many years. Instead of waiting till Sunday morning to rush around to try to find matching clothes that are not in the laundry, find your clothes the night before and have them ready. This will save a lot of time and will allow to think about expressing your attitude in worship with the way you dress. If we think about dressing appropriate to the occasion, perhaps the Lord will not ask “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless” (Matthew 22:12).
Have your lessons ready for Bible class
If you take the time to go through your Bible class lesson, it will greatly aid you in being mentally prepared as you study God’s word. This will also carry over into the worship service. It will allow you to be prepared to ask or answer questions that may arise during the study. By studying the lesson, whether it just be reading the assigned Text or reading a prescribed reading or answering questions, you will be a workman that will not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15).
Immerse Yourself in Spiritual Things and Surround With Godly People
If you just have to listen to the news that morning, make it brief. Just look at the headlines and then view them only through the lens of a biblical world view. Don’t let the affairs of this life entangle your mind and distract you (II Tim. 2:2). Stop listening to screaming, lying denominational preachers. If you must listen to anything at all, listen to sound gospel lessons before you go to worship.
Talk to your brethren about scriptural matters. I was privileged as a youth to be guided by two or three older brethren in the congregation. I would generally get to the building thirty minutes early and we would discuss matters of doctrine and brotherhood concerns. In effect, we had already had a Bible class even before services began. My mind had already been tuned to spiritual matters by the company I kept.
Spiritual, zealous worship is no one’s responsibility but your own. The Lord’s supper may go through the same actions every week. Those who lead prayers may say the same thing week in and week out. The song leader might not sing in key and often lead the same songs over and over. The preaching might be dull. But ultimately, effectual worship is your own responsibility. These are just a few, simple ideas that I think are helpful. There are of course many other things that could probably be said more specifically, but I hope these help in putting zeal back into our worship.
Eric L. Padgett