What does it mean to worship? I think we can all agree that this is quite a difficult question to answer. We all have different ways of worshipping, and I am sure that there are some of us who worry as to whether we are worshipping the ‘right’ way. Many of us have probably stood in church, and as the band plays a few songs, have wondered if this is what worship really is. I, myself, have questioned this many times. There are times when I have sat through a set of worship songs and not once did I feel the Holy Spirit moving or talking to me despite seeing those around me deep in worship. For the longest time, I have asked that very same question we all struggle with; what does it mean to worship? Is it really all about the music or is it more than that? I find that the best way to answer these difficult questions is to turn to the Bible first. If we turn to Isaiah, one of my favourite characters in the Bible, we find an example of what worship is not by how Isaiah worshipped but rather by how his life was transformed through worship. Isaiah finds himself face-to-face with God, in His presence, and he leaves changed.
Isaiah’s story is a true testament to what it means to be transformed by the way we worship so let’s look at how he does this and maybe we can tackle this difficult question we all face.
In the first three verses of Isaiah 6, we read of his commission, and it begins with him seeing the Lord in all His glory. As he looks at the glory of God, Isaiah hears the angels singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”. Isaiah is filled with wonder and that is what we should feel as we worship the Lord. It is so easy to come to God with complaints and grievances and we do it so often that we tend to forget who we are really talking to. The one who created the heavens and the earth, the one who created the stars of the sky and the creatures, the one who created you and me, is the one who we should be praising. This doesn’t have to be just through songs. As we can see in the scriptures, many of the characters in the Bible only used music as a small part of their worship. They brought adoration in many ways and that is what we should be doing in our daily worship.
Another way in which we understand Isaiah’s worship is that he comes out transformed. When he comes face-to-face with God, he immediately repents of his sins and is transformed when an angel touches his lips with a live coal, therefore ridding him of his sin. The beauty of reading that today is that we know Jesus. We know He has taken our sins and cleansed us. We know it is Jesus who transforms so why don’t we see that in our daily lives? Maybe we need to see how we worship Jesus. When we spend time in worship do we walk out transformed?
The last way in which we understand Isaiah’s worship is that he is renewed after his encounter with God, and it is in this renewing that he takes on the task of becoming a prophet for the Lord. It is because of this encounter that we still read of Isaiah’s words and works today, thousands of years later. The Bible tells us that we are to be renewed constantly.
Romans 12 vs 2: Do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Psalms 51 vs 10: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Colossians 3 vs 9-10: Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices, and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
So, what does it mean to worship? I don’t think we will ever fully know the answer to this question because it is different for everyone. Some may worship with music, some with prayers, some with nature, and others with quiet time. I might enjoy contemporary worship with many other believers, and you may enjoy sitting outside reading a poem or meditating on God’s word. We are all different but one thing that we can all agree on is that worship changes you. Worship should be a daily practice where we constantly renew our minds and ready ourselves for the work that the Lord wants us to do. So next time you stand in church and wonder if you are worshipping the ‘right’ way, just remember that we are all different and if you walk away transformed or renewed, then you’re doing the right thing.