I was worshiping last night (seems like that’s usually how these things start) when God finally made this click for me. I had just finished reading another worship book, this one about the technical side of songwriting, and was hoping to finish a song I had brewing. I started out the usual way, with a song that I’d been wanting to play for a while, then moved on to a few that seemed to fit naturally.
I shortly realized that I wasn’t really worshiping, but just playing “worship music.” I immediately stopped singing and attempted to refocus the way I described in my earlier post “Be Still.” It took a LONG time - I haven’t been doing this nearly often enough and there was a whole lot on my mind - but I did manage to get to that magical quiet place. I was playing instrumentally the whole time, but I had no desire to start singing again - it seemed like any song I might sing would be less adequate to express myself to God than that silence. I had nothing worth praying or singing, so I just listened. That’s when it clicked.
Zephaniah tells us that God sings over us. I’d heard this many times, and I’d even had God turn songs around and sing them to me, but it hadn’t fully clicked. What I realized was this: if prayer is a two-way conversation, and musical worship is just singing our prayers to God, isn’t worship also a two-way conversation? THAT was the gist of everything I’ve been learning about worship, which I couldn’t put into words until that point.
Worship is a TWO-WAY CONVERSATION. If you get anything out of any of my posts, please get that: worship is a two-way conversation. Once again, we’ve been doing things backwards. Nearly everything I’ve heard about worship is about what we have to say to God, but we rarely ask the second question. What is God saying to us? What is he singing to us?
At this point God did something that always amazes me (and I’m always amazed that it still amazes me) and reversed a song on me, but this time it was one of my own songs - the chorus I had just written - and the words were a bit different. This was the turning point that night, and the rest of my worship just flowed. I sang what I heard Him singing, then sang my own version back to Him. Pretty soon I was just singing spontaneously what was on my heart. It was not so great musically - halting, uncertain, not terribly poetic - but it was mine and it was authentic.
I finally stopped an hour from when I first picked up my guitar. At least two-thirds of that was completely unscripted. I was overwhelmed. I was refreshed. Most of all, I knew I had to share this.
We spend a lot of time in church singing to God or about God, but how often do we remember these other kinds of songs? For me, not nearly often enough. Some churches make spontaneous songs a regular part of their worship, but around here we almost never use them. It’s not complicated or mystical - it’s just singing our prayers to God. If we can pray without a script, it’s just a step away to add music, and it adds whole new dimensions to prayer. It doesn’t even have to sound good! We like to have a certain level of quality in our public worship services, but at home it doesn’t matter - God cares far more about what’s in your heart than about how well you can sing.
We should also remember to listen for what God is singing to us. This is even easier - just leave some room instead of frantically rushing from one lyric to the next so God can’t get a word in edgewise. Again, I’ve noticed this problem before and I think I mentioned it in “Be Still,” but now I understand why it’s so critical. In our worship services we often act like singing is the most important or even the only form of worship. It is biblical and definitely important, but praying, listening, spontaneous singing, testimony, scripture reading, and other forms are equally valid and important.