“Ma, we have to be on time for church!! I don’t want to miss praise and worship,” I said with excitement.
As she is looking for a parking space, on the already crowded Florida Ave, she replied “Ok, Kenneth.”
I couldn’t wait to get there to hear the great music and I hoped that they were playing my favorite songs. My brother and I joked about how, last Sunday, Minister McCoy started to shout; hoping that this Sunday there would be another praise break. Praise breaks are always fun and entertaining.
The car now parked and we are walking to the church. As we get closer you can the heavenly sound coming from the building; the organ jumping, the drums thumping, and voices collaborating. The closer we get the louder the sound and as we opened the doors to the church we are hit with the sound of praise. Entering the church, you just can’t help but to clap your hands, stomp your feet, and bob your head; oh yes this is church!
After the “fast” song was finished the praise team moved on to the “slow” song, I was always less excited about the “slow” songs. In my mind once the “fast” song was over that the service was all downhill from there until offering or a spontaneous praise break. This was my perspective of praise and worship as a young boy. I loved the “theatrics” of church and the feel good music at the beginning but I was missing the point.
At that young age I didn’t understand praise and worship.
I didn’t understand that it was more than just about a fast song and a slow song.
I didn’t understand why we really were clapping our hands.
I didn’t understand why some people were brought to tears and others compelled to dance.
I didn’t understand praise and worship.
More importantly, I didn’t understand how to be an active participant in praise and worship. As an active participant I’m not talking about singing the songs, trust me I had no problem singing along, but I’m talking about engaging in worship. I’m talking about being an active participant and having a worship experience.
Through the years I have talked to people who have been in the body and those new to the body and a good portion of us have or still have a difficult time understanding praise and worship. Many times we approach praise and worship as theatrics and don’t understand that it is all a part of the well orchestrated plan to usher the presence of God in the midst. Praise and worship is the time designed to invite the King of kings and the Lord of lords into the church.
We lead with praise because it is like God’s “calling card.” The way that we get the attention of God is by giving Him praises and acknowledging the great work that He has done in our lives. Even if our week has gone all wrong we can’t help but praise God because as the old pastors would say “When I think of the goodness of God and all that He’s done for me my soul cries out HALLELUJAH!” Sometimes our praise may not be right now but it might be an advance praise. When we do this, we recognize that if God delivered me once from that, surely He can deliver me so I’m not worried.
Now, I understand where David is coming from when he says in Psalm 34:1-3
1I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. 3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!
David, the man after God’s own heart, understood that regardless of situations and circumstances God is always worthy to be praise because He is always doing something. He may not be doing something big but the fact that we have breath in our bodies, have the ability to see, have the activity of our limbs…we realize that all of that is happening because of God. If you read through the Book of Psalms you will see that out of everything David went through, he still gave God praise. David chased God and it started with his praise.
The interesting thing about praise is that it will usher you into worship. As a kid, I didn’t understand the different between praise and worship; I thought it was all just regular music, a fast song and a slow song. Now, I know there is a difference between our praise and our worship. Praise recognizes God by His works but worship recognizes God by His glory and majesty. Praise will usher us into worship because in the midst of recognizing His works we realize that the things that God is doing is above the ability of man. We realize that the only way that God can do what He does in our lives is because He is all-knowing and all-powerful, He is in control. It is our praise that helps us realize that God is King and Lord.
In response to recognizing that He is King and Lord, we can’t help but to humble ourselves and worship. The worship experience is difficult to put in words but it is that moment when we realize all of this isn’t about us, it’s all about Him. It is the moment when we realize that all of this is all about Him and who is He?
He is the Lord God Almighty, strong and mighty.
He is the Holy One of Israel.
He is the Creator and Sustainer of all of heaven and earth.
So how do we become more engaged in praise and worship? Well just like everything else with God, we are going to have to surrender. Praise and worship is about surrender our “power and authority” to God, after all He is the one worthy “to receive glory and honor and power” (Revelation 4:11). Praise often comes easy to use because it involves us but worship is a little bit harder.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
John 4:24, ESV
In order for us to experience true worship we must do so in spirit and truth. That means we have to not do it to impress others with our vocal abilities but we are focused on God and all of His glory. This also means being honest with God and allowing God to come in and soften the hard places on our hearts. Cast that down and enter into a worship experience.
Praise and worship helps to prepare our hearts to receive the Word of God brought by the vessel of the pastor or minister. The worship experience shouldn’t just stop with the Sunday service but we should continue it in our private lives. When we are continually ushering God’s presence in our lives we approach life circumstances knowing that we have the peace of God with us.