Worship features prominently in Luke’s writings. He presents people praising God in response to experiencing God’s loving help or saving grace (Luke 2:13, 20; 19:37; Acts 3:8, etc.). Praise and worship flow from gratitude for who God is and what God has done. The first story he tells is set in the context of worship. Zechariah receives the news that his prayers have been heard and that he and Elizabeth are to have a son (Luke 1:5–13). His gospel concludes with Jesus’ ascension and the disciples worshipping him before returning to Jerusalem where ‘they were continually in the temple blessing God’ (Luke 24:53). When Acts unfurls, worship is at the heart of the early church. Spirit-filled, exuberant praise is offered in the home, the temple and on the streets.
There is a risk that we think of worship only as something that happens when Christians gather for an hour or two. While gatherings are a habit to be encouraged, there is much more to worship than this. Worship is a way of life, one encapsulated in the Jewish Shema: a prayer which is the centre piece of Jewish morning and evening prayer services. It includes these words from Deuteronomy 6:5:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
Worship offered as grateful response involves all of our lives; our work, rest, enjoyment of creation, service, eating, giving – and, yes, our gatherings for the focused activity of services of worship. Tending the crops, forming an algorithm, building a house or serving a customer can all be done as acts of worship to the glory of God, as can the singing of songs, the offering of dance, sculpture or art and the praying of prayers.
There are times when worship is instinctive and obvious – when we have such a sense of deep joy that we cannot help but worship God. And there are times in life when the last thing we feel like doing is worshipping God.
The Psalms offer a lovely example: honest and open with God in good times and bad; whether moaning or praising, always in touch with God. In many psalms, the psalmist is clearly excited about God and wanting to praise God with every part of their being. They also regularly recount troubles and moan, and tell God what to do. In Psalms 42 and 43, the psalmist shares difficulties with God but, despite everything, trusts, hopes and praises. This is not because the psalmist feels like it, but because God deserves praise – because God is God regardless of circumstances. So, because God is God, the psalmist knows there is hope.
Worship can arise from a glad heart, but it can also be the deliberate choice of a hurting one. All of life can be worship when lived for love of God. So, resourcing for worship, learning to worship even when we don’t feel like it, learning to make everything we do in our daily lives a worship offering to God, is about 24/7, everyday discipleship.
In exploring this holy habit, we pray you will discover more of God; we hope that you will be able to have conversations which help deepen your relationships with God and with each other as you build lives which worship God.