Dr. Farbishel is from Pennsylvania and also lived in Illinois and Texas before settling in Arizona where he is an instructor in the College of Theology at GCU. He studied and worked in engineering, but later completed his M.Div. and served as a pastor for many years before eventually earning his D.Min. at Covenant Theological Seminary.
We have been looking at three fundamental purposes of humanity: learning to work well, learning to love well and, now, learning to worship well.
We were created to work, we were created to love and we were created to worship.
We see this before the fall of humanity.
Adam and Eve were given a job to do in keeping the garden. They had a loving relationship with each other and with God. They walked with God regularly, which becomes evident after the fall. When they heard God approaching and calling for them, they hid instead of joining Him “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8).
Connecting with God
What Adam and Eve lost that day, we may regain and experience through worship. Worship is first and foremost connecting with God. It is the primary way God has given us by which we may be restored to again walk with Him.
The activity of worship takes many forms, including praying, singing hymns and praise songs, reading the Bible, listening fervently as the Word of God is preached, meditating on a Psalm and remembering Christ’s sacrifice while taking the Lord’s Supper.
It is important to note that one may go through the motion of doing all of the above without actually worshiping God, for worship is a matter of the heart, one’s innermost spirit connecting with God’s spirit (Romans 8:16). If there is activity but no connection (our mind and heart being elsewhere), we may suspect that no real worship is going on. Jesus told us that “those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
So, yes, we worship with our heart and mind in spirit and truth. All reading, singing and meditating should be based on God’s Word, the truth (John 17:17).
Words matter! What better way to express ourselves to God than to use the words He has given us in the Bible? As we read and sing words based on Scripture, the Holy Spirit directs our thoughts and convicts our hearts, drawing us closer to God.
The command in Deuteronomy 6:4 to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” is also a directive for worship. We are to love and worship God with our whole being – body, mind and spirit. Every part of us needs to be engaged. We may pray, of course, in any position, but kneeling, standing, raising arms, closing eyes and folding hands are all appropriate ways of showing respect for God and using our body to help focus attention on Him.
Worship in Private
Our devotion to God begins and is cultivated most when we take time to be alone with Him. It is then that we may pour out our hearts and express our deepest longings. While there are many books written to enhance worship and devotion to God, only one is most necessary: the book of Psalms.
There are psalms for praise (100, 145), psalms for confession (32, 51), psalms that include both (103) and many more. Every emotion is captured in the Psalms, and as we spend time in them, they become a part of our prayer life.
Meditating on the Psalms has been a great blessing to me personally, and memorizing them allows me to recall them to mind whenever and wherever I am. One of my favorites is Psalm 34, which starts out:
“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
A great challenge for a lifetime of learning to worship well.
Worship in Public
A heart devoted to worship is expressed by David in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
Note the action verbs “seeking” and “gazing.” Worship seldom just happens; it takes effort whether it be at home or in corporate worship (at church). Our minds must be engaged (seeking) and our hearts turned to God (gazing upon him).
Worship in the company of others provides an amazing blessing! Such public worship, however, is often somewhat constrained due to self-awareness. “Am I singing in tune?” “Should I raise my hands?”
Fortunately (or not), many churches have the music so loud that singing out of tune is not an issue, so just sing out! Distractions may be minimized by closing our eyes, looking up and away from people or even sitting up front where there are fewer people for your eyes to notice.
The key to a good worship experience is to forget about yourself and others. Focus only on God. Let the words you are singing be your words. Whether you raise your hands or not, let yourself experience the presence of Christ and be caught up with His Spirit touching yours.
We learn to worship well as we let our hearts be blessed and our tears flow.
Grand Canyon University has a biblically rooted mission and a commitment to our distinctively Christian beliefs. GCU’s College of Theology offers a variety of transformative degrees. Learn more about our heritage and identity by visiting the GCU website.