Called to Worship – Issue #24
By Phil Mershon
One of the most important facets of a worshipper’s life is a steady diet of scripture. If your worship is not rooted in scripture and truth, then it will become empty emotionalism. Likewise, if your worship is not rooted in the Spirit, then it has the danger of becoming legalistic or dogmatic. Spirit and truth, passion and knowledge, prayer and scripture—these are the necessary ingredients for combustive, life-changing worship.
This week I’d like to dig a bit deeper into the how prayer and scripture shape the life of a worshipper. Here are four things to consider.
1. Praying the Psalms
Last week I encouraged you to read and pray a psalm on Saturday night as you prepare for worship. I try to pray through a psalm every day (or at least part of a psalm). The psalmists knew how to express praise, frustration, anger and other emotions to God in ways that I might otherwise choose to avoid.
Of course, not all psalms are created equally in terms of their ability to prepare your heart and mind for worship. The imprecatory psalms, for instance, might better prepare you for battle. But even this reminder of the real spiritual battle can be helpful as you prepare to commune with your Commander in Chief.
Dick Kaufman is one of the pastors at Harbor Presbyterian Church who was most helpful in teaching me to preach the gospel to myself. He taught me to read a psalm until the Spirit convicts me of a sin and then use the words of that psalm to take me to the cross—rehearsing the truth of the Gospel.
There are several books that been significant in my own prayer journey:
One of my professors in grad school, Dan Allender, co-wrote Cry of the Soul with Tremper Longman to show how the psalms shed light on the dark emotions (anger, fear, envy, etc…) and how those emotions reveal our hearts and our need for grace. Being full of stories, it’s a fairly easy read, but be prepared to wrestle with your heart!
One of my favorite classes in seminary was Mark Futato’s class on the Psalms. The class lectures were converted into two books that have helped immensely as I continue learning to pray the psalms. One of those is pictured here. The other is Joy Comes in the Morning.
2. Saturate yourself with Scripture
Some of the things you do to prepare for worship are things you do to maintain a healthy Christian walk. Just like you don’t eat or sleep only once per week, growing Christians also read scripture and pray daily. Not because we have to, but because we want to grow closer to our Savior.
There are many great resources for reading scripture prayerfully and thoughtfully. Let me recommend a couple.
Prof. Grant Horner has developed a unique scripture reading system that literally immerses you in the scripture every day. You read 10 chapters every day. Don’t let that intimidate you. You actually read from 10 different parts of the Bible every day–allowing you to finally get a handle on the whole context of the Bible. You will never read the same set of 10 chapters on a given day. Read about it here.
Dr. Larry Crabb was another professor of mine in grad school. He wrote 66 Love Letters as a personal attempt to understand what God was trying to say to us personally in each letter. It is not a commentary, but instead reads like personal correspondence between God and Larry. Having heard Larry talk about the book, I know he spent 3.5 years researching and writing this book. I recommend reading through each book of the bible and then reading Larry’s comments.
I also have found D.A. Carson’s For the Love of God to be a helpful guide if you’re on a read the Bible in a year journey. Be sure to get both volumes.
I’ll never forget Prof. Jerry Root’s challenge when I was at Wheaton College. He was commenting on the life of J.I. Packer. He had asked Packer how he knew Scripture so well. Packer’s answer was simple, but profound. Well, I’ve made it a goal to read the Bible at least one time every year. Root challenged the students gathered to do the same and imagine how deep our roots would be after 30-40 years.
Mercy Me wrote a powerful song on hearing God speak through the Word called Word of God Speak.
3. Repent of false worship
There is a funny video floating around the internet right now, but as a worship leader it may not seem too funny. You’ll enjoy the parody, but take to heart the underlying message that worship is all about God, not about us.
4. Pray in advance
There is something else Dick Kaufman taught me about prayer. When we preach the gospel we need to do so temporally. Here’s what I mean. Of course we need to remind ourselves that our past sins are paid for and completely washed away by the blood of Jesus. But we also need to anticipate situations where sin might rear its ugly heads and ask God to remind you of what’s true in that moment.
For example, let’s say you’re preparing for a meeting with some important people. Perhaps you are usually intimidated by them and might try extra hard to impress them. This reveals your fear of man. Pray in preparation for that meeting that God will grant you peace and security as you are aware that your value comes from being a child of God, not any earthly position you might hold.
As you prepare for worship this week, let’s encourage each other as we grow in Spirit and in Truth.
What do you think?