(This week I am blogging on the topic of the Whole Life Worship Paradigm and breaking it down to its essential facets)
The first movement of the Whole Life Worship paradigm is at the most foundational, simplest place where worship can begin: the human heart or spirit – the innermost part of a person. In John 4:24, Jesus said that God’s true worshipers “must worship in spirit and in truth.” While people can worship God with their hearts anywhere and anytime, including a corporate worship service, one of the best contexts of this simple worship is the quiet place of solitude: alone with God. In some ways, the credibility of our worship of God is best verified not when we attend our public worship services, but when we “go into our room, close the door and pray to our Father who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6). For the Whole Life Worshiper, worship begins with regular, one-on-one time with God. This personal encounter and connection with God is the first step for the powerful and transforming integration of worship with daily life. I call this “Personal Worship.”
Most Christ-followers understand the importance of spending time (apart from people) in prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual disciplines. Some of the names we give to this time are: Quiet Time, Daily Devotionals, Solitude, Bible Reading and Prayer Time. But if you look at these names, it is inherent that the focus is on a task. They imply that the goal is doing something, to accomplish something, to check something off a spiritual “to-do” list. But in Whole Life Worship the focus is not to do something, but to meet with Someone. That’s why I call this time, “Personal Worship.” It’s all about meeting with Jesus, the Lover of my Soul, the Redeemer of my Life. It’s “personal” because there is no one else around; it’s just Him and me. It’s “worship” because the basis of our relationship is His initiation of mercy and his invitation to come to Him. I am simply responding to Him, which is what Biblical worship is (see Romans 12:1 and yesterday’s blog).
I still engage in spiritual disciplines in Personal Worship, but they have a relational focus to them. My prayers in Personal Worship are not “grocery lists” of requests but a pouring out of my heart to the One who loves me. It is also two-way conversation: my times of prayer are times of waiting and listening to the “small, still voice” of Jesus. And many times (not always) I hear Him speaking to my heart. Sometimes it’s an affirmation, other times a conviction or a direction, and other times an enlightened or inspirational thought.
In Personal Worship, the Scripture becomes a mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit. My practice of Scripture reading is called “Lectio Divina” (which is Latin for “Divine reading” #lectiodivina). I read a short passage of Scripture (5-7 verses) four times, with a pause for listening and reflection in between each reading. The idea is to let the Holy Spirit teach me. Sometimes the Spirit will lead me into deeper “digging in” to the Scripture passage (what we pastors call “exegesis”) but more often than not, the Spirit will point to something within my life that needs some adjusting.
There are other disciplines I engage in during Personal Worship and I will explore these and some other thoughts about this first movement of Whole Life Worship in the weeks to come. But you get the idea: it’s not about doing the disciplines for their own sake; it’s using the disciplines to encounter Jesus.
I realize that this approach might sound too “touchy-feely” for some (and for others, it’s not touchy-feely enough!) I just want to say that Personal Worship is not about emotions or feelings. I confess that it probably comes off that way because I am more of a feeler type. But Personal Worship is really about relationship with the One who really desires relationship with you. And Christ will engage in relationship with you in the way He wired you – whether you are a thinker or a feeler, an introvert or an extravert. He will relate with you through both intimate experiences and transcendent thoughts. He will speak to you through the instantaneous moment of epiphany and over the long haul of faithful habit. But in any case our eyes need to be focused on Him, not on just accomplishing a task.
In the secret, in the quiet place, in the stillness You are there. In the secret, in the quiet moment I wait only for You, because I want to know You more. (Andy Park, “In the Secret”)
2 thoughts on “Personal Worship”
Doug, thank you for these insights! I am wondering how you choose the scripture you read for your Personal Worship?
It’s kind of a random, but systematic method I use. Random in the sense that I let the Spirit and my desire take the lead on which book I start reading. Systematic in the sense that I alternate between OT and NT and I will go through most, if not all, the books of the Bible, before I repeat. I usually (but not always) read through the entire book. I started the Lectio Divina method recently. Before it was more of an inductive (and intuitive) method.