Worship Alone and Together

 

Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. (Psalm 100:2)

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:6)

I want to offer a word in support of worship.

Of course, I’m probably preaching to the choir. If you’re reading this, then you probably already agree with what I’ll say. You find worship meaningful and important. You attend public worship regularly, perhaps even every week, and you pray regularly.

But maybe you don’t, and this article was passed to you by a concerned friend, who wonders why you don’t “go to church.”

Either way, I want to speak up for worship. Because I think worship is important. I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s beautiful. I think worship makes Sunday complete. I think it makes the week complete.

Except, when it doesn’t. Because sometimes, worship isn’t so wonderful. Sometimes worship is boring, or irrelevant, or infuriating. Sometimes in worship we feel excluded or misunderstood. Sometimes worship is clunky, and sometimes it’s stuffy.

It’s important that I (with my vested interested in worship) acknowledge that public worship sometimes isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, by me and others like me.

Yet even as I acknowledge that actual services of public worship can suffer from many flaws, I cannot accept that it’s better to stay home. And I especially cannot accept that oft-repeated excuse, “I can worship just as well by myself.”

I do think it’s an excuse. And a pretty lazy one, too! Besides, it’s only partly true. Because I am quite certain that the only ones who really do engage in worship better alone than with others are those who regularly do both. They have become good at worship, both alone and with others. They know how to pray. The have learned enough scripture and hymns so their worship has shape and direction. They have become disciplined in turning off the noise in their heads, or at least in directing it toward prayer that is somewhat focused. These are disciplines that are almost never learned all alone, by someone who has rarely set foot in a church sanctuary. And they are hardly ever cultivated sufficiently past the point of basic competence (and thus enjoyment) by those who never attempt any private forms of devotion and worship.

The two kinds of praise work together: the private worship and the public worship, so that each of them helps the other. And without one, the other will have less benefit for the worshiper, and indeed is less likely even to take place. Without public worship, private devotions are shallow, uninformed, and narcissistic, if they happen at all. Without private worship, Sunday morning worship is awkward, inauthentic, and unsatisfying, if it is attended at all.

So I encourage you to cultivate both kinds of worship in your life. Give time to prayer and scripture as a regular personal habit, thus deepening your experience of private worship. And make a priority of your regular attendance at public worship, eager to lend your voice to the praise of God with your fellow worshipers.

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Author: Dan Griswold

A good life is motivated by love. My loves: the Triune God, family, music, friends, parishioners, theology.

2 thoughts on “Worship Alone and Together”

  1. Thanks, Dan! Good article. With respect to cultivating the discipline of daily worship on my own, I have found the schedule of readings in the Daily Office in The Book of Common Prayer to be a great resource. For each day, Psalms are provided for both morning and evening worship, thus helping me to frame each day in prayer.

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