It seems like the age-old issue for me, being a worship leader: What does worship look like? More specifically, what does worship through praise/song look like? The interest is usually centered around what the *physical* aspect of praise looks like. Various examples (certainly, not limited to): one may be led to bow head, close eyes, nod head, shout “amen!,” out-stretch hands or arms, kneel, sit, sway, clap, and yes, even dance. Tears may flow, laughter may induce. Is that ok? Am I supposed to “feel” such emotions?
What is the role of emotion in praise and worship?
Paul addresses the Philippians, “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus…” (Phil 3:3)
Those who worship, worship in the Spirit because we are filled with the truth of Jesus Christ our Savior. John MacArthur concludes from this verse in John, “the role of the emotions are to respond to the truth.”
We are people of the Word. As believers, we cannot attend Missio Dei for very long without coming under strong conviction and devotion to the study, meditation, and memorization of God’s Word. It is how our elders and pastor have shepherded and taught us, and what a blessing it is, indeed! Likewise, we receive deep, hard teaching each Sunday. The natural fruit of this, is a body that *knows* the truth! So, since we know the truth, we can worship in the truth! So,consequently, we can praise the Lord *in truth*.
Are we supposed to feel such emotions? YES! We know the truth of Christ! We know the glorious gospel. In this moment in your life you have some slight grasp of the magnitude of Christ sacrifice, of the supremacy of His lordship, of the depth of God’s mercies towards you. Rejoice sister! Weep sister! You are redeemed!
This is truth, and emotion flowing from truth is indeed true. There is no need to fear that our emotion is fabricated in the least! What better to express passion for, than the passion of our Lord?
We worship by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit residing inside us enables us to worship, in its various forms, in a worthy manner. In the realm of praise, this “worthy manner” takes into account full knowledge of what these choruses and refrains mean, and how our singing them pleases our Lord. Which results in humble submission. The Holy Spirit gives us these emotions. Where does our love for God come from? And its physical manifestations like awe, thankfulness, and joy; where do they come from? They are expressions of grace towards us, through the Holy Spirit Who is in us.
When I am overcome by His grace and it leads me to physical action, that is a type of submission to the Holy Spirit (which happens to be worship). It is an abandonment of my will, so that He would be praised alone. In praise, an example of this (not limited to this, of course) would be if I am compelled to raise my eyes to the sky and sing out deeply, purely because my heart has been inclined to a specific line/refrain and I desire to express my love for my Father through singing out boldly. Now, I can take into consideration that my brothers and sisters around me may see me doing this, and then grow timid and decide against it. However, that is not submission to the Holy Spirit. In moments like these there should be intense fear and reverence. I am worshipping the Creator of the Universe. Pause. Reread that sentence, Laena. The Creator. Of the Universe. Surely, He is worthy of my unhindered, submissive praise! I must fear the Lord, not man. After all, these redeemed people around me are praising The Creator of the Universe too. They *shouldn’t* be watching me.
There is one way to worship (John 4:24), but many ways worship is manifested physically. Specifically in the area of praise, I may not feel led to raise or clap my hands; there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I do, however, need to enter time of praise with humility and in contemplation, as with all forms of worship. Wherever the Holy Spirit leads from there will only be greater humility and understanding of my Lord. And this is where we find rest.
It may be difficult to think of ways in which you can express your praise physically. May I encourage you sister? I have developed a practice that has truly made a difference in my time of praise:
When the words first flash on the screen, I read through them as deeply as I can before, while and after I sing them (this is partly why the band plays musical interludes, so take advantage of these moments!). I try to grasp (and pray!) the magnitude of the truths I am affirming through song. This keeps my mind active and contemplative throughout singing. It also helps me to never forget Who it is I am worshipping.
The list I made at the beginning of this post is by no means exhaustive. You may be led to express your praise in a way I would never be led. But, there is only beauty in that. The Spirit of God is working through us to greater humility and dependence on our Savior. We must submit to this sanctifying work, and it won’t be comfortable, but oh, the joy that is in store! We will worship and sing His praises for all eternity with a new and perfect song.
We are looking to that day, Lord Jesus.
To You alone be the glory and honor and praise, forever. Amen.