Is it necessary to always have a feeling of God’s presence or a high level of emotion when you worship or do you sometimes just worship out of obedience?
No, you may not always have a strong sensing of the presence of God or a high level of emotion during a time of worship. Seeking after such feelings is a trap into which many believers fall. Because they once experienced a strong excitement or even an honest encounter with the Lord, they now desire that same feeling above everything else. There are Christians today who go from meeting to meeting, looking for their next spiritual high. The truth is that there is no real difference between these people and a chronic drug addict. Their lives revolve around getting their next “fix.”
I am not trying to negate any type of emotion. As human beings part of our make-up is emotions. God has given us emotions for a reason. However, emotions are not the thing that initiated my relationship with the Lord, and long-term, they will not keep me going. We may sometimes have a high level of emotions during a time of worship, but not always. Worshiping and praising God is far more than just an emotional experience.
A couple years ago I attended a conference where the main speaker shared an applicable insight about this. It happened that he and a friend visited a church on Sunday morning while they were traveling. As they left, the friend confided that although he had enjoyed the sermon, he really hadn’t gotten anything out of the worship time. The man looked at his friend and asked, “Have you ever wondered what that’s got to do with anything?” His point was obvious: Who is the worship for? It’s not for us. It’s for God.
I realize that we often receive during worship. Sometimes, if we are struggling in life, it can be very beneficial to focus on God, to worship Him. Doing this can alter our perspective and cause a change in us. We have received through worship. However, this is still not the primary focus. Too often we have the selfish what’s-in-it-for-me mentality instead of simply worshiping our God because He is worthy and desires fellowship with us.
Ironically, even as we learn to focus more on our worthy God, we find our own emotional needs met more and more. Let me offer an illustration. When my wife and I first began dating and moved toward the direction of marriage, I thought mostly about whether she could meet my needs. Now, nearly 29 years into our marriage, I find myself more and more trying to meet her needs. Yet in doing so, I find my needs met all the more—not because I’m trying to get those needs met, but because I am giving myself to her. The same is true in worship. The more I wholeheartedly give myself to God in worship, the more I will receive. Meeting my needs is still not my primary focus, but it will happen.
We need to make a decision before we ever start into a time of corporate worship and praise. We must resolve to worship the Lord whether we feel anything or not. Our attitude should be, “God, if I don’t feel anything here today, I will still worship You because You are still worthy.”
When we honestly make this decision from our hearts, then we can enjoy the emotions, but they are in their proper perspective. Our feelings are not the main issue, they are a side issue. The main concern is that we are there to honor our King.
There are times when it is necessary for us to simply offer up a sacrifice of praise. When our feelings and emotions are lacking it can truly be a sacrifice. However, we can honor the Lord just as much (and perhaps more so) when we have no emotional excitement, but only a deep-seated commitment to worship our always-worthy God.