Why should I worship when I pray? Admittingly, when I set out to write this blog post, the question was much broader, ‘Why should I pray?’ There are countless books, articles, sermons, Bible studies, etc. that offer reasons for why we should pray. Instead, I wanted to focus on a crucial aspect of prayer that frequently gets overlooked - worship. Many of us are familiar with worshipping in song on Sunday morning. Not many of us are well acquainted with worshiping God in prayer. So, why should I worship when I pray?
True worship is a valuing or treasuring of God above all things. - John Piper
John Piper offers this definition of worship, “True worship is a valuing or treasuring of God above all things.” Worship begins in the heart. We worship what we treasure and what we treasure most receives our worship. Another way to put it is that we treasure, we desire, we love what we esteem as valuable, that thing that we have to have. The process of treasuring makes the object of our attention even more valuable.
The process of treasuring makes the object of our attention even more valuable.
For example, when I first purchased my iPhone, I knew it had value - the ridiculously high price tag told me as much. As I have used my phone though, its value to me has transformed and increased. I am less concerned about what the phone is worth financially and more concerned about the value it brings to my life. As I’ve grown more dependent on my phone, it has increased in value. Before, it was just a cool piece of technology that cost a lot of money. Now, I use it to communicate with others, shop on Amazon, read articles, listen to podcasts, track my fitness, do my banking, check the news, navigate around town - this little piece of technology touches nearly every aspect of my life. As I’ve used it and as it has integrated into my life, it has grown in value.
We say we don’t know how to worship, but we do. We are worshipful people. We worship the things around us every day. I may not sing praises to my phone. I certainly don’t pray to it. Yet, I could argue that I do worship it. How do I know? Because I can leave the house without my phone and at once realize that something is wrong. If I don’t immediately retrieve it, my whole day is messed up. Yet, I can also rush out the door without having read my Bible, or prayed, or offered worship to God and not miss a beat. That is, perhaps, the strongest indicator that I have worshiped, or treasured, the wrong thing. Chances are, many people can relate and if it isn’t a cellphone, then it is something else.
Learning to hate these things in an effort to worship God more deeply is an over reaction that does more harm than good. I have yet to meet a person who has hated his way to worshiping God.
Now, we have to be careful here. We most naturally worship technology, money, sex, power, comfort, health, or family. You’ll notice, none of these things are bad in and of themselves. In fact, each of these things are very good. It is only when we begin to treasure them as being supremely valuable that we run into a problem. Learning to hate these things in an effort to worship God more deeply is an over reaction that does more harm than good. I have yet to meet a person who has hated his way to worshiping God. Instead, we worship God by worshipping God. This is profoundly powerful and yet incredibly simple. Just like our cell phones or whatever else, as we treasure God as supremely valuable, He appears even more valuable in our eyes which leads us to treasuring Him more deeply.
Desire informs behavior and behavior shapes our desire.
Why should I worship in prayer? First and foremost, we should worship God in our prayer life because He is exceedingly worthy of our worship, the entire Bible speaks of this. Secondly, we should worship God in our prayer life because worship is transformative. We worship what we value, we treasure what we worship and our behavior inevitably follows. To return to the example of my cellphone - if I worship my cell phone then I take steps to make sure 1) that it is always charged, and 2) that it is always with me. Likewise, when we worship God, it transforms us. We see Him as supremely valuable, worthy to be treasured above all else in our lives and our behavior follows suit. Suffice to say, desire informs behavior and behavior shapes our desire. If we only worship God in song for 20 minutes during a Sunday service, then the other 112 waking hours in our week are spent being shaped by the countless other things that clamor for our attention. We must worship God in prayer because He is worthy and because we will lose this fight of competing desires again and again if we don’t.
If we only worship God in song for 20 minutes during a Sunday service, then the other 112 waking hours in our week are spent being shaped by the countless other things that clamor for our attention.
What does it look like to worship in prayer? Many of us are familiar with the type of prayer where we ask God for something; this is called supplication. Adoration, or worship, is very similar. Instead of saying, “God, will you_____”, we say “God, you are _____”. We learn from Scripture about God and we use that to worship Him. So, if I wanted to worship God when I pray, I would say “God, you are King”. But it's not enough to just say the words, we must believe them (Matthew 15:8-9). In worshiping God, we actively submit to Him and believe in something other than ourselves (Romans 12:1). The act of worship necessitates a reorienting of priorities, desires and beliefs (Romans 12:2). If I pray, “God, you are King,” but then continue to live my life as if His Word has no bearing on it then we would be right to question the sincerity of my worship. If worship is to be transformative then it must be all encompassing. If I speak truth in worship, then I must believe it and base my actions on it. Again, if I pray, “God, you are King” then when I am tempted to sin, to disobey, I will remind myself, “God, you are King” and I will obey God because He is my King. My worship has then become much more real. I am no longer just tossing out empty phrases, but I am reorienting my life around the truth of God. Because I have treasured God as my King, I have deemed Him in my heart as more valuable than my sin, my own corrupted desires. It has become a definitive truth for my life that God is more valuable. It is not that God Himself is growing in value but that we are beginning to understand how valuable He truly is which, in turn, leads to deeper worship of Him.
The act of worship necessitates a reorienting of priorities, desires and beliefs.
Simply put, just as my phone became more valuable as it became more integrated into my life and I became more dependent on it, so our worship of God should go. Our worship of God should lead us to increased gratitude and desire for God as we realize He not only touches a small part of lives, but our entire lives. In this, we become joyfully dependent on Him. This is a beautiful thing, and it will not happen by accident. Therefore, let me encourage you to worship God in your prayer life. Recognize His glory, and His wonder, and His awesomeness in Scripture and believe it, stake your life on it and you won’t be disappointed.
What Does it Mean to Fear the Lord? by Michael Reeves
Desiring God by John Piper
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith
Desiringgod.org has an extensive library of articles on the topic of worship.
Scripture. Always Scripture.