When You Go to Worship, Bring Something with You

Have you ever heard a pastor or worship leader ask you to leave your worries at the door when you enter a worship service?  Or worse, have you ever been in a church gathering where someone, perhaps even clergy, prayed that you would forget your troubles in order to better worship God?  (Passive aggressive prayers are the worst.)

We know, of course, what these people mean.  They want us to be able to completely focus our attention in worship on the One who is worthy of our praise.  They want us to set aside the morning’s struggle to get the kids up, fed, dressed, and wrangled into the minivan.  Their motives are good; they simply don’t want us distracted by petty concerns.

But such a sentiment, that we’re to leave all distractions behind in order to engage with the Lord, inadvertently perpetuates a basic falsehood about the Father.

To invite people to leave their struggles at the door of the sanctuary is to suggest that God is not concerned with your troubles.  It implies He doesn’t want to hear your sob stories.  All God really wants, we are unconsciously told, is your flattery.  We must tell God how great He is, even though He doesn’t want to hear about what’s bothering us.

Such imagery, however, is completely contrary to the God of the Bible.  The picture of the Lord given in Scripture is a God who is entirely concerned with the problems of humankind, generally, and people, individually.  He is the God who delivered the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, who answered Hannah’s prayer for a child, who responds to Hezekiah’s prayers for health in the face of death, and who saves all humanity from the effects and power of sin.  The biblical God is a God who cares deeply about the concerns of people.

Let’s not leave our hardships at the door of the church.  By all means, let’s bring them in and wail loudly for the Lord to act on our behalf.  Then, let’s watch and listen for how He might meet our need.  (It may not come as we expect it.)  Let’s see, then, if we aren’t able to fully to worship our God, our deliverer.

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One thought on “When You Go to Worship, Bring Something with You

  1. Guilty as charged.

    Let’s consider the correct alternatives:

    1) “Cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you”. I think it speaks for itself.

    2) As we come to the Lord, with all the concerns of our lives, let us remind ourselves of God’s power, love and faithfulness so that we can have full faith in God’s ability and willingness to address these concerns.

    I’m reminded of Jehoshaphat’s prayer in 2nd Chronicles 20:

    5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the LORD in the front of the new courtyard 6 and said:

    “LORD, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7 Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

    10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (NIV)

    This is not a gathering intended for worship. Rather, it is a gathering for prayer for God’s help. Still, it starts with recognition of Who it is they are approaching before the specifics of the prayer. Just as you pointed out that the point of worship is not flattery, the point here is not that God needs a reminder of His identity or the promises He made. No, though he is addressing God, Jehoshaphat is leading the people in prayer. Their hearts need the reminder, i.e. they need to temporarily look away from their concerns and focus on God so that they are drawn with faith rather than driven by fear.

    When the Lord responded through the prophet, the people worshiped. The next morning they worshiped as their primary battle plan as well. I’ll stop as I begin to digress.

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