There’s a song made popular by Michael W. Smith titled ‘The Heart of Worship’ which chorus states, ‘I’m coming back to the heart of worship….it’s all about You, Jesus.’
I’ve always just taken that to mean that having been distracted by life generally and having lost focus somewhat, I have realised where I’m at and I’m returning to what worship truly is – to the core of worship or as we would say in Nigeria, to the ‘koko’ of worship. And that ‘koko’ is Jesus, the Saviour of the world and my Lord. This is important because of what we’ve turned worship into.
We’ve made it about us: The subconscious (and sometimes conscious) motive for coming into God’s presence and saying the loving, adoring things to Him a lot of times is to then sneak in some request for our needs. To use a term found in organisations, it is more like ‘sucking up’ to God so that He will be favourably disposed towards us……or so we think. Now, there’s nothing wrong with asking your Father for stuff but as a parent, it doesn’t feel nice when you think your child is snuggling up to you and enjoying your company just to discover she just wanted to ask you for something and was ‘softening the ground’. The difference with God is that He sees right through to our heart and knows exactly what we’re after, whether we’re after Him (His face) or some ‘blessing’ (His hands).
We’ve made it about emotions: Sometimes, when we’re singing a song, the lyrics of the song touch a chord in our heart and we become very emotional and even cry. Yet if the ‘touch’ doesn’t go beyond the tears and emotions to effecting a change in some area of our lives as a result of seeing God for who He is and ourselves for who we are, we have just had an emotional experience and not worshipped.
I recently thought about it in a slightly different light. I thought about the heart of man and wondered what kind of heart would be described as a ‘heart of worship’.
1. A tender heart of flesh
“Also, I will teach you to respect me completely, and I will put a new way of thinking inside you. I will take out the stubborn hearts of stone from your bodies, and I will give you obedient hearts of flesh.” (Ezekiel 35:26, NCV)
A tender heart before God can sense His displeasure easily; has a conscience that is very much alive and responsive to God. In contrast, a hard heart of stone is one that has ignored the soft promptings of the Holy Spirit so many times that it can no longer sense them and is almost oblivious to sin in one’s life.
2. A broken and a contrite heart
“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. (Psalm 51:17, NLT)
David is a key example of a worshipper who made mistakes but was so quick to realise his offence towards God and to seek forgiveness. The greatest treasure for a worshipper is God’s presence – a continual fellowshipping with Him – so when this fellowship is broken by the presence of sin in our hearts, there is swift repentance and a longing for a restoration of that sweet fellowship.
3. A heart that is in awe of/fears God
“Let everyone in all the world—men, women, and children—fear the Lord and stand in awe of him.” (Psalm 33:8, TLB)
Awe: an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like. God is not a man. His mighty works – past and present – are enough to inspire awe but beyond His works, His very Person is awesome.
“For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth.” (Psalm 47:2, NIV)
(See also: 1 Chronicles 16:25; Psalm 5:7)
4. A heart that acknowledges one’s unworthiness
The greatest blessing we have as human beings is to be adopted into God’s own family; to have been saved from sin and its many results by no effort of our own. When we sit and think on what God did for us by sending His only begotten Son to die for us, our prayer will most likely be like that of David:
“Who am I, my Master God, and what is my family, that you have brought me to this place in life? …. What can I possibly say in the face of all this? You know me, Master God, just as I am. You’ve done all this not because of who I am but because of who you are—out of your very heart!—but you’ve let me in on it.” (2 Samuel 7:18-21, MSG)
5. A heart in which Jesus is enthroned as Lord
Jesus is not only our Saviour but also our Lord.
Lord: a person who has authority, control, or power over others; a master, chief, or ruler (Dictionary.com); a ruler by hereditary right or pre-eminence to whom service and obedience are due (Merriam-Webster).
6. A heart that loves God
God’s desire for us to respond to His love by loving Him with all our being rings resoundingly from the Old Testament through to the New Testament:
“So be very careful to love the Lord your God” (Joshua 23:11, NIV).
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NCV)
“Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’” (Matthew 22:37, NCV)
In the midst of all the distractions of life and the competing voices with their often conflicting information about what Christianity or worship is, may we guard our hearts jealously, with determination to let them be hearts of worship – hearts that bring forth worship acceptable to God.