Many years ago, a worship leader asked me, “Lee Ann, being an intercessor, how do you do personal worship? Do you worship and then do spiritual warfare and intercession, or what?”
I was a bit surprised by the question. You see, I don’t “do” worship at all. Worship is not a compartment of my prayer life that I load onto the front end of my time with the Lord, or that I sandwich between other compartments. Worship is the dominant thread of my fabric.
I’ve heard many teachings on how to “do” worship — and, for that matter, on how to “do” prayer. You may have heard them, too. I was taught that there was a protocol for approaching the Lord that had to be strictly adhered to, if we were to get our prayers heard. First, we had to approach Him from afar through worship. This was called “entering His courts” (as in, the outer court of the temple) and it “brought us into His Presence.” After getting God to be pleased with us through our worship, we were to confess our sins (which equated to the altar for burnt offerings in the Old Testament temple). Finally, if we had done these things adequately, we could move on to presenting our petitions to God, expecting to be heard because we had followed the correct protocol for approaching the King.
Frankly, all this bothered me from Day 1. I used to wonder if those who taught this way had a very distant relationship with the Lord. You see, it is all ritual, and in addition, it is Old Testament Law, not the New Covenant in Jesus that we are meant to enjoy today as believers. How sad! It need not be this way. Understanding Old Testament symbolism is wisdom, but trying to live OT patterns in the New Testament life does not always equal biblical truth.
First of all, we do not have to take steps to come into God’s Presence. We ARE in His Presence, continually, if we believe on Jesus as our Savior. In fact, His Presence dwells in us, because we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. Now, there are ways to increase our awareness of His Presence, but ritual will not bring you into it. We will talk about the awareness factor later.
Secondly, the Old Testament ritualistic progression of coming into His Presence never, ever got the average person into God’s Presence. He got as far as the altar to sacrifice for his sins, and that’s it. From there on, only the priest could enter the Holy Place, and only the high priest EVER got into the Holy of Holies where the Presence of God tangibly manifested upon the Ark of the Covenant. So, why are Christians using this model of approaching God in the first place?
Everything has changed since Jesus made the final, full atonement on the cross. The temple curtain that separated the Holy of Holies (where the Presence of God rested) from view was ripped from the top to the bottom when Jesus cried, “It is finished!” and yielded up His life. Jesus made for us a forever-way into continual dwelling in God’s Presence.
When we understand that we have perpetual access to God’s Presence, our worship radically changes. We don’t have to “do” worship to get on God’s good side or butter Him up so that He will answer our prayers. “Doing” worship for what we can get out of God really insults Him. It brings Him down to a much baser level than most of us would operate at.
Worship is meant to be a natural outflow of our love relationship with Him, not a tool to accomplish something. Yes, there are beneficial by-products of worship. I discuss those at length in my series, Worship and the Intercessor. But worship is not something that we should do for what we get out of it. Our mindset needs to change.
Let’s take the legalism, the insincerity, and the self-serving out of worship. When we get hold of what real worship is — the kind that is “in spirit and in truth,” our whole relationship with the Lord will be transformed.
We’ll get to the practicalities of how true worship works tomorrow.