Cheap Praise and Lazy Worship: A Sunday Morning Meditation
King David said “I will not offer to God that which cost me nothing.” He was talking about buying a field for purposes of a sacrifice that had been offered to him as a gift. Father Abraham said to his servants, “You wait here while we go yonder and worship.” He was talking about offering his only son to God as a sacrifice.
As we gather together today, too many of us want praise and worship to be easy, nestled well within the safe confines of our cultural comfort zones. It is as if we are saying, “I’m contemporary, don’t try to make me sing hymns.” or “I’m traditional, don’t try to make me sing these weird new songs.” What we are really saying is, “I’m comfortable with what I already know and like. Don’t make me work.” Doesn’t that attitude constitute cheap praise and lazy worship?
Look to Your Leaders
Look at those people on your Sunday worship platform. Their faces beam with the joy of praise. Their bodies move to the rhythms of worship. And here you are in the pew trying get through another song service. What is the difference? Those singers and players up on the platform have paid a price for their praise. They have worked at their worship. They got here an hour before you did to prepare their praise. They gave a whole evening sometime during the last week to work on their worship skills. Their extravagant praise and worship springs from a costly routine of rehearsal and prayer. It isn’t cheap and they aren’t lazy. They have disciplined themselves in their schedules and denied themselves the freedom others enjoy to make the music of praise and worship.
Look at your worship leader. For every song they ask you to sing, they have listened to five or more. Every song list they lead you through is really a sacrifice of praise, the product of seasons of prayer and a lifestyle of worship study. They, and their staff, have worked many hours this week preparing the songs they ask you to sing. It is by no means cheap and they are by no means lazy.
Look at your pastor. He or she is about to preach the Word. All hell opposes them. He/she needs warriors on the platform and in the pews who will chase devils with the power of their praise and the worthiness of their worship. He/she doesn’t need fair weather worshipers who give up when it costs too much or when the work is too hard. They also are men and women of worship. They have paid a price in the Secret Place for the Word they will deliver to you today. They need the pathway of your praise that takes us all through the Gates of Thanksgiving and Courts of Praise. They need the work of your worship to bring us into the Holy Place where the Prayer (Altar of Incense) and the Word of God (Table of Shewbread) pulse with power of the Holy Spirit (Golden Lampstand). Why? Because your pastor’s deepest desire is to go with you through the Torn Veil of Jesus Himself into the Holy of Holies where the fullness of God’s provision meets the desperation of human need. There is too much at stake in today’s service to be coy with our praise and selfish with our worship.
Look Inside Your Heart
Look at your heart. Is your heart fixed on Jesus? Are you determined to praise Him and worship Him in spite of the music chosen rather than because of it? Did you come to the service determined to present your personal sacrifice of praise to the Lord? Is your highest goal to GIVE unto the Lord or to RECEIVE from him? Because He is a faithful Father, He will always bless. But are we faithful children who will always pay the price to praise or do the work of worship?
Look at your Savior. He gave His all and all He is looking for from us is True Worship. Do we keep Him waiting for us to minister to Him while we argue our personal preferences? Do we see Him weeping over the multitudes within striking distance of our sanctuary who are speeding into hell while we debate tempo and style? Like He did the home of Simon the Pharisee, Jesus has come to our house. Are we washing His feet with our praise? Are we giving Him the seat of honor with our worship? Or do we think that He has come to serve us, to answer our laundry list of requests?
Cheap praise and lazy worship do little for Jesus. Let us all stretch beyond our comfort zones today. Let us buy the whole field (contemporary, traditional) so that we can have the one great Pearl of Great Price (Jesus). Let us pay the price of True Praise. Let us do the work of True Worship. When we do, His Kingdom will come and His Will will be done in this very room.
Dr. Steve Phifer received a Doctorate in Worship Studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. He has taught at Valley Forge University and Southeastern Assemblies of God University. For many years he was the Worship Pastor at Word of Life Church in Alexandria, VA.
More of Dr. Phifer’s materials can be found at stevephifer.com.