Private/Public Worship


True Worship is always personal.  Sometimes we worship in the company of others, in the community of the redeemed, and sometimes we worship privately in the Secret Place.  Both venues are vital to the Christian life.  As these columns unfold, at least for the first 30 weeks or so, we will constantly switching between the two.  The relationship between them is crucial to a good theology of worship and to the effective practice of worship.  True effectiveness as a believer in the Lord Jesus begins and is maintained in the Secret Place of prayer.  Jesus gives us important details on private worship and how it fuels the public life of devotion to God.  Paul tells us about the Life of Prayer that leads to a powerful public ministry.  Of course the Bible is our source of information about public worship as well.  There is so much to know, so much to teach.

Private Worship

For most of my ministry life the emphasis has been on public worship–what we sing and say and do in church.  My shameful little secret has been that I struggled with private worship.  I don’t think I am alone in this struggle.  The Scriptures and church history demonstrate the vital linkage between private prayer and public worship.  In the next two columns I will present a brief exposition of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles on private prayer.  For now, let me emphasize the role private prayer plays in public worship.

In essence, private worship fuels public worship.  Paul said it this way:  “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church” (1 Co 14:26-27 NIV.  It is apparent to the Pentecostal that these people were spending time with Jesus in the Secret Place.  They came to church ready to worship because they had been worshiping all week!  All the Apostle did was give them form for their fire–“for the strengthening of the church.”

Is there anything more affirming in the believer’s life than this:  to hear from the Lord in the Secret place through the week and them hear the worship leader and pastor present those same truths in the public worship service?  The Holy Spirit is speaking to the church.  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rv 3:22 NIV).  This hearing of the voice of the Spirit is our legacy as Pentecostals.

Public Worship

We are meant to serve the Lord in community, not just on our own.  Corporate Biblical images abound: the army of the Lord, the Body of Christ, a Holy Nation, a Holy-Royal Priesthood, a People Purchased by God and several more.  There are no lone-wolf Christians.  Corporate worship includes corporate prayer, one of the most powerful forces in all of creation.  It is also a public witness to the claims of Christ.  Our praise proclaims Him Lord and Savior, Healer and Baptizer, ever-present Friend, and soon coming King!  The Blessed Sacrament of The Lord’s Table celebrates the whole salvation narrative:  the creation, the incarnation, the atonement, the resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Lordship of Christ and His soon return.  True worship is one of the most evangelistic things the church can do!

Worship and Time

At the heart of private and public worship is the concept of Sacred Time.  We are told to redeem the time.  How do we do that?  One way is to honor the Lord with our calendars and clocks.  Private worship is attempt to live the Life of Prayer.  We can “pray without ceasing” with daily prayer and Bible reading.  In ancient spirituality, the minimum amount of daily prayer was morning and evening.  To start and end each day with prayer, with private worship, is to frame each day in worship.  The weekly expression of Sacred Time is the Lord’s Day.  The Lord’s Day is more than the Jewish Sabbath which was a day of worship and rest.  The Christian Lord’s Day is the Sabbath plus a celebration of Jesus!  The first day of the week is really the eighth day of creation–the day of the New Creation–the Day of the Resurrection!  Christians worship, rest and celebrate the Jesus story–the Gospel of Christ which is the power of God unto salvation for all peoples.

So, we worship Him daily and gather together weekly to celebrate the Lord.  Private worship and public worship are each vital to the other and essential for the church today.


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

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