by Marjorie Truesdale

If you were suddenly taken into custody in the middle of the night, with only the clothes on your back, would you be prepared to maintain your own spiritual life? Or another question, if you were arrested and chained in a dirty, cold prison cell like Paul and Silas (in Acts 16:22-28), would you likely think about singing? Have you ever intentionally worshiped during really hard times?

What is Worship?
As a child growing up in Sunday School, I would have told you that worship means going to church every Sunday, singing the “Church Songs,” putting my offering in the plate, memorizing my Scripture verses, and learning the Bible story. But is that REALLY worship? Or are those physical acts only just that? Acts!

God created us to be worshippers. God designed worship as a means for us to know Him. When we worship God, we lay down whatever consumes us and become consumed with Him. Worship is humanity’s highest calling, and miraculously, ordinary human worship becomes the throne room and dwelling place of the Most High God. In fact, like the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus, an act of worship, our special time with Him is LIKE a sweet fragrance as well. “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2

But do we, as the created ones, automatically worship our Creator? Absolutely NOT. Human beings can choose the object of their worship. We will worship someone or something: God, ourselves, our jobs, sports, ministry, our stomachs. “… many live as enemies of the cross of Christ… their god is their stomach...” (Philippians 3:18-19) and the list can go on and on.

Is Praise Different from Worship?
I’d like to suggest that praise and worship, even though we often use the words interchangeable, are together like a bicycle built for two. Worship is delighting in His presence, telling Him I love Him; praise is thanking Him for what He’s given me. He delights in both.

Music will be a big part of our praise. It involves more of our senses. Praise is sometimes called a sacrifice because we sacrifice our time and self-focus in order to direct our attention to the Lord. Praise and worship take the focus off of ourselves and put it entirely on God.

What God Longs For?
He longs for us to be thirsty for Him! His desire for us is to choose against all the things that we think will satisfy our longings, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” Isaiah 55:2 and agree with David when he said, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

If you are married, as well as have daughters who are married, you know what it is like when a young woman is getting ready for her wedding. Her all-consuming thoughts are“The Wedding!” And so it can be for all of us in our relationship to God. And He promises to fill our needs with Himself. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they WILL BE completely satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

What Keeps ME From Making God The Center of My Worship?
There has been a worship war going on since before the beginning of time! Lucifer wanted to be worshipped instead of God. And now he works 24/7 to lure us into following him. He subtly asks us the same question he asked Eve “Do you want to be like God?” Before you say NO! ask yourself: “What or who do I spend most of my time thinking about? What do I think of first thing in the morning or last thing at night as I drift off to sleep?” Is it what you worship?

Satan is like a jilted lover. If we have chosen to follow Jesus, Jesus is now our bridegroom. But Satan never gives up, never quits attempting to distract us, even with wonderful “Christian” things.

How Can I Make Worship A Priority?
Plan! Plan the night before, to get sufficient sleep. Plan what you will do. Plan a place. Does this sound a bit legalistic? Let me ask you, “Do you brush your teeth every morning?” Do you think every day, “Do I have time to do this or not?” Or is it automatic enough that you have a tooth brush, tooth paste, and just do it! Isn’t that a bit legalistic? I don’t think so. Some habits can be wonderful ones and enable us to have less stress in our lives because they eliminate too many decisions.

I have a spot in the house where I meet with God before anything else happens in my day. I have my Bible, my journal, a CD player, and a hymn book. Often I begin with a song. Not one “about Him” but one “to Him.” Frequently it is a hymn: Crown Him With Many Crowns, Great Is Thy Faithfulness or Holy, Holy, Holy. Words of the song often trigger more thoughts about God and His attributes. Then I will move into reading the Scripture, journaling, and praying for needs after a time of worship.

This has been the sacrifice He asks for; laying aside my agenda and putting Him first in my day. A BIG part of worship is also daily doing what He says. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:1-2

Then Practice, Practice, Practice.

Prepare to worship during hard times by practicing now! Practice now for eternity!

I planned this topic for an article before Christmas. During the past 3 ˝ months, God has given me the opportunity to “practice what I preach.” We found out in mid-December that my husband had a serious medical condition. I was also expecting to have a hip replacement. As January and February turned into March, both of us have experienced a real decline in health. I have been challenged by Matt Redman’s song, BLESSED BE YOUR NAME.

Blessed Be Your Name, in the land that is plentiful where Your streams of abundance flow.
Blessed Be Your name, When I'm found in the desert place though I walk through the wilderness, Blessed Be Your name.
Every blessing You pour out, I'll turn back to praise when the darkness closes in, Lord, Still I will say. Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be Your glorious name.
Blessed be Your name, When the sun's shining down on me when the world's 'all as it should be,
Blessed be Your name, On the road marked with suffering though there's pain in the offering, Blessed be Your name. Blessed be Your glorious name.
You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name.

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As I finish writing today, I am packing a bag for the hospital and will be in surgery Monday, April 20. My checklist of things to take will include several worship CD’s as well as my Bible and Journal.

Below I have included two other times that God has met me in very dark moments. I am praying He will teach you more about Himself, and how to worship Him, as you go through the storms.

When I was in my 40’s I walked into a large church in southern California as over 500 worshippers started to sing an old Maranatha song “Father, I Adore You”. When they sang the second line “… lay my life before You…” I started to weep. Thirty six hours later I would be in surgery for 3rd stage cancer. During the prior two weeks of phone calls asking friends for prayer, making transportation arrangement for our school age children, and more doctor appointments, I had not cried. But this evening, as the congregation sang, I wept. Laying my life before Him, telling Him I adored Him and loved Him; suddenly took on new meaning. The next 45 minutes, they sang and I cried. The amazing end result was peace, knowing that I had truly put myself into the Father’s hands. Hearing music had bathed me in His love. It was a spiritual experience I will never forget.

Fast forward almost 20 years. A family member received such devastating news, that without God’s intervention, our lives would be changed more than the effects of the worse natural disaster. For the next several months, I was awake by 4 AM. Slipping out of bed and wrapped up in a blanket, I sat on the sofa, pulling out a tiny personal CD player out from under the furniture. With earphones on so I won’t wake others, I listened to my favorite worship music, and wept. God met me in my place of deep emotional pain and gave me His peace. I was able to walk through the next six months trusting Him NO MATTER WHAT!

Recommended Books:

The Beginner’s Guide to Worshiping God by Gary Kinnaman

I Praise You, O God by Michael Youssef - 31 short chapters designed to be a daily devotional. Each one ends with related Scripture.)

Prayer Warrior by Stormie Omartian