We are probably all aware of the command to worship the Lord “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) – but sometimes that is more easily said than done. While worshipping in truth (in the right way) may be a given, worshipping in spirit (with the right attitude) is not always as simple. Despite our best intentions, we find our minds wandering and our hearts distant from the worship our Lord commands and our soul so desperately craves.
To worship in spirit – with the right attitude and a present heart and mind – requires focus and intentional, consistent effort.
While it is easy to judge those who find it difficult to engage in the service, we need to realise something about ourselves as human beings – that our spirit is often willing, but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38). If you have found your mind wandering in worship – you’re not alone. This, however, doesn’t excuse us from trying our very best – it simply means that we have to be aware of this weakness in ourselves and find ways to keep our hearts and minds present.
In today’s world, this is increasingly difficult. Our attention spans are getting shorter and our distractions greater, as our devices blink and buzz for our attention and our culture of instant gratification makes a 15 to 30-minute sermon seem like an eternity. Add a few kids into the mix and, well, some Sundays it feels like a small wonder if you take in anything.
How can we bring our hearts and minds into our worship? Here are a 6 small, practical changes you can make that will make a huge impact on your Sunday.
– Pray on the way.
Turn off the radio and say a prayer on the way. Pray that you will be able to focus. Pray that the children will behave so you can listen. Pray for the speaker and worship leaders. Pray for wisdom to remember and apply what you will learn. We can’t expect God to give us what we don’t ask for! Pray like He is a God of this morning, too.
– Take notes during the sermon.
There are a number of things that taking notes during a sermon can help you with:
- You can keep your focus. It’s easy for your attention to stray if you simply listen – but if you are actively engaging the sermon you will have less trouble with focusing.
- You retain more information. By simply listening, you actually retain very little of the information – in searching for numbers it was hard to find a definitive number, but the range of difference between simply listening and taking notes was 10-20% vs 50-80%.
- You have a written reminder of what you have learnt. When you think, “What was that point he made…?” you will know because you took it down!
- You will have a way to make a meaningful compliment to the speaker. He’ll love it when you can give him an exact quote of what he said. Better yet – post it on social media! Preachers need your support and encouragement and this is a great (and easy!) way to give it!
We need to remember well the instruction we got from our Lord: “Be careful how you hear” (Luke 8:18).
– Take care how you sing.
There are 3 things you can do to make your song service more edifying:
- Sing loudly and enthusiastically. Singing is meant to teach and encourage (Colossians 3:16) – how encouraging is it when you mumble along in song? Think about how much you want to encourage your brothers and sisters, and sing accordingly.
- Make sure you understand what you are singing. Understanding what you are singing is just as important as preaching the right message. Make the same determination as Paul: “I will sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Make sure you care more about what you are saying than how you are singing.
- Remember who you are singing for. As Paul says after the admonishment to sing in the right way and with the right heart, he says, “do everything in the name [or, “authority” – CM] of the Lord” (v.17). This means even your singing. Do it in the right way and in a way that gives Him all the glory and praise.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:16, 17).
– Turn on airplane mode
…or leave that device at home. You don’t need anything distracting you from your worship, since it’s already hard enough to focus! Make things easier for yourself. Honestly, I found that I was finding my device too much of a distraction, even in airplane mode, and I choose leave it at home most of the time now.
– Reflect during Communion.
Since the Lord’s Supper is the reason we all gather together on Sunday, it makes sense to approach it with intention so we can focus like we should. Some things that have helped me focus during the Lord’s Supper are:
- Focusing on one of the crucifixion/suffering passages. Isaiah 53 is a favourite.
- Reading over a hymn about his suffering.
- Writing down a prayer thanking God for His sacrifice.
Whatever you do, be intentional – and don’t be afraid to mix it up! When you think of doing this every week for the rest of your life, you don’t want this to become a dead tradition to you. Keep it alive and make this a special time of reflection and praise between you and your Lord.
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:26-29).
– Be ready the night before…
…and the night before and the night before. I’m not just talking about laying it your clothes or finding a focus passage on Saturday night, although that is a good practice. The truth is, no matter how much we prepare or plan on Saturday and Sunday, if we aren’t living out our Christianity and seeking Him from Monday to Friday – we will not be prepared to worship as we ought on Sunday. If we find our worship services bland, boring and unfulfilling – we need to look inwards. What is my daily practice? Am I taking up my cross daily, and following Him? If we aren’t, then nothing we do on Sunday will be enough to rouse our apathetic spirits into meaningful and God-pleasing worship. Seek Him Sunday – but remember to seek Him every other day of the week as well.
“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
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What things have you found help you to worship in spirit on Sunday morning?
What tools and traditions help you to worship in spirit as you worship in truth?
My prayer is that this year will be a year where you intentionally seek to worship Him in both spirit and truth as you climb ever upwards.