[Jesus speaking] “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:23-24 (NLT)
It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. – Revelation 1:10 (NLT)
Worshiping in the Spirit…
It’s an expression that is often used in Christian circles, but I’m not so sure it’s a concept that is fully grasped or practiced by most Christians.
We first see this expression spoken by Jesus and then recorded by the Apostle John in chapter four of his Gospel. John uses this expression in scripture again in the opening discourse of the book of Revelation, but this time he does so in reference to himself.
So what does it mean to worship in Spirit?
To answer this question fully, it requires a little understanding of basic theology so let me start there…
Thanks to the completed, saving work of Jesus, anyone who has placed their faith in His salvation now has direct access to God (see Eph. 2:14-18; Rom. 5:2; & Heb. 10:19 for reference). This also means that the worship of God is not confined to a single geographical location or a single people/ethnic group. Nor is worship necessarily regulated by the temporary provisions of religious orthodoxy or practice (you can read more about this in Hebrews 8-9).
Because worship is not confined to a single place, people, or moment, this means that true worship must be “in spirit.” In other words, worshiping in spirit is an act that engages the whole heart. Throughout the Bible, “the heart” is used to represent the place of mental and emotional commitment, often expressing itself passionately and outwardly. Unless there’s a real passion for God, there is no worship “in spirit.”
At the same time, Jesus also said that worship must be “in truth,” meaning it must be properly informed. Unless we have personal knowledge of the God we are worshiping, there is no “worshiping in truth” taking place. Worshiping in both spirit and truth are necessary for God-honoring worship. Worshiping without truth leads to a shallow, solely emotional experience. But worshiping in truth without being in the spirit can result in a dry, passionless encounter that can easily lead to a form of joyless legalism (aka “Christian karaoke”).
So how do we worship in the Spirit?
I think the best way to worship in the Spirit is to practice the presence of God in your life. You must make it a point to actively be in His presence.
“To be with Him, we must cultivate the holy habit of thinking of Him often. The soul learns which activities bring God’s presence nearer and remains in His presence by practicing those activities.” – Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
I shared this quote in a recent sermon and I love it because Brother Lawrence cut directly to the chase:
Engaging God’s presence (i.e. worshiping in the Spirit) is a continual and intentional practice.
So let me share four ways you can worship in the Spirit:
- I wrote about this in a previous devotional, but being deliberate in prayer is the starting point for worshiping in the Spirit. If you want to connect with the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and worship in the Spirit, then you’re going to have to cultivate an intentional prayer life that goes beyond submitting requests and desires to God. You’ll need to seek the Spirit’s desires and respond accordingly.
2. Silence & Invitation
- In a busy world and distracted society, it’s so difficult to sit in a silent room for even a few minutes. But this is why this practice has become even more important! Our minds are often junk drawers, filled with all sorts of random thoughts, tasks, burdens, and more. Silence and Invitation is the spiritual equivalent of cleaning out the junk drawers. By eliminating all of those other distractions, and simply focusing on being in and with the Spirit, we open new pathways for connection, intimacy, and worship.
- Meditating on God’s Word and His work is an incredible way of being drawn into the Spirit! When you see His hand move from the pages of the Bible and into your life, you can’t help but feel compelled to connect with Him. Deepening your thoughts about God, thinking of Him often (as Brother Lawrence wrote), and dwelling on what He has done are different keys to unlocking worship in the Spirit.
- A Retreat is anything that pulls you away from one thing or one place, so you can be elsewhere instead. Elijah, David, Jesus, and John the Baptist are all biblical examples who practiced retreating so they could connect with God in spirit. Sometimes a retreat can be as simple as pulling away from your desk for 15 minutes in the afternoon just to connect with God; or it can be as premeditated as planning a trip away where you will focus solely on God. However you do it, making a practice to retreat will produce great fruit in your faith.
I know it might feel like a lot, but my hope is that you would begin to practice and engage all of these areas!
I feel like I’ve been on a quest these last 3-4 years of truly seeking to walk in the Spirit, abide in the Spirit, and worship in the Spirit. I know there is so much more for me to experience and to unlock in my faith, but I can see the progress I’ve made and how much of an impact it’s made in my life.
And this excites me for YOU!
I believe the Holy Spirit has so much more for YOU.
He’s only just beginning and I cannot wait to see how it unfolds in your life!