Think about the last time you prayed. How much of your time was spent praising God, worshiping him, bowing in awe at his majesty and power? It isn’t a very natural way to behave.
We human beings prefer to talk about ourselves. I did this. I did that. I think this. I think that. We truly believe that when we talk with someone, that person is eager to hear what we are about. In fact, the most likely truth is that the person listening is simply watching for an opportunity to interrupt and tell his own story.
Worship isn’t natural.
Students of humanity often say that worship is natural, because it is quite natural for humans to recognize spiritual beings and to interact with them. This behavior, however, is not necessarily worship. It may simply be the same manipulative fawning we are accustomed to see in used car salesmen. Many animist religions are largely consumed with pleasing the gods and doing what will influence the gods to do things for people. In fact, in Mexico, Laos and Vietnam, Christians are often harassed or even driven out of their homes, because they refuse to do the things that are considered necessary to placate local gods and assure prosperity for the community.
This is not worship. This is exploitation of a relationship. When someone does it to me, I don’t like it. When people turn from animism to Christianity and try to relate to God in that way, he doesn’t like it, either.
Some of the most magnificent images in the Bible are those that portray worship as it occurs in heaven. God is the unseen being who resides in blinding brilliance surrounding by myriads and myriads of angels and worshipers. They sing. They pray. They praise God.
Psalm 66 gives all of us words that express praise and adoration that is selfless and focused on God. When Jesus said that in order to follow him we must deny self, this is what he was talking about – a frame of mind that is focused exclusively on God.
Read Psalm 66 and pray it as your own words. Remember that this is from the prayerbook of Jesus. When Jesus prayed this prayer, he was, in fact, sinless. When we pray this prayer, we are covered by the righteousness of Christ on the cross. Pray a prayer that asks for nothing, and give your whole self to the Lord.
For the director of music. A song. A psalm.
1 Shout with joy to God, all the earth!
2 Sing the glory of his name;
make his praise glorious!
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power
that your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth bows down to you;
they sing praise to you,
they sing praise to your name.” Selah
5 Come and see what God has done,
how awesome his works in man’s behalf!
6 He turned the sea into dry land,
they passed through the waters on foot—
come, let us rejoice in him.
7 He rules forever by his power,
his eyes watch the nations—
let not the rebellious rise up against him. Selah
8 Praise our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
9 he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
10 For you, O God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
11 You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
12 You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.
13 I will come to your temple with burnt offerings
and fulfill my vows to you—
14 vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke
when I was in trouble.
15 I will sacrifice fat animals to you
and an offering of rams;
I will offer bulls and goats. Selah
16 Come and listen, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
17 I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
18 If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
19 but God has surely listened
and heard my voice in prayer.
20 Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!
Psalm 66, ESV
How does it feel to praise God and ask nothing in return?