“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.” ~Acts 16:25-26
Sometimes, we think we have to be in a “good spiritual place” to worship God; we have to look our Sunday-best, feel celebratory, have our best voices to come and sing. But that’s a false idea. Paul and Silas were imprisoned and tortured right before their earth-shaking worship session. They were definitely not looking their best, and we can imagine they were definitely not feeling their best either, with the bruises of being beaten with rods still smarting that night (Acts 16:22-24).
But they sang anyways.
And in singing and praying, they were freed – literally. It was when they sang through their suffering that God worked most powerfully.
How often do we sing through our suffering? How often do we choose to enter church in a state of spiritual yearning and hurt?
After committing adultery, deceit, and murder, King David was driven to his knees in shame and guilt after Nathan rebuked him (2 Samuel 12:9-14). David was at his lowest point; this deed was one of the biggest failures in his life. He could have chosen to cast his eyes downward, away from God’s good holiness. He could have chosen to wallow in his shame and guilt.
But instead, David chose to sing Psalm 51.
And after allowing David to suffer the consequences of his sin, God restored and sanctified him.
How often do we choose to sing in the face of our own failures, of our own guilt? How often do we choose to fear the glory of God in a state of spiritual shame?
Worship through song and prayer is powerful and liberating. Glorifying God is a form of release, a form of abandoning any semblance of dignity to prostrate oneself before the face of God’s good holiness. God does not command us to be squeaky-clean worshippers, to be guarded and holier-than-thou; He is the only One who is truly holy.
God wants us to come before Him without hesitation – in all our ugly sinfulness, failure, and shame; He wants us to come before Him in complete surrender and awe to His glory, goodness, and perfection. In coming to worship before God in our weakness, we experience His power, sanctification, and conviction all the more powerfully in our hearts.
And coming to worship Him in complete surrender means doing so in reverent solitude and in sacred assembly. Worship means getting away from the crowd by experiencing His presence alone in your room. Worship also means allowing yourself to look like a fool before others, whether it be singing loudly with a croaky voice in exultation or sobbing as others sing around you.
At the heart of worship is surrender. In complete surrender, we lose ourselves in God’s goodness and glory. In complete surrender, we are transformed, sanctified, and convicted.
All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him, I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him;
In His presence daily live.
~I Surrender All – Judson Van DeVenter, 1896