Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever,
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100:1, 5
Prayer is worship. But what is worship? And why does God need our worship? I think novelist Marilynne Robinson summarized well what is at the heart of worship: “God does not need our worship. We worship to enlarge our sense of the holy, so that we can feel and know the presence of the Lord, who is with us always…Love is what it amounts to, a loftier love, and pleasure in the loving presence.” (Marilynne Robinson, Home, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2008, p 110.)
According to the text from Psalm 100, worship is a response of joyful love to the One who made us. We respond in joyful love because God is good and loving. Our genuine, fully embodied response of love to the One who is love is our worship.
But for many of us worship is something far less than this. For some it is the fearful act of placating a god who demands to be adored. For others it is an act of groveling as unworthy beings before a god who won’t even look at us. For others it is a disembodied ritual, an attempt to gain approval from a disapproving god.
But true worship is not placating or groveling or going through the motions. True worship is the activity of people who know they are creatures who belong to their loving Creator. Worship then becomes a simple, child-like act of responsive joy and gratitude by created beings to their Maker.
This same psalm pictures our relationship with God as being like the relationship between a flock of sheep and a loving Shepherd. The image might be of a group of lambs who have been let out of the barn for the first time. It is spring and they are romping in the meadow under the sun. Their Shepherd is with them and knows them each by name. They do not try to be the shepherd. They are free to be the lambs they are. They know they are safe in the Shepherd’s care. They know they belong to their Shepherd. They are free to be fully who they are. Their joy, their gladness is their gift of love to their Shepherd. It is their adoration, their worship.
A similar image might be that of young children, running to the door to throw themselves into their mommy’s or daddy’s arms the minute they walk into the house. This loving, adoring response is their spontaneous gift of love to their parent. Their parent does not expect this or demand this. But they do receive it with joy. The parent’s delight and the child’s delight are mingled in these moments in which love is celebrated.
We are God’s lambs, we are God’s children. We are loved beyond telling. We run to God in joy and gladness. We romp and play near our Shepherd, free and safe and full of adoration for this One who made us and who watches over us. Our glad adoration and love is our worship.
You are God.
You made us.
You love us.
You watch over us.
We come to you
We love you.
We adore you.
Ask God to guide your heart and mind as you reflect on God as your Maker and as you reflect on God as your Shepherd, who continually cares for you. Allow yourself to respond to God by expressing your love and joy and adoration in whatever way you choose. Your response to God is your prayer of worship.