By Steve Parrish, Jr, Worship Leader
Have you ever been in a corporate worship setting and just felt the presence of God? It is an indescribable feeling. There is nothing quite like worship with other brothers and sister in God’s family. The atmosphere is incredible.
Now, what if I told you the same experience is attainable by yourself? It’s true; God is with you every moment of every day. The issue is that we don’t always access his presence on a consistent basis. On a personal level, maybe it’s a lack of time, or perhaps it’s something that is honestly uncomfortable, or maybe we just don’t know it’s something God wants us to do.
Worshiping God in private is, in my experience, a completely different battle than that of a corporate setting. There’s no one around to synergize with in pushing into God’s presence. It relies on my willingness and desire to push through. The reward for engaging is an even more intimate worship experience you won’t find anywhere else.
Behind Closed Doors
The religious leaders of Jesus’ time took pride in loud, demonstrative prayer. They wanted to be noticed by all. To them, praying and worshiping louder than everyone else equated them to being more holy, or so they wanted people to think. It was a practice that Jesus ridiculed and emphasized the exact opposite behavior in Matthew 6:5-6:
“5When you pray, do not be like those who only pretend to be holy.
They love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners.
They want to be seen by others. What I'm about to tell you is true.
They have received their complete reward.
6When you pray, go into your room. Close the door and pray to
your Father, who can't be seen. He will reward you.
Your Father sees what is done secretly.”
Here we can see that Jesus drove home the point of prayer, and also worship (as we have previously established), behind closed doors and away from prying eyes. Now, the promise of God rewarding us for our actions is not the reason to engage in private worship. Rewards should never be our motivation for engaging with God. To do so would implant the perspective that we can, or have to, earn God’s favor, when there are dozens upon dozens of verses in the Bible that state the exact opposite. So that brings up the question: why should I worship privately?
I have been married to my best friend and most loyal person I have ever known for about a year-and-a-half: my wife, Mary. She is truly proof that there is a good God. Now, a year-and-a-half is not a very long time in terms of life commitment. While it is a short time, I have learned a thing or two along the way about marriage’s dynamics and in getting to know my wife, I have learned one of the things she values over all: intimacy.
Marriage doesn’t work without it. There is nothing in the world like connecting to someone on more than just a surface level. I do enjoy spending time with friends and talking about life events, hobbies, and what football team will win it all this year, but all of that is so shallow compared to walking step-by-step with someone through the triumphs, the failures, the hard times, and the times of bliss. A marriage without intimacy is just an acquaintance-like relationship with a binding legal document.
Our walk with God is no different. Without engaging in intimate worship with God, our relationship is surface level. When times get hard, that bond is easily broken and there is little to no faith that God will come through for us, even though He does time and time again. We only want to be with God when it pleases us and gives us benefit but the moment the iron of life comes to sharpen and strengthen the iron of our relationship with God, we become brittle and break.
Engaging in intimate worship with Him strengthens our bond just as a husband and wife continue to grow closer together through intimacy. It allows us to walk step-by-step with God. As a result of us doing so, God promises to reward our actions. Even though rewards are not the cause of what I do, I will gladly let the reward of becoming closer to God be the reason I engage in private worship, because that is what I truly want.