If you were to draw a picture of worship, what would you draw? What does worship look like? When I google an image on worship, I find silhouettes of men and women whose faces tilt toward a sunset and lift their hands to heaven. But is worship lifting our hands and repeatedly lifting God’s name as if we are somehow pushing Him higher into prominence?
I’ve often pictured worship as bowing low before the Lord. When I was in sixth grade, my pastor preached a sermon on Elijah. I don’t remember the main points in his outline, but I remember his demonstration of Elijah’s prayer. Squatting on the platform, Pastor Pyle bent until his head was between his knees to show us the humility required in worship. Had we ever physically humbled ourselves before God in prayer? I hadn’t. But after that, I did from time to time. In periods of earnestness in my walk with God, I bowed my face to the ground in school stairwells, in my home kitchen, or beside my bed.
But now I’m learning what that outward sign of worship symbolizes. Recently, I read a book that stirred me to examine my walk with the Lord and my commitment to Him. At the end of this book, the author, Sarah Mally, charges, “This book was written to the girl who is willing to lose everything for Jesus, who knows that Jesus is her treasure above all treasures. This girl abides in Jesus, and His words abide in her. And through her life, the Lord brings forth much fruit.” How I longed for that to be true of me! Mentally, I threw myself before the Lord and begged, “Oh Lord, may that be me! I want that to be me!”
“What?” you may ask. “You want to lose everything for Jesus? Be careful what you pray for!” For we know that when we pray for lessons in self-sacrifice, we are really praying for a trial. Didn’t Paul’s intimacy with the Lord include Paul’s experiences in “the fellowship of his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10, KJV)? Yet true worship involves casting ourselves at the feet of our Master and committing ourselves wholly to Him. It’s not a feeling of devotion. It’s not even an adoring gaze. Worship is bowing to our Lord’s will moment by moment, deciding that the “sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18, KJV).
Worship is sacrificially laying our life before the Lord moment by moment. It is getting out of bed in the early hours of a cold, dark morning to spend some time reading His Word and surrendering ourselves anew. It is prostrating ourselves beside our beds to plead for the souls that are entrusted to our care. It is setting boundaries in our lives that protect us from falling into sin. It is handing a tract to the cashier because God commands us to share the gospel. It is working a job that we dislike so that we can live God’s truth and love before the lost. It is asking to be purged of sin and self, embracing the trials that purify us, and begging to be broken in imitation of the One who was broken for us.
Does that image scare you? It terrifies me. Yet “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, KJV). When I mentally sketch a picture of my Lord, I depict Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, facing the terror of Calvary. At the cross, I trace the image of my Master as He bows beneath my sin and suffers an eternity of God’s wrath to redeem my life from destruction (Psalm 103:4, KJV). Such sacrifice compels me to etch myself at the foot of the cross, offering my life back to Him. If He gave His all for me, how can I do less than worship Him?