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The goal of Discipleship Fridays is to give you different ways to connect with God, or in other words, to practice daily worship. It is primarily through daily worship that we feed ourselves spiritually and thereby grow as Christians.
Each week we will have a different voice in our Leadership Community share how he or she practices daily worship and we’ll give you instructions and resources on how to apply that person’s method to your own spiritual life. We hope that this will enrich your own spiritual life as well as equip you to disciple others in this critical dimension of the Christian walk.
For this introductory week we’ve provided a few general comments on what daily worship is, why it’s important, and how to go about doing it.
Daily worship is simply spending time with God each day. It is also called quiet time, devotional time, time with God, time set apart, etc.
What daily worship looks like will vary for each person since God has created each of us uniquely and relates to each of us differently. However, for all of us, daily worship should involve at least some combination of prayer and Scripture. See below for more details.
Daily worship pleases God. This alone is reason enough for us to practice daily worship. Revelation 5:8 says our prayers are incense rising before God in His throne room, an aroma that He finds delightful. Jesus tells us that the Father longs for those who worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). The entirety of the biblical story tells how God desires to be with His people.
Jesus practiced daily worship (Mark 1:35; cf. Matt 14:23; Mark 6:46; Luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:18; 11:1). If Jesus found it necessary to spend time with God, how much more do we need that time? In addition, as disciples of Jesus, we should be striving to become like him, thinking like he thinks, loving as he loves, and acting as he acts.
Jesus assumed that we would practice daily worship (Matt 6:5-6), and the NT is peppered with commands to pray (Matt 5:44; 6:6; Mark 11:25; Luke 11:2; Eph 6:18; 1 Thess 5:7; 1 Tim 2:8; James 5:13; Jude 20).
Jesus says that eternal life is knowing God the Father and himself (John 17:3). As with any human relationship, how do you expect to know God if you don’t spend time with Him?
It is in daily worship that God gives us the grace to face the day along with many other benefits.
Set aside a specific time. It helps to schedule the same time every day to practice daily worship. If you don’t prioritize the time or if you vary it too much day-to-day, the time will often get lost in the daily shuffle of activity. Setting aside a specific time also helps to get yourself in the right frame of mind. In the same way that many married couples schedule a date night to make sure that they actually connect, so also it helps us to be intentional about connecting with God.
Set aside a specific place. In the same way that setting aside a specific time helps us to be intentional about connecting with God, so also choosing a particular place helps us to frame our minds around the fact that we are meeting with Almighty God Himself when we practice daily worship. For some, this might be a particular room or a particular chair. For others, it might have been a chapel (prior to lockdown ) or it might be going for a walk. Wherever you choose, make sure it is a place where you won’t be distracted.
Get alone with God. Daily worship is about connecting with God; it is about getting to know Him and building relationship and intimacy with Him. You can’t do that easily in a group setting. You can’t rely on someone else’s relationship with Him to get by. We each need to interact with God individually, and Jesus appears to assume that we will do so (see Matt 6:5, which is addressed to “you all” vs. Matt 6:6, which is addressed to “you” singular). Granted, some cultures are more communal and approach daily worship together; if this describes your situation, what matters is that each person is interacting with God vs. spectating.
Remove the distractions. Just as it is difficult (and disrespectful) to have a conversation with another person when we are constantly checking our phones and/or watching tv, so also when we are meeting with God distractions will greatly impede our ability to hear from God and build intimacy with Him. Choose a place where you’ll be able to focus your attention on God. Put aside your phone. If you must use your phone to read Scripture or listen to worship music, don’t give yourself permission to use it for anything else. Make sure the tv and computer are off and try to ensure that others won’t be interrupting you. Commit to pushing aside the distractions while you practice daily worship.
Posture. Choose a posture that balances your comfort and your expression with respect for God and feel free to vary it from session to session or within a session. For those able, kneeling can help to remind us of our humble position when we are seeking an audience with the utterly holy and infinite Creator and Ruler of heaven and earth. It is also ideal for prayers of confession and repentance. For many of us, it is easier to focus when we are sitting or lying down (presuming that we aren’t in danger of getting drowsy), and these more comfortable positions may be better suited for expressing our intimacy with God. Walking or standing or dancing can also be helpful for expressing ourselves or even to help us stay awake! What matters more than our physical posture is the posture of our hearts.
Choose a method that works for you. Each of us is created uniquely and thereby each of us connects with God differently. One can focus on Scripture (in a variety of ways), pray (in a variety of ways), listen to worship music, journal (in a variety of ways), walk, read Christian books, reflect on the lives of passionate Christians, etc. Different approaches will be more suitable for different people and for different seasons. That being said, there are two common threads that should run through everyone’s daily worship. First, we should begin our time by asking the Holy Spirit to help us connect with God and by reflecting for at least a moment that God is present (Ps 139:1-12; Jer 23:24; Matt 6:6). Second, every session should involve some element of prayer and/or Scripture, preferably both. In this life, prayer is the primary way that we connect with God, and Scripture is the primary way that He has chosen to speak to us. There is no substitute for either of these resources.
Life keeps getting in the way - there is no question that it can be very difficult to practice daily worship with all of the demands placed on us by children, partners, other relationships, work, our many other responsibilities, etc. If you miss a day or even many days, what matters most is giving yourself grace (because God does) and reengaging. Satan knows how powerful daily worship is for a Christian and therefore works to no end to keep us from our time with God. We should expect resistance. The worst thing we can do is let the devil achieve his objective by allowing shame or discouragement to keep us away from God. Set aside a time and place that works best for you, prioritize it, and ask God to help you keep your daily appointment with Him. If you fall, get back up and keep going.
I’m too busy - do you have more on your plate than Jesus? He still found time to pray. Note also what Martin Luther replied when asked what his plans were for the following day, “Work, work, from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” To the extent that we recognize God’s infinite power and His willingness to help us and our own finitude and weaknesses, we will pray.
It’s dry / nothing is happening / I don’t feel like it - on many occasions daily worship can feel dry or boring, like God isn’t listening and/or like we’re not making any progress. Paradoxically, this can actually be a gift from God. The only thing we have to give to God, the only thing that is truly our own, is our heart/free will. He owns everything else. It pleases God tremendously when we seek Him for Himself, rather than for the feelings and objects that He gives us. If God gave us great feelings every time we came to Him in daily worship, we would be tempted to start using Him like a vending machine or a drug. The dryness gives us the freedom to honor God by seeking Him vs. His gifts. If you are experiencing dryness, remember that the primary goal of daily worship is simply to spend time with God. We know by faith that He is always present; ask Him to reveal Himself and/or give you special insight and then let Him decide if He wants on that occasion. God is always working (John 5:17); He tells us that His Word never returns void (Isa 55:11) and that those who come to Him will never be put to shame (Ps 25:3; 31:17; 71:1). Like physical change when we start dieting or exercising, spiritual change is often gradual and we don’t notice it from day to day. Relatedly, we often won’t realize we have received something in daily worship until days/weeks/months/even years later when it will suddenly dawn on us. If/when you experience prolonged dryness, you can try changing the approach you use for daily worship. You should also ask God to sustain you so that you can keep meeting with Him every day. If you simply lack the desire, ask God to give you the desire and to give you a sense of commitment.
My mind keeps wandering / I keep getting distracted - it can be very difficult to maintain focus during daily worship. We are constantly being stimulated throughout every day of our lives, which is making it increasingly difficult for us to focus. Staying focused also comes more easily to some personality types than others. We should recognize at the start that it will be an uphill climb to stay attentive to God in daily worship. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth the effort to try; rather, it means that we should give ourselves grace and time to learn how to be still so that we can know God (Ps 46:10). As mentioned above, set yourself up for success by removing any external sources of distraction. When you begin your quiet time, ask the Holy Spirit to help you focus, and if/when catch your mind wandering, gently return it to focus on God and ask God to help you. Do this as often as is needed. Over time it will get easier.
I don’t know what to do - if you aren’t sure of how to practice daily worship, the best thing you can do is to start by asking God to help you. Talk to Him in prayer as you would to another person, and spend the time reading the Bible. Start reading through one of the Gospels. Ask an experienced Christian for advice, and try using some of the practices that are presented in Discipleship Fridays.
Scripture References: Ps 145:18; James 4:8; John 15:1-11.
Ogden, Discipleship Essentials, 21-24 - overview of daily worship
Cranford, Because We Love Him, 109-21 -- overview of daily worship