When you praise, when you praise, there should be a fire in your heart. Hands up raised, when you praise, consuming every part because you know the GOD we serve will make His presence known. When you praise, when you praise. Fred Hammond (lyrics)
Sunday morning. Here I am, about to go lead worship in my church. I am a nervous wreck. I am always a nervous wreck. And why is that I now have a running stomach? These are the days I truly know I won’t be relying on my own strength, but on His strength. That makes me happy.
My outfit. Check. Quite decent, but tasteful, me thinks. Bottle of warm water (sometimes with ginger and honey). Check. Bible. Check. Verses to read during worship. Errrr… there are times I actually don’t have them. Husband to drop me off in church. Check. Voice. This one, not sure. I talk like a dude every morning! Quite deep.
And I digress.
As I was growing up as a teenager, there was this one time I was talking to my sisters after waking up. When my mum heard my voice, she started calling out my brother’s name, coz she thought I was him! Dear Mom, I still love you!
Back to church.
My dear husband graciously drops me off and I arrive just in time for the morning prayers before the services start. (I must commend my husband for always taking care of our kids when I am in church. Thank you husband.) We finish praying. It is now 10 minutes before the first service begins. There will be 3 services. Time to embrace myself.
I glance around. Wait. Where is the drummer? I surely do hope he makes it in time! Oh, there he is! And now the lead vocalist for the third song is missing!! She’s always late, that one. Can I remember the lyrics for that song, just in case I have to be the backup? I drink some warm water then walk up to the stage to invite the congregation into a time of worship. Oh, there she is. Thank God.
I need You! I am still a nervous wreck.
We start off the service with a word of prayer and then get into worship. The congregation keeps streaming in. Different walks of life. Some look like they literally want to see God’s face. While others… Wait. Why aren’t they responding to the song? There is no facial or physical response from that one. My goodness! And this other one has just sat down! Help me! I feel an urgency to draw these people into understanding why we need to worship. Do I have some verses? Can I encourage them?
When we praise.
The second song is a bit faster, what we typically call praise songs. I am smiling. A bit calmer. I look out for my usual suspects. I know where they are positioned. They are singing gladly, clapping and dancing. Others look like the song is really ministering to them internally. You know when they have this look that one can’t quite explain?
I am running out of breathe. The pace of the song is now quite fast. I need to stop moving much on stage. I look back at the background vocalists. Some are really smiling, dancing, clapping. Others are, well, just there. The tenors have missed that note. I have to join them. The drummer has over-rolled that part. I’m losing the beat. Now I can’t hear the guitarist. I look at the sound engineer and signal to him that I cannot hear the guitarist. We use a code. Okay, sign language, but still a code, so that we don’t distract the congregation.
I hand over the mic to the other song leader, the one who was late. Remember her? I can now catch my breathe. The congregation is still streaming into church. I see the fathers and mothers running with their children, they don’t want to miss out on the sung part of the worship service. Others have not come to church. I note because I do know where they sit during service. Now that’s a lovely dress. Okay, I need to stop getting distracted. I pray. I am nervous. I am about to lead the next song.
The congregation is responding. Thank You Lord! The song leader hands back the mic to me for the slower songs, those that we tend to call worship songs. I love these ones. It is my opportunity to really draw the congregation to the Lord and help them reflect on who He is and what He has done.
We are still singing. The service leader starts walking up to me to take over for the next part of the service. Why is he coming up? I still have 2 minutes left! Isn’t he sensing the move of the Spirit? The times you just have to ignore the service leader for 2 or 3 minutes because, hey, we are doing business! I just hope they are not reading this.
When we praise.
There are times I think to myself, I didn’t hit that note. Or, maaan, I sound so good! Focus being on how one sounds. Or there are other times we focus on how well dressed the worship team is, or how beautifully the drummer, keyboardist, guitarist, bassist played, or even how the congregation responded to our lead. We easily get sucked into our surrounding, the music, the performances, the voices, that we forget it’s about Him, about God. Everything.
It’s not about the perfect harmony of voices and instruments, nor the missing drummer or lead vocalist. It shouldn’t be about ourselves or the congregants’ reaction. No. You see, it’s easy to lose focus even when everything appears to be going by the book. It’s easy to get distracted and forget exactly why we praise, why we worship. We need to remember it’s about Him, because we serve a great God, because He loves us and has sustained us.
As a worship team, one of our prayers is to always focus on God during the time of sung worship. And to you, whether you are in a congregation or in your private space, I pray that you will not be easily distracted by your surroundings but focus on how great our God is.
Why do we praise? To be drawn closer to Him, for He fills our hearts with joy and gratitude. We praise because we acknowledge that we are nothing without Him. We praise God for His goodness, grace, providence, protection and so much more. We praise because He first loved us and has redeemed us from our sins.
When we praise.
When we think of how wonderful and merciful and kind our GOD has been to us. Then we know every glory hallelujah He deserves; When we praise. Fred Hammond.