One of the striking things to many visitors and newer folks is the fact that our worship service is liturgical – that is, it follows a discernable pattern every week and is fairly planned out and regimented. You may notice that much of what is said and prayed has been written down before hand, and we encourage the men that help lead in the congregational prayers to prepare their prayers beforehand.
One of the great lies of our modern culture is that spontaneous is most authentic: saying what just comes to you is most honest and sincere and meaningful. But that isn’t what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that our hearts are not naturally good; they are insidious, deceptive, squirrely, and often rather shallow. Even the hearts of believers need to be disciplined and trained. Following your heart is a great way to get into all kinds of trouble. We follow Jesus and His word and constantly check our hearts and thoughts and feelings against God’s Word.
So this is part of why we try to put thought into how we worship God. We do want our worship to be heartfelt and sincere, but we also want to be thoughtful about how we approach God. “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore, let your words be few” (Eccl. 5:2). If the Old Testament worshipers had to take great care at Mt. Sinai and the Tabernacle, Hebrews says that the stakes are even higher in the New Testament: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).
When a man writes down a love poem for his wife, most would not complain that it doesn’t seem very authentic since he wrote it down. Or if a wedding ceremony is planned out carefully, we don’t usually complain that the couple was just pretending to like each other. No, if they just winged it, we would rightly wonder if they actually meant it. So too with our worship of the living God. Of course, it is true that anything can become routine or mundane and meaningless, by just going through the motions. And that is why we do not trust in our liturgy or in our planning. We must trust in Jesus and Jesus alone – always look to Jesus.