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Have you ever had a time in your life when the lyrics to a song suddenly came alive — where you experienced them as if you’d heard them for the first time? Have you ever experienced during worship a powerful moment of realization at God’s incredible majesty? When was the last time that happened? Do you long for experiences like this?
Those who are familiar with our service know that we’re passionate about worship. Worship is the grand goal of God, and it is the sole reason of our existence — glorifying God for who he is. Of course “worship” is also an area fraught with conflict over music styles, adaptation to technology, and questions about the best worship software.
Perhaps one of the greatest concerns about worship, however, is the fact that we lose focus while we’re doing it. Often the lyrics to worship songs become so familiar that we don’t even think about what we’re saying. We just sort of mouth the words, but our hearts don’t connect to it. It’s unfortunate, because worship songs are loaded with scriptural truths. They are a way to worship God. They point our hearts to our Creator.
It would be helpful if we could somehow train our hearts to focus on the lyrics rather than simply go through the motions of “worshipping” without even worshipping.
Reasons Why Our Minds Wander
Why is it that we tend to tune out during times of worship and singing? Why is it so hard to stay connected?
- We’re so familiar with the lyrics. We’ve sung them so many times, they just don’t stick anymore.
- We’re trying to learn a new song. If it’s the first time we’ve heard a worship song, we may be working hard to learn the lyrics and the melody. This can make it hard to focus on worship.
- Our hearts haven’t been prepared. Often, we come into church in a rush, the last thing on our minds is worshipping God. We haven’t quite gotten over the argument we had with our spouse as we were driving to church. Or maybe we’re just hoping that the service won’t be too long. Either way, our hearts aren’t in the worship. Our hearts are somewhere else entirely.
- There are distractions all around us. It’s easy to become distracted. The seat is too hard. Or too soft. A guitar is out of tune. Carly’s hair looks nice today. Whose kid just started crying? Is the pastor going to preach on Revelation again? Woah, there’s a typo in the bulletin! Anything around us can become a distraction. What we need to realize is that distractions are a choice of focus. A distraction doesn’t automatically pull our minds from our activities. Instead, we choose what to focus on. In spite of distractions, we can and should choose to focus upon worshipping.
How to Regain Focus
Even though it’s easy to let our minds wander during worship, there are things we can do to help us refocus.
- Ask questions about the song as you’re singing. When we ask questions, our minds become more focused. Rather just sing the words of the song, try to understand them. What is the message of this song? What does this song teach about God? What does “hallelujah” mean? Why does the song say “Lord of history?” The point of asking questions is simple: It makes you think about what you’re saying.
- Ask God to change you as you’re worshipping. Many worship songs help us to focus upon God’s character. Such meditations can change our hearts. Pray for God’s sanctifying work in your heart.
- Sing as a prayer. Many songs are prayers. When was the last time you actually sang a prayer? For example, every time you sing “Blessed Be Your Name,” you are talking to God — “Blessed be Your name / In the land that is plentiful / Where Your streams of abundance flow.”
- Close your eyes, or keep them open, or whatever. If closing your eyes helps you to shut out distraction, do it. If raising your hands helps you to engage in worship, do it. If kneeling helps you worship better, do it.
- Sing to others. Church worship is a corporate activity. In other words, it’s something that we do together with other people. It’s not just you and God. There are people around you. In order to better engage in corporate worship, sing with the motive of encouraging and edifying others.
- Prepare. Worship isn’t something we just turn on and turn off — like turning it on for forty minutes on a Sunday morning, and then turn it off for the rest of the day. Worship is a way of life. Rather than expecting yourself to just sort of ‘turn on’ during a worship service, prepare for that worship service. The night before, spend some time in meditation on God. Before you go to church, read a passage of Scripture and pray. As you grow in the practice of continual worship, you will more readily worship corporately as well.
There are a few other practical steps that you can take to improve focus in worship. The strategic use of technology in worship can enhance focused worship services. Displaying lyrics with worship backgrounds or worship video loops is one helpful way to improve attention on the words that are being sung. Worship software ExaltNow is one tool that gives volunteers and worship leaders greater ability with worship projection.
It’s amazing how the simple act of trying to focus can completely change experience. We yearn for true and deep experiences of worshipping God. There’s nothing magical about it. It doesn’t require just the right worship leader, perfect light setting, awesome stage displays, or beautiful orchestration. It simply requires God and believers — adoring him, loving him, and focusing on him.