Worship is more than singing songs of praise. It is the primary ingredient to prayer. Although it’s popular to make a distinction between a “prayer of worship” and a prayer of petition, a prayer of intercession, or a prayer of confession, I would venture to say to say that all categories of prayer are constrained to worship.
Prayer is humble communication to God, and to be in the presence of God is to be aware of His holiness, which leads to worship. There is no one like Him. He is completely “other”. Acknowledging God’s holiness through worship is essential to each category of prayer. Let’s discuss the relationship in each classification:
Why Prayer Goes Hand-in-Hand With Worship
Worship in prayers of petition
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3). For prayer to be affective you must know the God you pray to and with this mind acknowledge the truth of who He is through worship.
One expression of worship is thanksgiving. We are told in Philippians 4:6 “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” When we approach God and recount the many ways He has blessed us, it clears out “self” and makes room for thoughtful prayer according to His will (not ours).
Acknowledging who God is, and a willful submission to His plan are also forms of worship, both of which are demonstrated in the Lords prayer: The first, acknowledgment of God’s holiness is, “Our Father who art in heaven, holy is your name”; and the second, worship through submission, states “thy will be done”. Both forms of worship are made prior to any petition if we wish to be heard. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14-15).
Worship in prayers of confession
Acknowledgement of God’s holiness lays us bare before him, uncovers sin and should result in confession. Isaiah, when confronted with the holiness of God said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5). True confession is born of a heart that sees and knows God. Concede God’s holiness and confess your sins so that you will be heard. If we regard iniquity in our hearts, God won’t hear us (Psalm 66:18 NKJV).
One of my favorite passages in scripture is Psalm 24. It is a discourse on God’s holiness and our inability to approach Him due to our sinfulness. If you read the passage you will notice the question of our moral character and need for repentance, is not even brought into the discussion until God’s glory is first defined. “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. (Psalm 24:3-4). Worship precedes our prayers of confession.
Worship in prayers of intercession
Colossians 1:9-12 is a beautiful example for us on intercessory prayer. The essence of the passage is that we petition God on behalf of another that they would know the will of God; seek out the glory of the Lord resulting in wisdom and spiritual understanding; grow in the knowledge of God; be strengthened with power according to God’s glorious might; and be filled with gratitude. All these things are fruit produced out of a heart of worship.
I like what Oswald Chambers says about intercessory prayer, that it is not putting yourself in someone else’s place, but rather “it is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.” It echoes what Romans 12:2 says: “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.”
One last point
Worship (acknowledging God’s worth) prepares our mind for effective prayer, which in turn results in even deeper worship. The two are intrinsically linked and cannot be separated. Rehearse the ways God has been faithful to you, and express specific gratitude to Him; once you do, you will be able to pray more effectively and realize the rewards of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). It is this kind of expectancy in prayer which leads us back to worship.