Intensive and Extensive Worship
One may ask, "Shouldn’t we worship God in everything we do? ... do we need to go to a designated place at a particular time to worship? ...can’t we worship while in our car, in our home, walking in the outdoors, or serving in the community?"
The answer is Yes, indeed we are called to worship God in every aspect of our lives. Romans 12:1 exhorts us with these words:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Eugene Peterson in The Message puts it this way:
Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.
We are called to continually be in an attitude of worship – to worship extensively in every part of our being and our existence: Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. (Heb. 13:15)
However, in order to be enabled to live a life of worship, to worship extensively in everything we do, we also need to devote times to worshiping intensively: where God receives our exclusive and focused attention, where we take the time to enter his gates with thanksgiving and praise, moving in our spirits into an attitude of worship and devotion, and then allowing His Spirit to draw us into the depths of communion and intimacy with him.
The analogy we have for this progression into the inner sanctuary of God’s presence is the worshiper in the O.T. Tabernacle: moving from the outer courts, past the bronze alter and basin for the washing away of our sins; into the Holy Place with the Bread of his Presence, the Golden Lampstand where the lights stay trimmed and burning day and night, the Altar of Incense with the aroma of worship wafting upwards; and then into the Most Holy Place where we are invited to commune with Him between the wings of his cherubim, the secret place of intimacy with him. (Heb. 10:19-22)
This process takes dedicated time and commitment. However, as we take the time to engage in this type of intensive, exclusive worship of God, we discover the joy of seeking his face, and the thirsting of our souls becomes quenched by drinking deeply from the wellspring of life. In this place of worship and intimacy our hearts become entwined with his heart and we become attuned to hearing his voice and feeling his heartbeat. We become open and moldable vessels into which he imparts his spiritual gifts, character and fruit.
Perhaps the best analogy to help us learn the importance of engaging in intensive worship to enable its extensive outworking, is the picture of marriage. Paul compares the relationship of Christ with his Church to that of a husband with his wife (Eph. 5:25-33); and the Song of Songs (aka "Song of Solomon") which describes the intensity of love aroused, is often seen as an allegory of the Bridegroom (Christ) and his bride (the redeemed). When two people commit their lives in love to each other in marriage they understand that this love extends to all times and circumstances, spoken or unspoken. However, for this love to remain alive and vibrant in the marriage, it is essential that the marriage partners take the time periodically to express their love intensively, with exclusive attention given to each other in a devoted and unhurried manner.
In a similar way in our relationship with God, as we intentionally give ourselves to times of intensive worship where he has our exclusive, unhurried attention, our hearts and minds become captured with his love and presence, and we become "transformed by the renewing of our minds." (Rom. 12:2) Then, as empowered and transformed vessels we become agents of transformation in the society and culture around us. As we become infused and saturated with his Presence by intensively seeking his face in worship, we become carriers of this Presence in all our day-to-day, hour-by-hour experiences and interactions.
In short, as we dedicate ourselves to worshiping God intensively with devoted love and attention, we cannot help but also worship him extensively in all we do and wherever we go: we learn to develop a lifestyle of worship.