Worshiping Him in Spirit and Truth
But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
It is possible to speak the truth of God without actually believing it – or having a heart after God. I recently read about an atheist church leader (a priest, I believe) who declared she believed in God in order to keep her job. She “worshiped” – no doubt at every service speaking words of truth – but certainly did not worship in the Spirit.
No doubt, she’d even performed many rites and had them performed on her as well.
Yet she was clearly not saved.
Christians can be just as dishonest in their worship.
When we repeat prayers insincerely – hoping that we may somehow be more pleasing in God’s sight due to our faithful repetition – we bring an empty offering to our King.
We aren’t generally repeating these prayers out of love for our God, but out of fear that he’ll be displeased if we don’t, or that he won’t answer us.
But God isn’t looking for us to come to him in strength – perfectly reciting and meaning the same prayer every day or every Sunday. He wants us to come to him in our weakness – when we’re too weary to even know what or how to pray. He wants us to lean on Him and trust that he knows our needs, and cares for us even when we’re too worn to “perfectly” “pray to” Him.
God doesn’t want his people to simply “pray to” Him. He wants them to talk with Him.
In other words, God wants a relationship with us. He doesn’t delight in the repetition of prayers that we don’t really mean or think about. He’d much rather have a heartfelt prayer from us that we do mean – even a very simple and short one.
He knows our needs before we ask. He knows the desires, supplications, longings, praises, and sorrow pouring out within our hearts. The unspoken things.
“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
And we also have One interceding for us in heaven, even in our weakness.
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
It is not the prayers we say or the styles of songs we sing which please God, but the heart behind them. A heart indwelt by Christ.
We are pleasing to God because of Christ. He is our high priest. When we are too weak to say or do anything, Christ is still working – interceding on our behalf.
It is not our dutiful “faithfulness” in reciting or memorizing the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, or the Catechism which secures our favor with God. The work of Christ alone secures our favor in His eyes.
God desires that we meet him with our hearts.
For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
Lip service is like a burnt offering or outward sacrifice.
God delights in the sacrifice of the inner man or woman.
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
We must worship him with both spirit and truth, and we can only do that if we actually personally know the Truth (God) and personally know the Spirit (God, who speaks truth to us). It’s not enough to know about the Truth and about the Spirit. To have the “head knowledge”.
Many religious people who know a lot about God from the scriptures do not know God, and will still come under judgment.
To worship in spirit and truth, we must have a personal relationship with Christ.
No amount of works or sacraments or songs or prayers or hand-raising are pleasing to God, unless these things involve the sincere engagement of a Spirit-indwelt heart.
One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.
What is his temple?