The Bible teaches that worship, rightly given, brings joy to the heart of God (Proverbs 15:8). Jesus insisted that the worship which pleases the Father must be offered in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Often, however, that which goes by the name of worship falls far short of the Father's expectations. Richard Adams, in his novel Shardik, perceptively observed: "Worship yields nothing to the slip-shod and half-hearted. I have seen worship which, if it had been a roof they had built, would not have kept out a half-an-hour's rain: nor had they the wit to wonder why it left their hearts cold and yielded them neither strength or comfort."
Consider some essential components of the worship which delights the heart of God:
1. Worship Requires Relationship. Jesus spoke of the One we worship as "the Father" (John 4:23,24). This implies that a relationship exists between worshiper and the One who is worshiped. Only those bound to God by close family ties can approach Him in adoration and praise. It is tragic that many people try to worship God without ever having established a relationship with Him. Their efforts are doomed.
2. Worship Requires Preparation. Jesus said that God was to be worshiped in spirit and truth (John 4:24). To worship "in spirit" means that worship must come from the heart; must be offered with the right attitude. Anything worthwhile requires preparation. We prepare for careers, for marriage, for social occasions. Surely, then, we must prepare before entering the presence of the Creator of the Universe. We must anticipate our appointment with God! Before we seek His presence we must rid our lives of sin. We must cleanse our hearts (Hebrews 10:23). Then we must focus solely on God!
3. Worship Requires Obedience. Jesus taught that we must worship "in truth" as well as "in spirit" (John 4:24). Worship involves our response to truth. We must accept the acts by which God has authorized us to approach Him in worship. God is Spirit. Our experience of the spiritual realm is necessarily limited. The only way we can know how to please God in worship is for Him to show us what He wants! The New Testament reveals a pattern for our worship. We are taught not to go beyond that which is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). Worship must recognize and submit to the sovereignty of God! Worship is not concerned with what I like or what I want, but what God wants!
William Temple provided a classic definition of worship in these words:
To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God,
To feed the mind with the truth of God,
To purge the imagination by the beauty of God,
To open the heart to the love of God,
To devote the will to the purpose of God.
Such worship brings joy to the heart of God.