Worship Isn’t About Your Feelings

When David describes his response of worship in 2 Samuel 6, he uses the word “undignified,” saying to Michal (Saul’s daughter), “And I will make myself even more undignified than this when I worship …” (v. 22 NIV). This word implies self-forgetfulness. What David essentially said is, “When I worship, I’m not going to think about what people are thinking about me; I’m going to think about what they are thinking about God.”

Like I wrote a couple of weeks ago, we all do things differently when it comes to worship. But even amidst the variety of cultural expressions, there are certain elements of worship that have to be there—most notably, passion and self-forgetfulness.

Take, for instance, the notion of raising your hands in worship. There are over 20 examples of this in Scripture, where believers are encouraged, even commanded, to lift their hands in worship. Look at what some of the psalms say:

Psalm 28:2: “Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help; as I lift my hands …”

Psalm 88:9: “I call for you every day, O LORD; I spread out my hands like a child toward you.”

Psalm 134:2: “Lift your hands in the sanctuary and bless the LORD.”

Psalm 143:6: “I spread out my hands to you. My soul thirsts for you like a man in a parched land.”

This posture is modeled in another 14 places in the Old Testament outside of the Psalms and continues in the New Testament (check out 1 Timothy 2:8). Interestingly, archaeological studies have confirmed that this posture was so commonly associated with worship that when an artist wanted to depict a Jew worshiping, they’d show a person raising their hands.

In the same way, there are multiple instances of commands for worshipers to shout out loud and clap their hands. For example:

Psalm 32:11: “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”

Psalm 35:27: “Let those who delight in my salvation shout for joy …”

Psalm 47:1: “Clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with a voice of triumph …”

Psalm 81:1: “Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!”

Isaiah 12:6: “Shout, and sing for joy, O Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Zephaniah 3:14: “Sing aloud, O Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O Jerusalem!”

To which you might say, “But if I don’t feel like it, I shouldn’t do it.” To which I say: Commands aren’t feeling-dependent. They are a matter of obedience. No sincere Christian would say, “Well, I don’t feel like praying, so I just won’t.” “I don’t feel like being faithful to my spouse this week, so I won’t.” That’s not how obedience works. Obedience keeps you on the rails precisely when your heart feels like doing something else.


But you might feel like worship is in a different category. After all, isn’t it hypocritical to do something you don’t feel in your heart? Isn’t it misleading to sing and shout something I’m not really experiencing?

Not necessarily. Here’s how obedience works: Sometimes as you’re obeying when you don’t feel like it, God changes your heart to desire what you are doing. In some ways, your obedience is like a cry to God to change your heart.

It’s easy to think that the posture of your body is a reflection of your heart, but more often than not, the posture of your body serves as the guide, the catalyst for your heart.

Psychologists have suggested that the posture of your body actually guides the emotions of your heart. That’s how God designed you. You’re a psychosomatic creature—one where body and soul are connected. So when you kneel in a posture of surrender, you’re likely to feel emotions of surrender.

The central premise in worship is not what you feel like, but what God is worthy of. You worship based off of God’s promises, not your feelings. Remember: Worship is putting God’s worth-ship, not your emotional disposition, on display.

I want my unbelieving friends to see my worship and think, “This must be a God worth knowing!”

I want fellow believers to see my worship, when I’m struggling, with my hands raised and joy on my face, and say, “This must be a God worth trusting!”

Your worship, though different in expression and not superior to another’s, should display the worth you attribute to God. Sometimes, it’ll be reserved as you sit quietly before God. And other times, you’ll look undignified, as David did. The thread that weaves it all together is that of passion and self-forgetfulness.