Psychology of Worship
(Faith : Worship
, Psychology in Worship
, Margaret M. Webb
, Emotional Style
It is important that the church understand the psychology of worship. Participation in worship impacts believers emotionally and psychologically. Although worship is corporate, it is made up of individual acts. It is not only something taking place outside the self but is also something occurring within the self. The entries in this section discuss impediments to worship and look at worship as a psychological phenomenon that relates to the struggles and passions of the inner person.
Wounds that hinder Worship
The person who brings a wound spirit into the setting of worship often finds it difficult to enter into the experience of worship. Paradoxically, it is the very act of pain may hinder the hurting Christian’s full participation in it.
Worship comes alive when it becomes relational, when through it we encounter both the God with whom we are acquainted and our fellow believers encounters with God enrich our personal experiences with him, while our private ones invest the corporate with new life. This level of worship is not an unreachable ideal, but a vital reality to many believers. Unfortunately, there are many others for whom worship is an intellectual and behavioral routine which never rises to the level of relationship. Over a period of time, built emotional barriers around themselves to protect wounds they have sustained in the course of personal relationships. A person who has been hurt by a relationship will find ways to protect himself or herself from further hurt. Sometimes these protections are consciously chosen and are appropriate to the situation. But much self-protection is unconscious and serves to restrict and defeat rather than to free.
It is generally true that the height and thickness of the protective fence are related to the period of life in which the wounding occurred and the severity of the damage inflicted upon the person’s sense of safety and trust, Wounds that hinder worship can occur in adulthood, but usually the original and most damaging wounds are those of childhood. Because patterns of relating are established early, through modeling and experience, long before we have the ability to be aware of what we are learning. If we approach Christianity exclusively through the intellect, as a compartmentalized belief system alone, we do not encounter our relational wounds and self-protections during worship. A purely cognitive faith presents no challenge to our struggles with anger, fear, and distrust. But Christianity, including worship, is grounded in relationship. If we allow it to touch us, it will touch us fully at all levels, including our pain.
A.W.Tozer remins is in The Pursuit of God that “God is a Person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoy, feels, loves, desires, and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills, and our emotions”
No intimate relationship can be said to be healthy unless it is so in three aspects of personality: mind, will, and emotion.
Emotional Experience. Believers whose emotions are numbered by pain and buried under patterns of love, joy peace, gracem and forgiveness, and therefore miss the vitality and satisfaction of intimacy, both in relationship with God and in the experience of worship. No matter how hard he or she tries through discipline, study, service, participation, and any other means available, the emotional/ experiential aspect of the worship relationship remains remote and unsatisfying.
Though and Attitudes. People wounded in childhood tend to live with an underlying, uneasy felling that something is wrong and that someone is to blame. They often flip-flop between blaming themselves as bad or wrong and blaming someone else. As a result, they are critical and faultfinding, either toward themselves or others.
The will and Behavior. When old wounds affect behavior, it is often in the form of chronic struggles with discipline, these persons cannot seem to make their wills cooperate.
Reaction to Old Wounds. Some believers, unaware that their struggles with worship are a result of woundedness, they cannot find satisfaction in a relationship with God no matter how hard they try, and they conclude that either God is not real or that he has rejected them. He will withdraw, pull out and move on, searching for a different format, a different philosophy of worship, different leadership, or some other external condition to change their disappointing inner experience. The wounded people will have attack, control behaviors.
How Change Takes Place
The wounded person must be willing to look at the fence and take responsibility for what is there.
Self-discovery. Healing of old wounds begins by discovering that here is a link between the experiences and relationships of the past and those of the present. The goal of self-discovery is not to dwell on the past or to assign blame. The past itself cannot be changed, but the lingering reactions (attitudes, expectations, feeling, and behavioral patterns) can, if they are looked at and understood in their original context. Simply expressing these feelings is not sufficient to bring about healing, but it seems to be an essential ingredient.
Safe Relationship. An important part of the healing process is to open up and share deeply with a few people. A church that takes itself seriously as a healing community will encourage the formation of committed, supportive relationships in which this kind of sharing can take place. Wounded people have often had hurtful experiences in churches, therefore, find a church in which to feel safe is good, but that is only the beginning.
Forgiveness and Restoration. When a person moves toward acceptance and resolution of the past, it becomes necessary to sort out the issue of responsibility. Who’s wrong? Separating one’s own wrongs from the wrongs of others is difficult work but can be greatly aided by the guidance of Scripture and the illumining witness of the Spirit.
Behavior Change. Working with the relationship of the past is important, meaningful, as a foundation for change in the relationship of the present.
Understand the old behavior
Discover the new behavior
Trial and Error. Learning to change relationship patterns is not very different from learning any new skill. New behavior starts out messy and confusing, with many false starts and falls. Trial and error, perseverance, practice, encouragement, and support are the essential ingredients of learning.
Effects of Healing on Worship
Jesus Christ, who as a man knew what it was to be abused, and who as Savior made healing and restoration possible, comes to life as friend.
The challenges and risks of a path of healing cannot be denied. But for the believer, the rewards are beyond the level of human personality: mind, will, and emotion.
Margaret M. Webb