How to Pray/My Prayer The Do’s and Don’t’s of Praise and Worship by Julie Lai So a little thing about me, is that ya girl loves to praise and worship. Me when someone says we’re doing praise and worship: But I wasn’t always like this. Because frankly, I’m an awkward person. I’m not smooth or coordinated. I can’t dance or sing. I used to be insecure of this fact. At weddings and school dances, ya girl was at the snack table like: So yeah. When I first saw people worshiping God singing on top of their lungs with their hands wide open, I was like: Because I was like, “Shoot. Here’s another moment where I have to be coordinated or sing. And I’m just going to awkwardly stand here. And there’s no snack table. Dang.” Honestly, it wasn’t until I went to the Life Teen Leadership Conference that I learned how beautiful worship could be. Day after day I sat next to the same 5 people, and watched them worship. It was unlike anything I’ve seen before. Each person worshiped God like they were in an empty room. It was just them and God. It was so authentic and real. They broke the rules of being neat and tidy. They were just losing themselves in giving God praise. They were free. And I wasn’t. I was bound by my insecurity and by my desire to fit in. But I realized that is literally the antithesis of worship. The opposite of worshiping God is making it all about me, and not about Him. Worshiping is all about taking time to not look inward to ourselves, but looking outward to God. It’s about putting God exactly where He belongs in our life — right in the center, lifted up high. By worshiping God our hearts are aligned with where it’s supposed to be. We may look insane, but we don’t care. Because it’s not about us. Here are some do’s and don’ts that have surely helped me: Do: be free Don’t: be comfortable Number one tip, be free. Allow the Holy Spirit to move you. If the whole worshiping thing is foreign or if you’re on the other side of the spectrum, people call you the worship kween, choose freedom. Don’t be chained to what’s comfortable to you. I don’t know what that looks like for you. Maybe that means opening up your hands. Or singing a little louder. Or not singing at all. Maybe it means praying your own prayer. There’s not really a correct way, per se. But the only exception to that truth is ensuring you’re free in God with no reservations. Do: Be Open Don’t: Act like the worship leader is your DJ If the worship leader doesn’t play Good Good Father or whatever song is your jam. It’s gonna be okay. God is still a good, good Father. He still wants to take you deeper than your feet have ever wandered. Worship isn’t for our entertainment. But forreal, the spirit is moving. Be open to a new song. Sing like you’ve never sung before. Be open to what God is doing now. Not what God did yesterday. Oh how He loves us, right now. Do: Be authentic Don’t: Follow what everyone else is doing When you’re just doing what everyone else is doing, it just becomes a flashmob. Jesus doesn’t want us to do something just because everyone else is doing it. He wants your heart. And your heart only. And respectively my heart only. I’ll be honest, while it’s fun, things like cross-clapping, and swaying with my homies, keeps me in my secure comfort zone. It keeps us trapped in making worship about ourselves and fitting in, rather, than keeping our focus on God. If I’m being honest it’s something we hide behind. It keeps me safe from being intimate with Christ. It lacks my authenticity. My real prayer. My ability to be free. I always ask, if I were in a private chapel, would I worship in the same way? Speaking of private chapels… Do: Pretend it’s an empty room Don’t: worry about anyone else In a room of sometimes thousands, there are lots of distractions. People goofing off. That one cutie. Whatever it may be. Just focus. Know that the devil will offer distractions. He knows that true, authentic worship will orient us towards God, so, he’ll take literally anything, even good things, and try to have you fixate on them rather than God. Be vigilant and fix your eyes on Christ. Remember Jesus is the most thrilling and magnificent One in the room. On the same line, God’s doing incredible things on the hearts of everyone around you. Don’t be distracting to them. For example, if your homegirl is crying, let the girl cry. Jesus can handle them. Comfort them/talk to them later. Do: pray the words Don’t: act like it’s karaoke This ain’t your family Thanksgiving dinner. And it’s not time to pretend you’re Beyonce and hit all the notes. Pray the words. Allow the words to soak into your heart. What is God trying to tell you? What do you need to say to God? When I worship, I try to let at least one line of the song to penetrate my heart. Do: process your emotions Don’t: be controlled by them We’re human and we have emotions. That is such a blessing. If you feel moved to tears, then don’t be embarrassed to cry. If you’re filled with joy, awesome. Understand what you’re feeling while you worship and don’t suppress them. But also don’t be controlled by your emotions. Sometimes we so desperately try to cry or to try to feel God in explicit and extreme ways. And when we feel nothing at all or don’t feel like worshiping, it’s frustrating. But know to feel nothing is totally okay. God’s unchanging goodness doesn’t depend on our constantly changing emotions. He is still good, even when it’s difficult to pray. Next time you’re on a retreat, a conference, or by yourself in chapel, remember these little tips. They have allowed me to be free and lose myself in giving God praise. And I can tell you, it’s the most beautiful experience to allow Jesus to be right where He belongs in my life. Friends, God is offering us His extravagant and infinite Love. In response, let’s give God our unchained, free, whole self in love.