We continue the article on the order of worship in our public worship service. For your solemn consideration, the biblical reasons for each of those elements of our order of worship are provided below.
Call to Worship
This first item in the order of worship is the reading of a short passage that records God’s call to His people to worship. For example,
- “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2).
- “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious” (Psalm 66:1-2).
- “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker” (Psalm 95:6).
The call to worship is meant to alert God’s people to the divine call in the Scriptures to worship Him. It beckons them to leave behind all their chores of life and focus on His great Person, attributes and work as their Creator, Redeemer and Provider. It is a call to respond to the divine ordinance of worship with faith, submission and adoration.
The call to worship should be wholly a divine call, not a human exhortation. Hence, it must be read out loudly from God’s Word. It must be heard by the congregation as the voice of God, though it is read by a human voice. People must hear it as God calling them to a worshipful relationship with Him, whereby they respond to His voice with praise and thanksgiving. The efficacy of worship is in that people respond to the hearing of God’s Word. So, the worship proper should always begin with the reading of a divine call to worship from the Scriptures.
Upon the call to worship, the congregation arise to render worship to God by singing hymn(s) or psalm(s) of praises and thanksgiving to Him. Scripture frequently teaches God’s people to sing praises to God – “Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise. For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth” (Psalm 33:1-4); “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4).
Though the New Testament does not record choirs singing in the early church, Scripture tells us that it was an accepted practice in the worship service of ancient Israel. A group of Levites were appointed to sing in the temple (1 Chronicles 9:33; 15:16, 27; 25:1-8). The Lord has not forbidden the choir from singing. So, during the worship, choirs may sing for the glory of God.
However, they should not supersede the singing of praise to the Lord by the congregation. The Lord is most pleased to hear His people singing, for His Word says, “come before his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2). Likewise, the prophet Isaiah envisioned the worship of God’s people as “the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion” (Isaiah 51:11).
The Bible exhorts His people to read and meditate on His Word – “give attendance to reading” (1 Timothy 4:13). The Ephesian church was also told, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). To speak and to sing the Scriptures are our duties. Moreover, public reading of the Scriptures has been practised in the worship of God’s people. In Nehemiah 9:3, we read, “And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.”
Indeed, in these days when the Word of God is made available in printed form to all believers, it is a great privilege to read His Word together in the worship service.
Invocation & Gloria Patri
In worship, we call on the Lord through prayers. Hence, prayer is an important element of worship. In our public worship, we have several occasions of prayers, the first of which is referred to as “invocation”. It must be noted that “invocation” does not mean invitation. In this prayer, we are not inviting God to join us. In worship, it is not we who invite Him, but God who invites. Rather, it is a prayer to invoke (call upon) God to bless the worship. It is not a prayer for all the needs of the people or the church, but a prayer which acknowledges God’s greatness and mercy to bless His people as they gather for the time of worship.
While God greets us as we gather (in the salutation), we do not presume upon His promised mercy to us. We praise God for who He is. Notice that the elements of a prayer of invocation usually include things about which we have just sung or confessed. We earnestly ask God to use them as a means of grace to those who are present. In this prayer, we remember the Lord and His names that depict His relationship with us, and hallow His name by acknowledging His greatness and works and ascribing praise to Him. Upon praising God, we also seek His blessings on the worship service.
Several hymns are placed in the order of worship with clear biblical reasons. Every one of those hymns is chosen to be sung at certain points in the service so that the Scriptural purpose for psalms, hymns and spiritual songs may be performed. While the “opening hymn” is designed to be an appropriate response to the call to worship (whereby the congregation may rise to praise the Lord), the rest of the hymns are meant for the congregation to express their confession of sin, assurance of salvation, devotion to follow His will, readiness to hear the preaching of God’s Word, etc. for the honour and glory of God.
The closing hymn is chosen to help the congregation to have an appropriate response to the preaching of the Word, that they may humbly and joyfully yield to the Lord in faith and obedience to live a blessed life of boldness and service to Him.
Brethren, you must sing all the songs with great delight and real joy in the Lord. Singing is meant to be a God-appointed channel for His people to respond
to His call to worship. Singing provides you with the privilege to be an active worshipper during public worship. Your singing is your response to God who communicates to you through His Word and Spirit.
(More on this topic next Lord’s Day …)