Church Worship

Have We Misplaced the Role of Worship in the 21st Century Church?

Many hands raised in worship

One of my favorite parts of the church service is the worship. There is something that is special about the people of God coming together and lifting their hearts and their voices to God in adoration and wonder of who he is. But as great and important as worship is, I fear we have put worship in a position that it was never meant to be in. Before you wonder what I am talking about, let me explain how what we have been taught about worship may actually be incomplete.

Your Breakthrough Is in Your Worship 

Have you ever heard someone say something along these lines? 

“When praise goes up, blessings come down.” 

Maybe this one. 

“Your breakthrough or deliverance can come when you worship.” 

Another one is - “When you go into battle, send Judah first, because Judah means praise.” 

While all these things are true to a degree, these things are incomplete. If we are not careful, we might think that all we need to do is worship and everything is going to be alright. That is not a complete teaching and when we put worship in this position, we put it in a place it was never designed to be.

It feels like the 21st century church has shifted the focus from the importance of prayer to the importance of worship. We celebrate worship, we celebrate worship leaders, we have tons of worship conferences. There is nothing wrong with worship except for one thing – as wonderful as worship is, it cannot substitute for prayer. My concern is that we have become so enthralled with worship that we have neglected prayer. Instead of worship being a precursor that leads us into a deeper place in prayer, worship has become a replacement for prayer.

How Do We Often Position Worship?

There is a story in the book of Acts that highlights how we often position worship. Before I tell you the Scripture, you may have heard the story of Paul and Silas when they were in prison. Most of the time when this story is told we hear about how Paul and Silas were worshipping and praising God at midnight and that lead to an earthquake which caused their chains to fall off and the prison doors to open. So often it is presented that this happened because of their worship. Let’s look at what the Bible actually says about this situation.

“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:22-26, emphasis added).

Somehow in the telling of this story, what often gets left out is the fact that Paul and Silas were praying and worshipping. One translation implies that their singing was part of their praying. As important as their worship was, God moved in response to their prayer.

I know what you are saying – how do you know this? The reason is because when it comes to trouble, needs, sickness, or anything else you need from God, the instruction is always to pray.

Some Scriptures That Encourage Us to Pray

“And call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15).

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray” (James 5:13).

 “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18).

The Bible encourages us to worship, but for there to be real transformation and breakthrough there must also be prayer. Worship alone is not enough.

A group of people praying, 5 prayer for the nation on the National Day of Prayer

Photo credit: ©SparrowStock

2 Biblical Breakthroughs That Came through Prayer

Let me share with you two examples of breakthroughs that happened because of prayer.

1. The Holy Spirit at Pentecost

“Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:12-14).

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4).

Why did this happen? Because they were praying together.

2. Peter’s Escape from Prison

In Acts 12 Peter was put in prison by King Herod and his intention was to make a public spectacle of him. However, Herod was not aware of one fact that was happening, the church was praying.

“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5).

If you read the rest of the story, Peter was miraculously set free from prison, not because the church was worshipping, but because they were praying.

There are more I could cite but I think you get the point. Worship is powerful, but it should never replace individual prayer or the church praying together, because that is not what it was meant to do.

How Did Jesus Describe His House?

“And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers’” (Mark 11:17).

My last point on this is to consider how Jesus described his house. He didn’t call it a house of worship even though that happens there. He didn’t call it a house of preaching and teaching, even though that happens there too. He called it a house of prayer. The defining characteristic of the house of the Lord is prayer. When you dig a little deeper, what truly causes breakthroughs and deliverance, healings, miracles, and everything else that can happen in the house of the Lord or in the life of a believer is a result of God’s people praying.

I would love the church to not just be a church of worshippers, but a church of prayers. I challenge you to use worship for what God intended, and not stop at worship but use it to go deeper into the place of prayer. I know when we get to that place, we will begin to see things happen that can only happen when God’s people pray.

More from this author
Are You Using This Verse the Wrong Way in Prayer?
Is It God's Will to Heal Every Believer?
4 Hard Truths about Christianity That We Must Never Forget

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/SplashofPhotography


Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.


Follow Crosswalk.com