At its heart, worship is a response – one in which we respond with everything we are to everything God is and has done. The logical challenge with that understanding of worship is that at our core, we are sinful and broken beings, so it would seem that all we have to offer God is tainted by the ugliness of sin. Yet scripture is clear that God loves it when we praise Him from the place of our brokenness.
In Isaiah God says,
I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.
David is probably the favorite example of an undone, broken worshiper. In Psalm 51 he laments his sin and cries out to God for repentance after his murderous affair with Bathsheba has been exposed. In this heartfelt psalm David reveals several things that I find comforting and helpful as we seek to worship God out of our brokenness.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
David recognizes that what God desires more than wont obedience is a genuinely honest heart. In verse 6 he confesses that God desires “truth in the inner parts” which naturally leads to him to ask God to cleanse him, wash him, and give him a pure heart. When we are truly honest with ourselves and God we can’t help but realize the stark contrast between our humanity and His divine holiness – and become undone. But then, David says something which blows me away in its insightfulness.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation” – this is perhaps one of the most profound requests we could make to God! If you really think about it, why do we sin? We sin when we choose ourselves over God, essentially bowing to the prideful idol of self. I share Paul’s frustration in Romans 7 over the very fact that we would ever continue to sin once we have truly experienced the power of God’s love and Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, yet it is when we have lost the joy of our salvation – the joy of realizing that we don’t have to experience God’s wrath for our sin, the joy of being freed from the guilt of condemnation, the joy of fullness of life in Jesus – that we choose the idol of self. When we begin to drift from the childlike wonder and humble, awestruck joy of our salvation and begin to take advantage of or take for granted God’s grace – it’s then that we sin. That’s why I love this prayer of the man after God’s heart. He is in the midst of utter shame, yet he knows exactly what he needs in order to get back on track. He asks for God to restore an awareness of how he felt when he first experienced God’s radical forgiveness. Once we find ourselves in that place of awareness, it’s then that we will want to live in obedience through the Spirit.
Getting to that point requires us to begin in the place of utter honesty with God, and in our worship this is exactly the place where God wants us.