The presence of God in worship

A reader recently emailed me this question:

Did you ever feel the presence of God during worship or cry during worship?

I certainly did, especially the first few years after being “born again.” The worship part of the service was my favorite — singing at the top of my lungs, arms raised, tears flowing.

During altar calls, when the preacher would call on people to believe in Jesus and repent of their sins, I would cry, pleading with God to save people that hour.

When sharing my faith, I would often get teary-eyed when sharing my testimony, about how God “drew me to himself” and “saved me from my sin” and lots of other over-used cliches. 

The presence of God was as real to me as anything physical. There was no doubt in my mind that God was near me and would answer my prayers.

Looking back, I can see why it happened. My life had changed dramatically after conversion — I felt I had alot to be thankful for. I was saved from sin, saved from hell, chosen to be with Jesus in heaven forever. It was a mixture of gratefulness and love and awe. Combine that with powerful and repetitive music, emotive lyrics, and a group experience and you get an extremely powerful worship experience.

It’s easy to spiritualize the experience, but it’s not something that only happens during Jesus sing-a-longs. Get a bunch of soldiers together after a battle and watch what happens when they sing the Star-Spangled Banner. You’ll see tears in their eyes and they’ll never forget the experience.

In other words, while the experience is powerful, it doesn’t need to be attributed to God for it to be meaningful or for it to happen. We see it across many cultures and in many religions. It is a part of what makes us human.

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  • Michael

    I agree 100 percent. I was a bawler during worship and other times. You mention soldiers, what about the power of teenage fandom? Ever see teen girls bawl and the mere mention of a their favorite celebrity. “I love him so muuuuuuuch.” Great post.

    • darcy bracken

      you gay lololololol gods a mug

  • TheOtherOne

    When you’re in your home-town stadium watching your team win the big game and the whole crowd is going crazy, and you’re caught up in a very similar wave of powerful, shared emotion . . . .

  • Pirx

    These are great observations! I bet a lot of people have other examples, I’d like to see what view are.

  • Gerald Fernandez-Mayfield

    I have never felt ‘the Presence of God’ in any literal way, and I think mostly this is personal delusion. The closest I have come was a sense, the first time I was really in a hospital I got the overwhelming sense of being in a temple. I just felt comfortable there. But that is more like a hunch than anything literal.

  • Chris

    When I was a Christian, I played guitar and bass in many worship bands at church. I enjoyed it, found it meaningful and edifying, but I never got over emotional about it. To me, at the time, there was a distinction between emotions and true spiritual experience. Music of all sorts, secular and religious, affects us emotionally, so “feeling the presence of God” had to be something more than just being excited or crying.

    Now, as a non-believer, modern Christian worship just looks like emotional masturbation. There’s nothing wrong with being emotionally moved by music, but to go to a place every week (or maybe 2-3 times a week) to work yourself up into a frenzy is a bit unbalanced.

  • McBloggenstein

    Now, as a non-believer, modern Christian worship just looks like emotional masturbation. There’s nothing wrong with being emotionally moved by music, but to go to a place every week (or maybe 2-3 times a week) to work yourself up into a frenzy is a bit unbalanced.

    That’s a great point. These feelings are encouraged, and expected at a lot of churches, it seems.

    Have you seen Jesus Camp? Those kids get worked up into a frenzy by the adults, so much that they are running around crying and screaming that they feel God in their hearts. Very scary.

  • Jim

    Really excellent post. Thanks for saying that. I also had powerful experiences during “worship.” But later I also wondered if it had something to do with the fact that I had my arms raised (changing blood flow to the brain) for a long period of time, plus singing increases oxygen flow, and doing this late on a Sunday morning would mean you probably haven’t eaten much. The effect of these things, plus the things you mentioned, the group experience, thinking about the “big picture” of our lives, inspiring words, etc. … it all adds up.

  • SteveWH

    Jim (#7) – I’ve never thought about how those factors come together before. Thank you.

  • Metro

    I’ve wanted to cry while listening to Christian rock. But I don’t think that’s the same thing …

  • Jim Etchison

    Christian rock makes me want to cry too, but not for the intended reason. ;D

  • Elle

    Daniel, You summed it up perfectly… “It was a mixture of gratefulness and love and awe.” I am overcome with awe of what He’s done for me. Like you were saying, if you truly allow yourself to sense His presence, and absorb just who He IS, what He has done for you (every minute of everyday; how much we have to be thankful for), and that He loves you… how can you not feel unbridled moments of awe. Mine can be counted on during every worship. It just happens and the tears flow. The power for worship is the Holy Spirit who guides and directs our worship of the Lord. Good piece Daniel – Thank you for that.