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.