Authentic worship: Keep it real

by | Oct 23, 2022

“It’s a pleasure meeting you.” Yeah, I said it, but I didn’t really mean it.

We’ve all been there. We offer a platitude rather than say what’s really on our minds. After all, didn’t mother tell us more than once, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?”

I’m not going to tell you any different. I’ve tried it both ways, offering brutal honesty and stretching the truth. And honestly, I think it’s okay to be kind even when the voice in your head is telling you that you don’t really mean it. And besides, beauty and truth are often found in the eyes of the beholder. So who’s to say whether our vision is simply blurred regarding a particular person or matter?

On the other hand, what if inauthenticity becomes a habit or, worse, an addiction? What if we discover that we crave the positive response we get when we tell someone how great they are, even when we know we don’t believe it? Where does it all end when we ride a make-believe train as far as it takes us?

Have you ever noticed that when someone is telling you how wonderful it is to be with you, their body language is often more honest than their words? Experts in communication remind us we communicate with more than words. The inflections we use as we speak, the phrases accompanying our gestures, body positions, and facial expressions add to our listener’s understanding of what we’re saying.

Does this mean that we better pay attention to our body language when we compliment someone? While this is one approach, it isn’t very effective. The better approach is to be honest with yourself and others and be authentic. The more you believe what you’re saying, the more your body language supports your statements.

Frequent liars learn to convince themselves that their lies are true by repeating them. Of course, repeating a lie doesn’t make it true, no matter how many times it gets repeated. So I’m not talking about how to get gullible persons to believe you. That’s more of a skill for someone with a life-time pass on the make-believe train.

Michael Formica writes in a 2014 article in Psychology Today that “One of our more enduring social fallacies is the idea that what others think of us actually matters.” There is something quite profound about this statement. While one voice in my head tells me it’s true, another voice tells me that what others think about me matters a lot.

Formica spells out why this other voice is so loud by explaining that a primal survival instinct evolved into a social imperative. And how this shift is now an obstacle to self-acceptance. Too often, “our thoughts and behavior become means for eliciting a response, rather than an expression of self-value.” This happens when our external self, molded by social context, overshadows our internal self, formed by subjective experience.

Let’s break this down and look at how this idea connects to the third prayer said by Jesus.

First, when we care too much about what others think about us, we carry this handicap into worship. When this happens, our attention is divided between God and the people who may be watching us. And too often, our attention is primarily on what others think about us.

This can be particularly challenging when we’re leading worship. Cyndi, our worship leader, bristles when one of us uses words like performance or show. She knows that our role is to lead worship, not perform worship. The difference is subtle but powerful.

Cyndi and I are big fans of a show called The Voice. The coaches on the show begin each season with blind auditions followed by the battle round. The show’s central theme is competition, and the winner of a battle continues while the other singer goes home. And the battle rounds are rightfully described as competitions.

However, a recurring piece of advice from every coach is for the singers to feel the song’s emotion, which invites the onlookers to experience their feelings. A breakthrough happens when a singer makes the song their own, and their authentic emotions are felt by the audience. Their song no longer feels like a performance as their authentic inner-self emerges.

When I hear the coach’s instructions, I think about Cyndi’s guidance to our worship team members. “Worship God with everything you have,” she says, “and others will join you. Worship is never a performance.”

I sincerely believe that the best musicians, artists, crafters, builders, and all of us, move from okay to outstanding when we forget what people think. When, instead of performing, we express our inner selves through our divine gifts. And God is glorified in our doing that which God created us to do.

Therefore, worship should never be a performance, and neither should prayer. Jesus amplifies the importance of authentic prayer, warning followers, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! This group loves to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners so that everyone will see them” (Matthew 6:5).

I’ve noticed that when I use polite platitudes in prayer, rather than telling it like I see it, I’m left feeling empty and unsatisfied. Of course, none of us would be the first to lie to God about our real feelings. However, God knows the truth, so our attempts at fake flattery won’t land any points, even if God does keep score.

In the third prayer of Jesus, we gain insight into what it means to be authentically in awe of God. We find His prayer in the 12th chapter of John’s Gospel. Jesus is facing certain death if He continues doing what God sent Him to accomplish. Meanwhile, Jesus knows that the people misunderstand the role of the Messiah.

Father, bring glory to Your name! I have brought glory to it, and I will do so again.
John 12:27-28

Jesus prays, “Now my heart is troubled—and what shall I say? Shall I say, ‘Father, do not let this hour come upon me? But that is why I came—so that I might go through this hour of suffering. Father, bring glory to Your name!” (John 12:27-28).

After praying so that He could be heard, Jesus told the crowd that His prayer was for their benefit. And His prayer helps you and me to better understand why His death was necessary. Salvation is never the result of performing. Instead, salvation comes when God is glorified through our faithfully following Jesus Christ. And when we authentically pray and worship, we glorify God.

We read that after Jesus said His prayer, a voice spoke from heaven was heard by the crowd saying, “I have brought glory to it, and I will do so again” (John 12:28).

I suspect that it’s rare when God’s voice is heard audibly. More often, the voice of God is a whisper felt within the interior of ourselves. We feel God’s voice within our inner authentic selves when we’re not distracted by worrying if anyone is watching.

Each Sunday during our series, Pray, we’re collecting prayer requests. You can submit a request online from our website home page. In addition, prayer request forms are located around the church and during water and food giveaways.

You can join us each Sunday in person or online by clicking the button on our website’s homepage – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at

A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.

Pastor Tommy


Content for this series is based in part on:

Robert L. Morris, Jr.. Pray Like Jesus: What We Can Learn From the Six Recorded Prayers of Jesus. Bloomington, IL: Westbow Press, 2019.

Michael J. Formica. Reviewed by Ekua Hagan. “Why We Care About What Other People Think of Us.” Psychology Today, Posted December 31, 2014. © 2014 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved. Retrieved from: link

A Community in Love with God, Each Other, and our Neighbors.