Jesus said that “one thing is necessary,” and that is to spend time with Him, sitting at His feet, choosing Him as our “good portion” (Luke 10:42). When Jesus walked the earth, this command could be taken literally by His followers. Mary and Martha could physically sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him speak the truth. For the rest of us, there is coming a day when Christ will return and all of God’s children will once again be able to sit at the feet of our Creator. Praise God!
In the meantime, God has given us the ability to sit at His feet and hear Him speak through His Word. It is imperative that every believer obey this command on a daily basis. Follow a Bible reading plan, listen to an audio Bible, highlight a physical copy of the Word, use a Bible reading app on your phone, or purchase a Bible commentary software. Spend time every day doing the one thing that is necessary. This is a command for every child of God. But how should worship leaders, specifically, engage with God’s Word?
Private prayer is the fuel for public prayer. In Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon says, “Private prayer is the drill ground for our more public exercises, neither can we long neglect it without being out of order when before the people.” In other words, the primary way that we prepare to pray in public is by praying in secret. This means that we must set aside time every day for private prayer. Make a prayer list, have someone hold you accountable, put a daily reminder in your iCal if you must. Spend time on the “drill ground” of private prayer every day.
Once we have set aside time to pray, we must learn how to pray in accordance with God’s Word. This means we must meditate on the prayers of the Bible. We must look to the prayers of Jesus. We must pour over the Psalms. We must commit passages to memory! In the same lecture, Spurgeon goes on to say, “We counsel, therefore, the committing to memory of the inspired devotional exercises of the word of truth, and then your continued reading of the scriptures will keep you always furnished with fresh supplications, which will be as ointment poured forth, filling the whole house of God with its fragrance, when you present your petitions in public before the Lord.”
Here are a few ways that Scripture memory could be incorporated into a worship leader’s prayers on a Sunday morning:
Keep in mind that we don’t need to rattle off a list of Scripture references in our prayers. That would not be indicative of a genuine conversation with a living God. Instead, we should pray for the truth naturally. We can pray Psalm 119:9 over someone without sounding like we are reading from a textbook. When a verse is so ingrained in our hearts that we could use it naturally in conversation, it’s likely that it will flow naturally during a prayer.
When giving a call to worship, there are times when it’s appropriate to tell a personal story, share a quote from a theologian, or lead the congregation in a “call and response” reading. It’s important to be creative and avoid falling into a rut with spoken leadership, but as we innovate, we must keep God’s Word central. If we are going to share a personal story, we should have a biblical point to that story. If we are going to read a quote from a book, that quote must be in line with God’s Word. As worship leaders, we are called to share God’s truth, not our opinions.
Here are some ways a worship leader could teach God’s Word during the call to worship:
Yes, there are songs that put word-for-word Scripture to melody. If these songs are helpful for your congregation, use them! From my experience, “Scripture songs” have been more useful for private times of worship and meditation than for multi-generational corporate worship. Why? Because I lead people in singing English language songs, and the Bible was not written as English language poetry, so in my opinion, “Scripture songs” rarely sound natural when sung in a corporate setting. However, this does not excuse me from singing the Word during my worship sets. In fact, it is my responsibility as a worship pastor to know that every lyric I sing is biblical. Think about a simple line, such as, “Jesus loves me—this I know, for the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong—they are weak, but He is strong.” This is a not a word-for-word “Scripture song,” but we know these words are true. We may not have every reference memorized, but we know Jesus loves us (Romans 8:38-39), we know that we must receive the kingdom of God like a child (Mark 10:15), and we know that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Here are a few examples of how some common worship songs are supported by Scripture:
No, I don’t have all of these verses memorized. I had to look them up! The point is not to spend all day every day making a list of every Scripture reference for every song. We could spend eternity meditating on this one line, “Jesus loves me,” and praise God that we will have the opportunity to do that! But for now, it’s our responsibility to simply know that every line we are singing is biblical. What an honor! What a joy!
Let us be worship leaders who read the Scriptures, but let us do more than that. Let us be shepherds who pray the Word, teach the Word, and sing the Word. “… So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 ESV).