Toward inspirational worship

Group 236

“Inspiration is not something I can plan or do,” he said. “I don’t get it. When I plan worship services, I pick hymns and practice music. They say they want the worship to be more ‘inspirational,’ but what does that mean?”

The Rev. Phil Hirsch highlights this resource for our congregations, preschools and social ministry organizations.

The Rev. Phil Hirsch, Director for Evangelical Mission and Assistant to the Bishop

I think the minister of music who said this* is right. Inspiration can not be forced or planned out like a progression of hymns in a worship service. When something is inspired, it is breathed into by the Holy Spirit. It is a quality that goes beyond our ability to convey or control that connects the worshipper with God. The scripture says it is like wind that you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. How can we prepare for that?

Perhaps we underestimate the power and importance of prayer in our preparation for worship. After all, Lutherans tend to be shy when it comes to the third person of the Trinity. We don’t talk about it very much. Prayer can make us more open to and aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit working through us and around us.

Prayer reminds us that what happens in worship is as much a beautiful mystery of grace and love and truth as it is a planned progression of songs and words and actions. This prayer may be as simple as “Come, Holy Spirit.”

May the Holy Spirit inspire your worship planning and leadership. May she give you wisdom, energy and insight. May all those who worship with you come to experience the power and presence of the Word made flesh.


* Partners for Evangelical Worship are identified in the 65 synods of the ELCA to assist with renewing worship for relevance in today’s world, a priority for the ELCA. These reflections by the Rev. Phil Hirsch were written about his and the Rev. Kate Murray’s experience at that conference, representing the Metro D.C. Synod at a Partners for Evangelical Worship conference last summer.