4 Reasons We Should Still Worship God Even When We Don’t Feel Like It

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4 Reasons We Should Still Worship God Even When We Don’t Feel Like It

Sometimes it can be a real struggle to worship God when we come into his presence. You know how it is. Suddenly, we find many distractions around us, or our own thoughts prevent us from truly focusing on him.

Perhaps we feel distant from God. Or we have encountered bitter disappointments in life where we begin to question God’s goodness.

Maybe we’ve had a bad day, or our current life circumstances are getting us down.

On top of that, our moods can go up and down like a rollercoaster. In the morning we may start off happy, but one little thing can put a damper on our joy.

During these times, praising or thanking God may be the last thing we want to do. It can seem completely contrary to our situation.

Isn’t it hypocritical to sing lyrics like “there’s no place I would rather be than here in your love” when the last place we actually want to be is here in his love?

We want to avoid doing what Isaiah 29:13 speaks of when it says:

“The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.’ “(NIV)

But with this in mind, should we still come to God with our praise and thanksgiving when we feel like our hearts are far away? Or should we wait for a more suitable time?

Here are four reasons why worshipping God is still something we should do even when we don’t feel like it:



The word “worship” derives from an old English word “weorthscipe” that means “worth-ship.” It’s about worshipping God because he is worthy, not because we are worthy to come into his presence.

The chorus of the Matt Redman song “The Heart of Worship” says:

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about you, it’s all about you.
I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about you, it’s all about you Jesus.”

When we worship God, it’s not about us. It’s all about Jesus, the King of endless worth. This is regardless of whether we feel we are worthy or not.

But there may be times when we feel like we’ve blown it.

Perhaps we’ve been frustrated at work and have had negative thoughts about our colleagues. Or we’ve taken our anger out on our family. Or maybe our own sin or shame makes us reluctant to come to him. There’s a certain awkwardness. Could God possibly accept us as we are?

And if we offered our seemingly empty praise to him, surely that would be making a mockery of the lyrics, wouldn’t it? 

We often convince ourselves that we need to get our act together first or clean ourselves up before coming to bow before him.

But imagine if the scenario were different. Suppose we were feeling good about ourselves. Maybe the day went well, and we didn’t fall into any kind of sin. We’ve helped others in need, read our Bibles, and even spoken to others about our faith. It seems like our lives are sorted and things are on the rise.

Now would that make us any worthier to come to God and to sing his praises?

The answer is no. 

In fact, we are always unworthy at all times. We can only come to him because of what Jesus did, not because of our own righteousness.

Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our righteousness is like filthy rags. Think about that for a minute. Even our best efforts are like the soiled and dishevelled clothing you might find on a homeless person.

We cannot come into his presence on our own merit. Therefore the feeling that we are unworthy to enter there is not actually a valid hesitation. Having the mindset that we could somehow make ourselves worthy goes back into the territory of thinking we can earn our salvation. The truth is that we aren’t worthy anyway. We never are.

It is Jesus’ blood which he shed for us on the cross that allows us to enter into the most holy place of God’s presence.

The moment Jesus died on the cross, we’re told in Luke 23:44-46 that the curtain separating the outer court (aka “the holy place”) of the Temple from the inner court (aka “the Holy of Holies”) was torn in two from top to bottom.

What’s the significance of this? 

Well, the curtain dividing the holy place and Holy of Holies was based on the Old Testament Tabernacle. This was a sacred tent that the Israelites transported around with them. The Holy of Holies was its inner-most chamber where the Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments lay. It represented the presence of God.

No-one could come into the Holy of Holies or look into the Ark of the Covenant except the high priest. However, he was only able to do so once a year when he came to offer blood as an atonement for the sins of the nation. And he could only do this after he had thoroughly purified himself through strict rituals. Anyone else who would go into the forbidden place, gaze or even touch the Ark would die instantly, because their sinful state could not withstand the presence of a holy God.

Spoiler alert! If you’ve seen the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, you may remember the ending where the Nazis open the captured Ark of the Covenant, hoping it will bring them immense power. However, hundreds of angelic, wraith-like beings suddenly emerge from it, killing them instantly in a horrific, fiery death. At the same time, Indiana Jones tells Marion not to look into it whatever happens, but to keep her eyes firmly shut. Although this was somewhat dramatised, what was happening in this scene was that the Nazis were encountering the holy presence of God and could not possibly survive such contact.

That would’ve been the same result for anyone else hoping to enter the presence of God. The Tabernacle, whose structure was later duplicated in the Temple of Jerusalem, was itself an earthy representation of the true Tabernacle in heaven – God’s holy presence and throne room. The Temple curtain then, symbolised the vast gulf between God and man where no-one could approach.

However, that all changed when Jesus died on the cross. 

Here’s how:

Hebrews 4:14-16 tells us that Jesus is our High Priest. Through his sacrifice on the cross he has shed his own blood to atone for our sins on behalf of the people. And he opened the way for us to approach God when the Temple veil was torn in two.

It is not our own righteousness that allows us to come into the presence of God. Instead, it’s Jesus’ righteousness that God sees when he looks at us, not our own – that gives us access. That righteousness is imputed to us – a theological term meaning that it is treated as if it is ours.

Hebrews 10:19-22 encourages us to come to him confidently and boldly, not because of anything we’ve done but because of what Jesus has done.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (NIV)

As the final verse of the classic Charles Wesley hymn “And Can It Be” says:

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’ eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

This means we can freely worship God and boldly approach his throne because of what Jesus has done. We know we are coming to him as unrighteous and unworthy. But that doesn’t make any difference. It’s Jesus who has declared us righteous. We need to trust what he says about us, not what we think about ourselves or however the devil tries to accuse or condemn us.

As Hillsong worship leader Darlene Zschech says in her book Worship Changes Everything

“As you worship your Creator, it is time to align your sense of self-worth—how you see yourself—with what He says about you, with the worth He has ascribed to you! After all, you were made in the image of God—that alone gives you worth!”



When we are having a bad day or not feeling in the mood for worship, it’s easy to allow that to dictate our actions. The thoughts that are going on in our minds can distract us from focusing completely on God. On top of that, our enemy the devil is constantly shooting his fiery darts of accusation and condemnation, or tempting us to go astray. Anything to keep us from worshipping God.

In Matthew 22:34-40, the Pharisees question Jesus on the greatest commandment in the law. Jesus responds in verse 37 by saying:

 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (NIV)

Loving God is not simply dependent on your heart and soul. It’s also something we do with our minds. Since worshipping God is part of loving him, this means that we make a deliberate choice to praise him regardless of whether we actually feel in the mood or the kind of day we’ve had. It involves an act of the will.

Hebrews 13:15, which tells us:

“Through him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to his name.”  (NIV)

Worship involves a sacrifice on our part. But what does it mean to offer a sacrifice of praise?

It means we are laying down or sacrificing how we are feeling at that particular point and instead choosing to give thanks to his name.

We may not feel particularly thankful at the point. However, when we speak or sing out these words as an act of the will, we are uttering them in faith. They might not be a reality for us at that particular moment, but we are choosing to respond to God based on what his word tells us or what we know to be true about him. We are letting our feelings follow from that rather than vice versa.

We’re saying “God, I don’t feel like worshipping you right now, but I’m going to do so anyway because of who you are.”

When we make that sacrifice of praise, we are deliberately shifting our focus away from ourselves or our problems as the centre of attention. Instead, we are making a conscious decision to trust in him and his word and to focus on him.

The second verse of the classic worship song “Jesus we celebrate your victory” by John Gibson went as follows:

His Spirit in us releases us from fear
The way to Him is open
With boldness we draw near
And in His presence our problems disappear
Our hearts responding to His love

Sometimes when this has been sung in church, some Christians have criticised the line “And in His presence our problems disappear”. The argument is that that it makes light of things too much because our very real problems are still there, not that they have disappeared. I’ve seen people substituting the lyrics “And in His presence our darkness disappears” or “And in His presence our problems lose their fear.”

However, I think this line can be qualified and still work as it is. Yes, our problems don’t necessarily disappear in that they don’t suddenly vanish.  But I think the sentiment that John Gibson is expressing is less about what is going on externally than what is going on internally when we come into God’s presence. When we choose to worship God as an act of the will, we are deliberately choosing not to focus on ourselves or our circumstances, no matter how dire they may be. In that sense, they do disappear, as our hearts respond to his love. It’s not that they aren’t there, but that we are shifting our focus and seeing God instead.

The old hymn,“Turn your eyes upon Jesus” by Helen H Lemel accurately summarises what happens:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, the things of earth, including our problems, grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

God wants our worship and trust in him to be because we are committed to him. It shouldn’t be that our commitment and trust in him is dependent on whether we are problem free or feel like worshipping him at that point.

Regardless of what is going on at the time, we should choose in obedience to worship God, and not to focus on anything else.

When we worship God, we are able to look beyond our own circumstances. With our own eyes, we have a tendency to look only at the visible world around and what is humanly possible. When we shift our eyes off ourselves, we able to see what God wants us to see with the eyes of faith. This helps us to gain a right view of God and of His power.

Bill Johnson says in his book When Heaven Invades Earth that

“Learning how to see is not the purpose for our worship, but it is a wonderful by-product.”

Keeping our eyes fixed only on our own situation, we end up doing what the Philosopher did in the book of Ecclesiastes. Often, he spoke words of despair and frustration, perceiving that life was futile and meaningless. He was seeing things only from “under the sun”, which essentially means from a human perspective.” Occasionally though, he would have a paradigm shift and see things from “above the sun”.

Likewise, when we fix our eyes on God instead and start to worship him, we begin to see things from “above the sun” – i.e., from a heavenly perspective or God’s point of view.

The Jenn Johnson Bethel song “God I Look To You” sums up what we should be doing in worship. The lyrics of the verse say:

“God I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed
Give me vision to see things like You do
God I look to You, You’re where my help comes from
Give me wisdom; You know just what to do”

It’s an expression of trust, recognising that God is where our help comes from and knows what to do. Therefore, we won’t be overwhelmed by our problems but look to God to see things the way he does.



When we worship God and tune out other distractions, we gain a greater appreciation and awareness of his presence.

Bill Johnson writes that:

“It’s in the environment of worship that we learn things that go way beyond what our intellect can grasp – and the greatest of these lessons is the value of His Presence. David was so affected by this that all his other exploits pale in comparison to his abandoned heart for God. We know that he learned to see into God’s realm because of statements like, ‘I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.’ The Presence of God affected his seeing. He would constantly practice recognizing the Presence of God. He saw God daily, not with the natural eyes, but with the eyes of faith. That priceless revelation was given to a worshipper.”

How exactly does worshipping God bring us into his presence and give us an increased awareness of him?

This is because worship songs have a special quality to them not found in any other type of music, Christian or otherwise.

Christian songs come in all varieties. Some are used for encouraging others or sharing the gospel. Others take the form of introspection. While these are also good and definitely have their place, they have a more horizontal aspect to them. By this, I mean that they’re directed from the musician or singer to another person.

Worship songs differ in this regard. Michael Coleman and Ed Lindquist, the executive producers of Integrity Music  explain in their book Come and Worship  that:

“Praise and worship music is vertical. To oversimplify it, ‘horizontal’ music talks about God, while ‘vertical’ music talks to God… Vertical music is directed from the musician upward to God. God is the audience and the believers are singing to Him. Both horizontal and vertical music are valid ministries; both have a place in the Church.”

Using the same vocabulary as Coleman and Lindquist, we could take this slightly further. It’s possible to describe more than just a one-way vertical action ascending to heaven where we’re offering praise to him. We could say there is also a corresponding downwards vertical movement where worship is also for our benefit.

Bill Johnson writes that:

“Worship is our number one priority in ministry. Everything else we do is to be affected by our devotion to this call. He inhabits our praise. One translation puts it this way, ‘But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel. God responds with a literal invasion of heaven to earth through the worship of the believer.”

When we worship, and when God is enthroned in our praises, we could describe a downwards vertical movement from heaven to earth. Sometimes Christians express this as coming into his immediate presence or where God’s presence is manifested in a particular location or even heaven invading earth.

Now, I should clarify some of the language used here, and the language that we use in general. When we speak of all of these vertical movements, we’re actually just using Christian shorthand for what we perceive to happen from our own point of view.

As humans, we tend to think of God being “up there” while we are “down here”.

For example, Isaiah 66:1-2 says:

“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.” (NIV)

Also, when we think of heaven, we also think of it as a place somewhere high up, and even talk about the skies and the cosmos above as “the heavens.” It’s natural therefore to use this kind of vocabulary.

For example, Psalm 139:7-10 says:

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.” ( NIV)

However, one of God’s unique divine qualities is that he is omnipresent, meaning that he’s everywhere at once. He’s not simply “up there”. The verses in Psalm 139:7-10 make this clear when it talks about not being able to go anywhere without finding God there.

In theological speak, we often use the terms “transcendent” and “immanent” to describe God. Simply put, transcendent means that God is beyond or above our own human experience or understanding. But he also immanent in that he is present and apparent throughout our universe, sustaining all life as its creator. This is an oversimplification, but I’d rather leave this topic for another blog post where I can go into it more fully.

Why does this matter?

Well, with God being present everywhere, all of this talk of upward and downward vertical movements is not completely accurate.

When we are worshipping God, he is there alongside us inhabiting our praises. So there isn’t necessarily an upward movement of our praises ascending to him or a downward vertical movement of his presence descending upon us. It’s simply the language we use to describe things, or how we perceive events and express it in our limited human vocabulary.

This is the question that Bob Kauflin, the pastor, worship leader and director of Sovereign Grace Music asks in his book Worship Matters.

He explains that:

 “…while God is present everywhere, he also chooses sometimes to localize his presence, as he did so unexpectedly for Moses in a burning bush in the desert (Exodus 3:2).”

Jesus has promised to be present where two or three are gathered in his name (Matthew 18:20). God is also present when we sing his praises. Ephesians 5:18-19 tells us that the Holy Spirit inspires our psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. God also promises to be present whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. These, and many other instances in the Bible are examples when we are told that God is especially present.

However, Kauflin writes that:

“There are, of course, times when we become unexpectedly aware of the Lord’s presence. Maybe a sudden wave of peace comes over us. Or an irrepressible joy rises up from the depths of our soul. Or we experience the sweet sting of the Holy Spirit’s conviction. In those moments has God’s presence come down to us? Have we been led into God’s presence? No. God was present from the beginning. We’ve just become more aware of it.”

In Don Carson’s chapter “Worship under the Word” in Mark Ashton and R Kent Hughes’s book Worship by the Book, Carson notes that we often speak in terms of worship bringing us directly into the presence of God or worship taking us from the outer court into the inner court.


 It is not our own righteousness that allows us to come into the presence of God. Instead, it’s Jesus’ righteousness that God sees when he looks at us, not our own – that gives us access.


He points out that while we can read those statements sympathetically, they are theologically inaccurate when taken at face value.

Here’s why:

As we saw in point #1 above, the Temple curtain guarding the inner court was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross. Carson points out that

“Objectively, what brings us into the presence of God is the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. If we ascribe to worship (meaning, in this context, our corporate praise and adoration) something of this power, it will not be long before we think of such worship as being meritorious, or efficacious, or the like.”

It’s not our worship that leads us into God’s presence. It’s Jesus’ sacrifice. That’s why, going back briefly to #1 above, whether we’re feeling worthy or not won’t have any effect on being able to enter into that most holy place.

All it will do is affect our awareness of his presence because we’re more aware of our sin, shame or shortcomings.

Carson explains what really happens when we worship. He writes:

“when we come together and engage in the activities of corporate worship… we encourage one another, we edify one another, and so we often feel encouraged and edified. As a result, we are renewed in our awareness of God’s love and God’s truth, and we are encouraged to respond with adoration and action. In this subjective sense, all of the activities of corporate worship may function to make us more aware of God’s majesty, God’s presence, God’s love. But I doubt that it is helpful to speak of such matters in terms of worship “leading us into the presence of God”: not only is the term worship bearing a meaning too narrow to be useful, but the statement is in danger of conveying some profoundly untrue notions.”


Thus, we may talk about coming into God’s immediate presence during worship, this is really just Christian shorthand. We are describing what we perceive to happen from our own point of view using our own limited vocabulary. What we really mean is that our awareness of him has simply increased or we’re feeling more intimate with him.

This is precisely what the bridge of “Holy Spirit”  describes when it says:

Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness

Think of it like the way you might feel closer to someone when you get to know them better and have spent time with them – in their presence.

In one sense we could say we’ve managed to enter the zone or hit that sweet spot where we’ve tuned out all other distractions so that we are only aware of him.

It’s the equivalent of doing what that hymn “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” is talking about in #2 above.



When we sing out the words in worship or speak words of praise and thanksgiving to God, we are actually making them into speech acts.

Speech acts are words or utterances which are not merely communicating an exchange of information but have an action or consequence. When we speak these words, we are actually doing something with them which changes a situation.

The theory of speech acts originally comes from British philosopher of language J.L Austin’s seminal book How To Do Things With Words.

Austin himself prefers the term “performative utterances”, or “performatives” for short, instead of speech acts. Performatives, he says, derive from the verb “perform” combined with the noun “action”.  He explains that:

“the issuing of the utterance is the performing of an action – it is not normally thought of as just saying something.”

For example, when a vicar says to a man and woman “I now pronounce you husband and wife”, he is not merely relating information. His words actually change the situation and the two single individuals now become a couple.

Although not a specifically Christian book, Austin’s work has been highly influential and much research has been carried out on the subject of speech acts in the Bible.

This is because many of God’s words are speech acts themselves. For example, when God created the universe and said “Let there be light”, he spoke this into being. His words were his acts.

Because we are made in God’s image, our speech acts are a limited version of God’s power to do things with his words.

When it comes to worship, this is particularly true where our words function as speech acts.

Here’s how this works:

Canadian professor of philosophy Donald Evans explains in his book The Logic of Self-Involvement how this is the case. His book is a detailed study on the way we use everyday language, with special reference to the vocabulary Christians use about God as creator. He talks very specifically about the nature of our worship lexicon.

Evans writes that whenever God addresses us, he is making speech acts in the form of statements which are a commitment to us and whenever we address God, we make a commitment in response. He writes:

“…man does not (or does not merely) assert certain facts about God; he addresses God in the activity of worship, committing himself to God and expressing his attitude to God. In so far as God’s self-revelation is a self-involving verbal activity (“His Word is claim and promise, gift and demand”) and man’s religious language is also a self-involving verbal activity (“obedient, thankful confession and prayer”), theology needs an outline of the various ways in which language is self-involving.”

Evans adds that our language of worship falls into two main categories:

1. Commissives: this is when the speaker commits to a course of action. Language falling into this category includes words such as “promise”, “pledge”,  “accept” etc.

2. Behabitives: this is a speech act when an attitude is expressed and adopted. Typical vocabulary here are words like “praise, thank, apologise, glorify, confess, worship, welcome,” etc.

Thus when a speaker makes commissive performative utterances such as “I promise” or “I pledge”, he or she is doing so in more than just a verbal way but is actually committing to behave in particular way in future.

So when God speaks, such as in Psalm 91: 14 where he says:

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name”

God is making a promise and committing to act in a certain way towards us.

In contrast God’s promises evoke a response on our part which takes the form of praise, thanksgiving or apologising for our behaviour.

Evans suggests that because most of the language about God is either commissive or behabitative,  it therefore has a level of  commitment or self-involvement attached to it – hence the title of his book.

In other words, it’s difficult to declare some of the worship lyrics without feeling that it demands a response on your part. There is something about the words that you simply cannot ignore without it feeling that they are stirring something up in your soul.

How does this actually affect us?

In his book The Psalter Reclaimed, British Old Testament scholar Gordon Wenham explains that

“…singing or praying the psalms is a performative, typically a commissive act. Saying these solemn words to God alters ones relationship in a way mere listening does not.”

He adds that singing the psalms

“commits us in attitudes, speech, and actions… by using them as prayers or singing them, worshippers declare their faith and their commitment to God’s ways.”

When we speak something out in worship, we are not simply communicating information. Instead, we are committing to that attitude. This is why Proverbs 18:21 tells us that

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  (NIV)

There is power in our words, and what we speak out and hear, we eventually tend to believe.

Indeed, Romans 10:17 says

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (NIV)

When we speak out words of thankfulness or blessing in faith, we affirm God’s truth and power and internalise the truths of scripture as well. This is one of the reasons why listening to worship music and singing psalms is an excellent creative way to memorise Bible verses. 

It also has the effect of boosting our own faith as well and gives us a different perspective of the situation from God’s point of view.

Thus, even though we may initially feel that the words we speak are hollow and hypocritical and might not be a reality for us at that moment, through an act of faith we are speaking them into being.

Darlene Zschech says

“When we worship God, we align our hearts, wills, and thoughts with His heart, will, and thoughts.”

So, for example, when we sing lyrics like “faithful you have been and faithful you will be”, from the song “Ever Be”, we may sometimes have trouble believing these words. However, the more we declare these in faith and agree to these attributes of God, the more we find that these actually do become a reality in our lives and we know it for ourselves.

That’s not simply positive thinking or positive reinforcement. Here’s why.

You’ve heard of the expression “fake it until you make it”? That usually refers to acting with confidence in a certain way until you actually become the thing you are imitating.

Now we don’t want to fake our worship, otherwise we’d be guilty of doing the very thing Isaiah 29:13 warns us against. We don’t want to honour God with only our mouths and lips but our hearts are far away.

But sometimes with worship, it’s a case of “faith it until you make it.”

This means we let our feelings follow from our faith rather than vice versa.

Hebrews 11:1 says

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (NIV)

We act and worship confidently, not because of our own abilities or worthiness. Our confidence is in what Jesus has done on the cross in making a way for us to enter into God’s presence.

We choose to make that sacrifice of praise through an act of the will. By pushing through that initial barrier we have of not feeling like worshipping but doing it anyway, it changes our situation and we begin to see things from God’s perspective.

As we speak out these declarations about God and his character and other words of worship in faith, eventually our feelings will align with them as we experience a greater awareness of God’s presence and power.


When we speak something out in worship, we are not simply communicating information. Instead, we are committing to that attitude..


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Finally, what stops you from coming to God in worship? How do you deal with it and do you find any of these suggestions useful?

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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.

Feeling far from God and in no mood to praise him? Discover 4 reasons why it's good to worship God and be thankful even when you don't feel like it.

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