Psalm 61: Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
 from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
 for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
 Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
 For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
 Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
 May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!
 So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.
Psalm 61:8 – “So I will sing praises to your name, as I perform my vows day after day.” The Old Testament, as well as the New, make it abundantly clear that religious ritual without the heart is abhorrent to God.
David proclaims in his Psalm of repentance for his sin with Bathsheba that God does not require sacrifices and burnt offerings. If He did, then David would bring them. God pulls no punches when he tells the Israelites, through Amos, that He hates their religious festivals and sacrifices. He tells Jeremiah to preach repentance to those who are entering the temple to offer their sacrifices.
The examples of God hating heartless religion are many. It comes most forcefully across in the Old Testament but the New Testament has it as well. The churches of the Revelation are full of criticism from Christ to the churches for their sins, which were committed while they were busy doing all the religious stuff. To Sardis Jesus says “You have a reputation for being alive but you are dead”. To the church of Laodicea Jesus says that He will spew them out of His mouth.
Jesus, quoting the Old Testament says that the people of His day honoured God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. And to those who beg to be allowed entrance into glory because of the preaching and miracles and exorcisms they performed, Jesus will say, “Depart form you who are accursed.” Strong language. The Scriptures are constantly warning us about the danger and possibility of doing religion while having no real heart for God.
In Psalm 61 David concludes with the phrase that he will do the religious rituals while singing praises to God’s name. He means that his praise of God is from the heart. This is the perfect combination of external and heart worship. God gave the intricate details regarding worship because He cared about how Israel worshipped. He cared very much. But observance of the details without a heart for the One who gave them is rank hypocrisy. Without the heart there can be no true obedience, no matter how meticulously the rules are obeyed. Without the heart they are not being obeyed at all.
When Hebrews 10 says that believers should not forsake the assembling together with other believers, it does not mean that one is scoring points for himself just by attending church. When we are encouraged to pray without ceasing God is not encouraging us to recite long memorized prayers that come out of our mouths thoughtlessly. Bible reading is not done by hurriedly rushing through a text in order to get one’s allotted amount of reading done and so not fall behind. He wants our hearts.
Do not neglect to worship God today. But do not merely go through some well worn ritual that could be performed in your sleep. Come to the eternal triune God and bow before Him and worship with your heart fully engaged. If your heart is not in it then pray to get it in. There can be no real worship without it. Travel through your day in a state of worship, from your heart by living in a manner that reflects the glory of Christ is not mere external motion.