Encountering the Holy Spirit in Worship: An Interview with Matt Maher
Artists and Authors
Multiple Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Matt Maher joined us again this past year to lead worship at our annual Onething Conference, December 28–31, 2016. In a recent interview, he shared some thoughts on worship and encountering God’s presence.
Learn more about Matt and his ministry at mattmahermusic.com.
IHOPKC: What’s your primary objective when you lead worship, and how does it differ from performing?
Matt: Every time I play music, more and more I’m praying for and hoping for an encounter with the Holy Spirit. I’m wanting God to reveal Himself in a fresh way, in a new way, even if it’s something I’ve played 600 million times.
When you’re leading worship, what happens is that wish and desire extend outside of yourself to the people you’re with, and change the nature of how you play.
When I’m leading worship for a group of people, my primary objective isn’t just for a revelation of my own; it’s actually for the people of God to have one. Leading worship is centered on others; it’s not me-centered.
I think personal devotion is great, but it’s different from standing up in front of a room of 50 or a couple hundred or a couple thousand people, and you’re singing a song, and they’re looking to you for some level of modeling or guidance. I think the primary difference is you—you have to be outward-focused. You have to have one eye on your heart and one eye on the congregation.
IHOPKC: How do you handle the tension of creating new songs versus repeating the same lyrics?
Matt: I just remember that if what I’m singing is true, then it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve sung it. If you’re singing something new and it’s true, great! Or if you’re singing something old—really old, or something that’s 10 years old—it’s still true. I think the consolation is knowing that God has something to say in it.
As humans, we go about our routines: we drive the same way to work, we put our clothes on the same way, and we read our Bibles and set up patterns of how we like to pray or spend time devotionally—and God doesn’t look down on that.
I think the problem is when we somehow limit God to only speaking through new expressions or new experiences. That’s a real problem, because you’re shrinking God’s capacity, first of all, and then, second of all, so much of faith is on memory.
So much of declaring God’s promises isn’t just based on blind hope. It’s based on the credibility of who He’s revealed Himself to be through generation upon generation, and He’s been consistent with His Word.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the very promises in the Old Testament. And as Christians, we know that to be true. In our own lives we can look back on our memories and see His faithfulness.
Take the song “Your Grace is Enough.” I wrote it 12 years ago, but every time I sing it out—“Great is Your faithfulness, Oh God of Jacob”—it’s a new prayer. Just because the song is old, whenever we pray, it’s not like God says, “Oh, he’s using that prayer again.”
I think the way I hold the tension is that I see the value of holding onto things that have been said because they’re true.
What truths do you enjoy singing during times of corporate worship?