The drummer begins a snappy, energizing beat.
The guitarists add moving chords.
The keyboard player joins with a compelling melody and attention-grabbing harmony.
Then the leader of the band enthusiastically proclaims, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Please stand and join me as we praise and worship our awesome God!”
It’s a familiar scene for those who attend a contemporary or blended worship service.
Have you ever wondered why we are invited to praise and worship? Aren’t the two words just synonyms for each other?
That’s what I thought for a long time. Then a worship leader explained that the upbeat praise songs we sing first are designed to help us focus on God instead of the many mind-distractions vying for attention.
After a time of praise, he said, we are more receptive to the quieter, more reverent songs of worship. He likened our musical journey to the movement of Bible time worshipers, from the outer courts of the temple to the inner court.
Since then, I’ve learned more insights into the difference between praise and worship. For example:
Praise is an expression of approval and admiration, exalting God for who he is. We praise him for his wonderful attributes, like love, wisdom, power, and holiness. He is certainly worthy of every word of praise we can offer (Psalm 18:3).
But we can also praise people for their attributes. Even the family dog earns praise for being a good boy or girl! Praise is relatively easy to give. It costs us nothing except a little thoughtfulness and a little time.
A close relative of praise is thanksgiving. Just as we praise God for who he is, we express gratitude for what he does.
Worship, on the other hand, is exclusive. God is the only One worthy of our worship (Luke 4:8).
The word, worship, comes to us from Old English: weorth (worth) and scipe (ship). When we express our awe, love, and respect to God, we are proclaiming his worth to us.
True worship also includes humility, honesty, and surrender (John 4:24; Psalm 119:7):
- Humility as we recognize God’s supremacy,
- Honesty as we confess our inadequacy and sin,
- Surrender as we relinquish our wills to his all-wise control.
Worship also draws us closer to God (Psalm 145:18), which is not just for Sunday mornings. Worship (as well as praise and thanksgiving) is designed by God to permeate our every day lives.
It’s as if praise, worship, and thanksgiving are tributaries, streaming together to form one great river. Three becoming one. Not like a braid, with three plaits woven side-by-side but still separate entities. No–a blending together into a whole, the parts no longer distinguishable.
Praise from a worshipful heart—one that is characterized by humility, honesty, and surrender—is the most sincere.
Thanksgiving that celebrates God’s goodness in his actions and praises God’s greatness of character, is the most complete.
Worship that includes sincere praise and complete gratitude is the most beautiful.
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Every day, Lord, you manifest your greatness to me. May I be quick to offer you praise, thanksgiving, and worship, because you are worthy of no less. And thank you for the gift of worship, for the overwhelming privilege of basking in your glorious and holy Light.
(Photo credit: www.blog.nextlevelworship.com.)