Worship: (from the old english: worth ship) worthiness, acknowledgment of worth.
In Christianity, worship is the act of attributing reverent honor and homage to God. In the New Testament, various words are used to refer to the term worship. One is (“to worship”) which means to bow down to God or kings.
In some North American assemblies, I’ve heard worship described in very narrow and restrictive terms. Especially as it pertains to corporate worship. Singing is the warm up, but it is only as the men stand up and pray that worship is actually happening.
Needless to say, that earned a very unladylike snort from me.
I have several facetious objections to that idea. (Are women not worshipping as they are silently praying? Really? Furthermore…bowing down is often the Biblical position of worship, not standing.)
Jesus taught about worship…to the woman at the well. Isn’t that ironic? This fundamental teaching was given to a despised (on several levels) woman. I love that. Jesus taught that we worship the one true God, in spirit and truth.
The spirit is the nonphysical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character. The Spirit is God the Holy Spirit. To worship in spirit is to reveal what is worth the most to our truest person (created in the image of God, though marred by sin). Worship is our spirit communicating and connecting with God’s spirit.
Worship is also intrinsically dependent on truth. In all its absoluteness. We don’t set the terms of how or who we worship. As believers, the focus and foundation of our worship is Christ-The truth.
If, in its most basic but encompassing form, worship is acknowledging the worth of a deity (God), then how exactly do we worship?
1. Sacrifice & offerings
Traditionally, in all religions, sacrifice and offerings have always been connected with worship. While Christians do not sacrifice animals or even bring physical gifts to a physical altar, we are called to bring a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15) and of our lives.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
A holy life lived in an acceptable manner for the glory of God is worship.
David said he wouldn’t offer anything that didn’t cost him something. Sacrifices cost us. Worship should also cost us something.
Praying is certainly a primary vehicle of worship, because as we pray we are talking to God. As we audibly or silently worship God in prayer, we are giving expression to our heart’s thoughts of God’s worth, based upon who He is and what He has done. That is worship.
Jim McKendrick once defined worship as telling the Father the glories of the Son. I like that. There is more to the idea of worship than that, but it certainly provides a good springboard for reflection.
3. Singing & music
Some pray hymn lyrics and consider that worship, but would exclude singing those very same lyrics as worship. Singing isn’t just priming the worship pump. While all singing is not worship, music is an expression of our heart, and worship certainly flows from our heart. Singing to the Lord is worship.
In addition to singing, instrumental music was used in the temple to worship God. David was a musician and wrote, played and sang psalms to the Lord. The Psalms are full of worship, and their titles often name some of the instruments they were written specifically for. Psalm 148-150 list many instruments used to praise God.
This would be similar to the idea of sacrifices and offerings, but I think would be a more tangible expression of worship. It’s been said that humans give to what (causes and things) we value, and conversely, we value what we give to. Jesus said,
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:21
As such, giving would certainly be a demonstration of our view of the worth of our God. He doesn’t need our gifts. His value isn’t increased by our gifts. But our gifts display the value we assign to His worth.
Sacrifice, holy living, prayer, singing, music, and giving are all worship. What else would you include?