What is Worship?

What exactly is worship and how does it connect us to God? Is there a wrong way to worship vs a right way?


That’s a good question. I’ve heard a minister say the word worship could be divided into two works ‘worth ship’ as an easy way to see that worship is assigning or acknowledging the worth or high status of God whom we worship.

It would have been quite a change for new Jewish Christians to get used to the idea that they could worship anywhere: compared to the temple system where you needed to go to a location in order to offer sacrifice and worship. I’m just remembering the encounter Jesus had with the woman of Samaria at the well.

She asked Jesus where was the proper place to worship : Jerusalem (for the Jews), or Mount Gerizim for the Samaritans. John 4.

What prompted you to ask the question ? Are you interested in our attitude during worship, whether a certain style of worship is better or just different depending on different denomination, or have you thought about how different cultures worship differently…?

I come from a quite conservative background and prefer a quieter meditative style, but I have to make sure I don’t switch off and my mind wanders to other things. I also do enjoy visiting churches with more contemporary worship services quite often also.

What thoughts have you had regarding this area ? Do you have any articles you’ve read that you enjoyed and meant something to you ?

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Hi, @Luna!
This is a really good question to reflect on on a Sunday evening! :slight_smile: I’ve had to learn over the last couple of years how to explain my former role as Music and Worship leader at my church to people unfamiliar with what actually happens at church, particularly on a Sunday. (And every time I explain it, I can’t help but think that it must all sound a bit ridiculous!)

We meet together as a church for a formal service of worship to meet with God, to hear from him, to declare together His worth (as @matthew.western pointed out), and to remind ourselves (to tell ourselves again the story) of the Gospel.

We do this because we are worshipping creatures. That is, our hearts will always be devoted to something. Worship can be seen as an act that reveals our heart’s devotion(s). A man (or woman) will serve that which he (or she) loves…and that can be any number of things!

So, turning our hearts towards God and opening ourselves up to communing with Him will give space for God, by His Spirit, to speak into our lives.

And, I too wonder about what you mean by ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to worship? I mean, sacrificing children would definitely be a wrong way, but I’m thinking you have something rather less obvious in mind… :wink:


@Luna something else for you to consider here is the word itself. When you look it up in the Hebrew and Greek it literally means to fall on your face. This is exactly what John does as do others when they see Jesus throughout the Bible.

Another important person to consider is David. He is referred to as a man after God’s own heart. I wondered about this for a long time until the penny dropped. He would sit there with his sheep writing Psalms (love songs) to God.

These are two key points for me currently when I reflect about what worship is. Oh and one more…

WE ARE THE TEMPLE:grin::heart::raised_hands:


@matthew.western I haven’t read any articles recently. I guess during prayer I was wondering about it. Sometimes I wonder if I’m worshipping God correctly. I come from a more penacostal/Baptist background when it comes to worship so I listen to gospel or a gospel contemporary mix genre.

@KMac I guess I’m just wondering if there a specific way of getting close to God. I worship sometimes but feel nothing. Even though I know it’s not about feelings it makes it hard to decipher if there is anything I’m doing wrong.


Worship = Living Life for Jesus. Everything we do. King David wrote a lot of Psalms to the LORD. He was a musician playing to soothe King Saul. I am sure they were worship Psalms/Songs about God’s Faithfulness. Mary in the Gospels bursted out in Song when Gabriel tells her she will carry the Messiah. In the Torah Myriam and even Moses were singing about the wonders that the LORD did for them. His miracles. His power. I always think of scriptures like, “make a joyful noise into the Lord.” “The LORD inhabits the praises of His people.”

The LORD, He is Holy. He is amazing. Ask the LORD. Soak in His word. Quiet time. Sing to Him. Acknowledge Him wherever you are. Give him all your problems first. God loves you. Thankfully, he wants us to pray without ceasing. “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Ask Him for anything. He loves you.

But rest in Jesus’s Forgiveness. Grace. You can’t worship the LORD wrong. Remember He is the only Judge. And He died for you to make you the Righeousness of God in Jesus Christ.

@Luna, I had read this article by Ravi Zacharias a few months ago about Worship, which I loved. It’s a long one but here are the main points :

  • we cannot worship God without love.
  • we cannot worship God without giving honor
  • we cannot worship without sacrifice
  • we cannot worship God with a wrong motive
  • we cannot worship God without instruction in the truth .
  • we cannot worship God without obedience .

He also quoted a beautiful definition of worship from archbishop William Temple:

Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, nourishment of mind by His truth, purifying of imagination by His beauty, opening of the heart to His love, and submission of will to His purpose. All this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of all expressions of which we are capable.

For me personally, I have had the best times of worship when I am totally able to focus on the attributes of God and meditate on richness of His words in Scripture. I have personally experienced many of those worship concerns raised by Ravi Zacharias in my own life. Though I verbally confessed Jesus as my God when I struggled to believe that God loved me during some seasons of life, I found it difficult to worship Him. Only an in-depth study on the love of God revived that love for God. There was also a season where I had exalted Christian performance or Christian role models so much that it took my eyes of the grace of Jesus. There were other times when unforgiveness played a role in dampening my ability to receive from God. Praying with a focus on problems than on God was yet another trap. There were also times when I prioritized my time with God in the Bible in the mornings but didnt think of Him all day after that. My faith was too compartmentalized. Other times, I had allowed doubts of the enemy than truth of the Bible to replay in my mind. So, I think there are ways we could miss out on the fullness of worshipping God even when trying to pursue Him. For the most part, what I find is that if I come to God with repentance in the name of Jesus and meditate on the greatness of God, my perspective changes and I feel stronger in my spirit knowing that I am loved in Jesus. Luna, its been so good to read your insights on Connect! I hope you are encouraged that you are not alone in feeling this. May the Spirit of God lead you into deep convictions of God’s love and presence as you worship Him. God bless you!


So instead of creating another thread I’ll just keep this one going and ask the question here lol

So what if we don’t worship? And what if we are just going through the motions? Would going through the motions be more displeasing to God than not worshiping at all?

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Hi Luna,

When you ask, “What if we don’t worship?,” do you mean ever, or temporarily?

On the question of “What is worship?,” I find John Piper’s response particularly agreeable:

The inner essence of worship is to know God truly and then respond from the heart to that knowledge by valuing God, treasuring God, prizing God, enjoying God, being satisfied with God above all earthly things. And then that deep, restful, joyful satisfaction in God overflows in demonstrable acts of praise from the lips and demonstrable acts of love in serving others for the sake of Christ.

I tend to appreciate both the breadth and the brevity of the way Piper’s defined it here. And I especially appreciate him grounding it on treasuring God more than anything else. Worship, in its essence, at its bottom, is a matter of the heart. You’ll probably notice that every one of Ravi’s points that Lakshmi shared are included in this definition. Indeed, we cannot worship without love - the most important and highest of which is love of God.

So, if you’re asking, “What if someone doesn’t ever worship God,” then perhaps a question to ponder might be, “Can you conceive of someone who treasures God more than anything else who doesn’t ever worship him?”

But, if you’re asking, “What if we, as regenerate people, fail to worship God temporarily?,” that’s part of what Jesus lived and died for - to forgive us of our sins. When I sin, I’m not worshiping God. My response should be to repent - to turn from my sin of not worshiping - ask for forgiveness, and pray for a heart that overflows in the worship of God.

With respect to just going through the motions, In Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus addresses this very issue by calling the Pharisees and scribes guilty of such empty and vain worship “hypocrites.” Jesus said to them “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me.”

With your last question, you asked, “Would going through the motions be more displeasing to God than not worshiping at all?,” I’m interested to learn why you asked this question. Do you know someone who is just “going through the motions?” And, what do you mean by “going through the motions?”

If I’m understanding you correctly in that you mean an outward appearance of worship with no inner heart worship, then if we consider that Jesus said this is vain, or useless, would we agree that that’s not worship? And if we agree that “going through the motions” isn’t worshiping God, then could your question be rephrased like this: “Would not worshiping God be more displeasing to God than not worshiping at all?”

I’m interested to hear your thoughts, Luna.

@Brian_Weeks When you say “when I sin, I’m not worshiping God” does that mean you consider times you aren’t in worship sinful or do you mean that strictly in sinful acts? Just trying to get a better understanding there.

All of this is coming from personal experience. I don’t have the passion that people seem to explain themselves to have or experience when they worship God. There have been times where I was just going through the motions. And there has been a period of time now where I have not been taking the time out to worship at all.

I guess I’m just trying to find out the significance of it in a believers life if that makes sense.

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Luna, sorry for the lack of clarity. What I meant in that instance was, when I’m sinning - which always involves my heart finding satisfaction in something other than God - I’m not worshiping God, since worshiping God necessarily involves my heart being satisfied in God. So, in that particular instance, the latter of your two options. Does that provide any clarity?

Yes, trying to find out the significance of worship in the believer’s life makes a lot of sense. I think it’s a wise and right pursuit, given the importance of worship in the believer’s life. It’s our highest calling. Indeed, all of creation’s highest calling is the worship of God.

  • “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:7)

  • “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’” (Luke 19:40)

  • “And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God” (Revelation 7:11)

In John 4:24, Jesus tells us that “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” So, we must worship the true God as revealed to us in his Word, we must worship God with the proper heart, and our worship is not to be confined only to the church building since God is not confined to the church building. All of life is to be worship.

Our outward expressions of worship are outflowings of our inner affections and worship toward God. And, if and when our affections for God are empty, going through the motions would be what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 15. So, no, I don’t think we should just go through the motions. But, then, what should we do?

One thing we know we can’t do is just make a decision to be joyful in God because that’s not how our heart works. That’s not how our affections, our feelings work. God-honoring, God-pleasing, God-enjoying, God-worshiping affections are God-given. (Galatians 5:22-23)

I encourage you to read Psalm 40. In it, David writes of how he was in “the pit of destruction” and “the miry bog,” but that the Lord then lifted him up from there, set his feet upon a rock, and put a new song of praise in his mouth. In other words, at first, David’s heart was not inclined towards God. He didn’t feel joyful. He wasn’t awestruck by his beauty, his majesty, his holiness. But God changed his heart and put a new song in his mouth.

How did he get from his heart being in the pit of destruction to worshiping God? David tells us that he cried out to God and “waited patiently for the Lord.” (Psalm 40:1)

I think this gives us valuable insight into what we should do when we find our hearts feeling empty or lacking towards God. Because of Christ, we have blood-bought access to the throne of God. And because of this, we can pray. We can cry out to God and tell him of our lack of affections. We can ask him to kindle in us fresh joy, fresh awe, fresh wonder. We can ask him to help us to see him more truly so we can savor him more deeply and sing of him more sweetly.

Additionally, God has given the church other means of grace to build his people up that we can and should avail ourselves of regularly. We can read our Bibles. God’s Word is full of power. We can sit under faithful, biblical preaching. We can listen to worship music. And we can fellowship with one another.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and 14, Paul exorts believers to “encourage one another and build one another up” and to “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” When we avail ourselves of the kindness, the wisdom, the goodness, the patience, the joy, the love, and the uplifting encouragement of others, we are built up and enjoy the means of grace God that he has given us in the body of Christ to demonstrate his love for us. Do you have someone(s) in your church family that you can be honest with and ask for their help?

Hi Luna,
I do feel the same at times. Thanks for asking it’s a great question.

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Not only do I not want to reinvent the wheel, I have trouble even telling you about it. But others can and have. I heard Ravi in 2002 on Let My People Think, and he spoke so wonderfully about Worship. I’m not sure this link with Leadership and Worship is the same as the ones I listened to, but I suppose they are.

Leadership and Worship

Ravi said something like, The most powerful evangel in this world is a congregation in worship.

He also mentioned that he took some exception to using worth ship, to describe worship, and said he would say why later. But I don’t think he did, and I wonder if I missed something or haven’t listened far enough, or whether he forgot.

John Piper speaks of the Greek words for worship, proskuneo and latreuo and so does Ravi.

Worship God

Here are some quotes from the transcript on Piper’s audio link - Oh dear, I just quoted some, but I think there are too many and I’m trying to make it shorter. I find it hard to express my thoughts and I’m always trying to quote others who express things that move my heart toward God in adoration.

WORSHIP - is what we were created for. This is the final end of all existence: the worship of God. God created the universe so that it would display the worth of his glory. And he created us so that we would see this glory and reflect it by knowing and loving it — with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.

Utterly stunning

What we find in the New Testament, perhaps to our amazement, is an utterly stunning degree of indifference to worship as an outward ritual, and an utterly radical intensification of worship as an inward experience of the heart.

Heart - indispensable essence of worship

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me” (Matthew 15:8–9). When the heart is far from God, worship is vain, empty, non-existent. The experience of the heart is the defining, vital, indispensable essence of worship.

All of life - an act of worship

For example, the next most frequent word for worship in the Old Testament (after proskuneo ) is the word latreuo (over 90 times, almost always translating `abad ) which is usually translated “serve,” as in Exodus 23:24: “You shall not worship their gods or serve them.”

When Paul uses it for Christian worship he goes out of his way to make sure that we know he means not a localized or outward form for worship practice but a non-localized, spiritual experience. In fact, he takes it so far as to treat virtually all of life as an act of worship when lived in the right spirit.

Worship happening in the heart and reflecting the value of the glory of God in all of life

So you can see what is happening in the New Testament. Worship is being significantly de-institutionalized, de-localized, de-ritualized. The whole thrust is being taken off of ceremony and seasons and places and forms; and is being shifted to what is happening in the heart — not just on Sunday, but every day and all the time in all of life.

This is what it means when we read things like, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). And “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). This is the form of worship commanded in the New Testament: to act in a way that reflects the value of the glory of God — to do a thing in the name of Jesus with thanks to God. That is the basic form of living worship. But the New Testament uses those greatest of all worship sentences without any reference to worship services. They describe life.