The Prayer of Praise
We offer the prayer of praise when we consider all of God’s works that we can recall and express in an attitude of exultation and glorification of His name, which is worthy to be praised. We should offer praise to the Lord as part of our lifestyle (Psalm 145:1-7). Concerning praise, the Word of God teaches us several lessons:
- Praise is a spiritual sacrifice that God demands Christians to offer (Hebrews 13:15).
- The primitive church was always praising (Luke 24:53), because it knew that God abides in the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).
- Praise is the adequate attitude of those who go to a church meeting (Psalm 100:4).
- Praise is the door that opens to worship (2 Chronicles 5:13, 14).
- Praise is a spiritual weapon against the enemy (2 Chronicles 20:21, 22).
- Praise is a source of joy (Psalm 9:1, 2; Psalm 33:1; 35:27).
- Praise many times is associated with songs (Psalm 40:3; Psalm 92:1-4).
- Praise is associated with physical manifestations like dancing (Psalm 150:4), the raising of hands (Psalm 63:3, 4; 134:2).
- Praise should be growing (Psalm 71:14).
- Praise is an invitation to all flesh (Psalm 145:21; Revelation 19:5).
The Prayer of Worship
We recognize whom and what God is through our worship (Revelation 4:8, 11). There is a hunger within us, which springs from a source that we do not always know how to discern. We seek satisfaction in many places but the hunger continues. This reveals a latent necessity within us for God, which God himself has placed in our hearts. The spirit within us seeks to free itself from captivity to fly in the direction of His presence just as birds seem to be compelled to answer a call to migrate. It is God attracting us.
There is an inherent desire in us to worship God, but the ability to do that was lost at the fall of Adam. The spirit of God however enables us to enter the holy of holies, the abode of God, were finally we encounter our reason for living: to worship God.
Worship is one of the principal themes of the Bible. There are 270 references to worship. Worship speaks of our love responding to the love of God. It is not an imperative since God does not impose His love; it is a voluntary response to a spiritual stimulus. Jesus tells us that the love that we feel is the flow of the spirit that we experience finding its expression in satisfaction when we free ourselves to turn to God in worship (John 4:23).
There is no definition of worship in the Bible, because we cannot define love. The most common word in Hebrew is shachah (172 times), translated as “worship”, “to bow down”, “prostrate oneself”. In the Greek, the most common word is prokeneo (59 times), composed of two words: pros – which means “to”, “in the direction of” – and heneo, which means, “to kiss”. Some scholars give the meaning to be “to kiss the hand with admiration”, others “to kiss the feet in homage”.
Etymologically, worship is “to bow, prostrate oneself, kiss the hands, feet or lips, with the feeling of respect and devotion”, while serving the Lord with all the heart. It is an attitude expressed in action, which implies a deep notion of closeness of the partners in a covenant relationship. It involves motion and emotion, but true worship is deeper than that and simply uses these expressions to release a deep love and devotion that draws the believer to the presence of the God of love.
1. The expression of worship
We can better understand worship in the Bible by observing how the worshipers behaved before God. In 1 Chronicles, we find a type of order of service and how to proceed in worship (1 Chronicles 29:20-22): a) they praised the Lord; b) they bowed their heads; c) they worshiped (shachah); d) they sacrificed to the Lord; e) they offered holocausts; f) they ate and drank before the Lord; g) they did all of this with great rejoicing. The closest definition of worship is in Mark 12:30, 31. The passage presents a love that liberates all worship from the heart and that expresses all the attitudes of the soul, all the determination of the mind and utilizes all of the strength of the body of the worshiper. This is worship.
Worship is a response to our relationship. It is love responding to love. It happens when our spirit meets the spirit of God.
2. Elements of worship
Prayer – we need to communicate with God in order to enter into communion with Him. Prayer is essentially communication.
- Praise, confession of sins and confession of faith
- Scripture reading
- Communion (the Lord’s supper)
These elements can be part of worship, but are not in themselves worship, nor are they a substitute for worship. They are simply guides, elements that awaken the heart to enter into the presence of God and respond to His love.
3. Attitudes of worship
Luke 7:37- 50 reveals the attitude of worshiper, the attitude of the spectator in the attitude of Jesus. We will concentrate our attention on the attitude of the worshiper.
Brokenness – the contrast between the holy and perfect presence of God and our smallness is heartbreaking. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart — These, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17). “Shabot” – means “to fear, to break in pieces, or to reduce”. “Dakah” – means, “to smash, to break, to hurt, to wound and to humiliate”. “Contrite” – used to describe the process of making powder (talcum). Worship requires brokenness. Many people build walls of protection around themselves and do not allow God to free them in love, tenderness and worship.
Humility – Mary let down her hair in an inappropriate place, according to custom (1 Corinthians 11:15). She put her reputation aside to worship the Lord in the way that Jesus deserved to be worshiped. She used her hair to dry His dusty feet. She took her glory (her hair) to wash off the mud (Isaiah 57:15; 1 Peter 5:5). Worship without humility is like love without commitment.
Love – Her attitude was filled with love: “she loved much”.
Giving – she did not limit herself in the expression of her emotions, she also gave a tangible evidence of her love, devotion and worship. Giving is associated with worship (Exodus 23:14; 44:20; Deuteronomy 16:16; Psalm 96:1-9). The attitude of Jesus in response to this worship was, “your faith has saved you; go in peace”. (Luke 7:50) – Faith, freedom and peace
The object of worship – or in other words, God himself It is only by the Holy Spirit that we can worship (Romans 8:16).
The place of worship – in man’s spirit where the Spirit of God abides
True worship – True worship must flow from a genuine relationship with God, “in spirit and in truth”. A good relationship with the church can produce a good worker, but only a warm relationship with God produces a true worshiper. Fervent spirits produce worshiping hearts. The motivations also must be correct in true worship. The objective is to give to the Lord and not to get from Him. The motivation for worship is the overflowing love of the spirit as streams of living water.
4. Differences between praise and worship
Praise prepares us for worship. It is the prelude, the front door to worship (Psalm 95:1, 2; 6; Psalm 96:4; 7-9). However even though worship can depend on praise, praise is no substitute for worship, but a precious supplement. Although it is a supplement, there are still some differences between praise and worship.
In its motivation – Generally we worship with the motivation of receiving a blessing from God. There is a desire to awaken the agreeable emotions that praise produces. In praise, we draw near to God with an enthusiastic and happy heart to enjoy the pleasure of His presence. However, in worship we present something to God in love and in an expression of our profound appreciation for whom and what He is.
The key to worship is to give, not to receive. Worship gives glory of God and does not seek to receive the glory of God. The worshiper goes to Him not to receive a blessing, but to bless, not as an beggar, but as an admirer.
In its thrust – the first thrust of praise is a positive response to God based principally on His works rather than His person. The psalmist invites us to praise God for His mighty works, Moses praised God for deliverance (Exodus 15:1-18) and Anna praised God for Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10). This thrust of praise is profitable and it is a step beyond thanksgiving. However, praise concentrates itself more on the present (gift) of God than on His presence. It is possible to go to the presence of God and present an appropriate praise, seeking more to receive than to give, without ever passing from praise to worship. Many times beginning with praise we move on to petition, instead of moving from praise to worship.
In praise, the command is “to praise for”. Worship moves in the direction of the person of God, adoring him. Praise begins by applauding the power of God, and frequently brings us so close to God that worship can respond to this presence.
Praise looks to what God has done, while worship looks to who God is. Praise concentrates on the accomplishment; worship concentrates on the person. The thrust of worship therefore is higher than that of praise.
In its source of inspiration
Praise is a fundamental exuberance of the soul and of the spirit of man expressed to God. Worship flows from the Spirit of God and resides within the spirit of man. Praise is the redeemed man calling upon God, while worship is God calling to God within the redeemed man. Praise frequently has its origin in the soul, but true worship always originates in the Spirit (John 4:24).
While praise is more an act of emotion, worship is an act of devotion. Praise looks to the hand of God; worship looks to the heart. Although the same body manifests praise and worship, they spring from different sources from within our being. However, the manifestation does not always reveal the source, since we can express them by the same physical postures or actions.
In its depth of dedication
Praise is an expression of our life, but worship is a lifestyle. A true worshiper is a worshiper all of the time, even when he is not involved in the act of worship. Worship is a lifestyle that cultivates the presence of God in all activities of daily life. In praise, we express our deep appreciation to God for what He has done for us, but in worship, we “live for the Lord”.
In its proximity of God
Worship is not always about the works of God; sometimes the view goes beyond what God has done and praises Him who has done the works. Normally we give this response because of the distance from which we have come, but worship, before it can flow, requires that a person be in the real presence of God. Worship in the Temple occurred in the holy place. In temple worship the people offered praise from the outer courts. Worship requires an intimacy that is not required for praise.
In its form of expression
The body must express praise and worship. Just as there are many similarities between them, there are also many differences. While praise is more vocal, worship is frequently devoid of many words. Two lovers on a walk have a lot to say, but when they embrace, the words become superfluous. With worship, it is no different.
Praise is usually demonstrative, with much physical action while deep worship tends to manifest a physical submission, instead of a physical action. As praise tends to be more emotional, it ends up being louder and more exuberant. Worship however is devotional, quieter and contemplative.
We could say that praise expresses love in words and actions, and worship expresses it by touch and relationship. Both are important but worship is more intimate.