What is True Worship?

When you hear the word “worship”, what comes to mind? My first thought is “Sunday worship”, “worship service”, or “praise and worship.” But that limits worship to one day per week or binds it to singing and praise. What is true worship, and what does the Bible say about worship?

view of large gathering of worshipers with the upper level blurred

Definition of Worship in the Bible

My Zondervan’s Bible dictionary defines worship as honor, humility, and reverence towards God; to bow down and acknowledge His “divine perfections” and sovereignty.

It goes on to describes the stages of worship in the Bible. Worship began with altar building and offering sacrifices. Next came Temple worship which was very complex and continued to include sacrifices.

When it comes to first century worship it is described as consisting of preaching, prayer, singing, celebrating the Lord’s supper, and the giving of money or food to the poor. Which leads me to my next question…

What is the Difference Between Worship and Praise?

Are they the same thing?

There are many Hebrew words for praise, but the overarching theme is thanksgiving and glorifying God. Praise in the Bible was expressed many times in the form of rejoicing with songs, dance, and musical instruments. It was a joyful expression and celebration of all God had done.

A common phrase that shows us the difference between worship and praise states “praise is about God; worship is to God.”

Praise is declaring what He has done, while worship humbly and reverently honors God for who He is. Praise can be a part of our worship because we are expressing our thanks to Him for who He is and how He has worked in our lives.

So, what does the Bible say about “true worship?”

While both come from a place of respect, true worship has an aspect of surrendering ourselves to Him, and aligning with His will.

“The whole assembly bowed in worship while the musicians played, and the trumpets sounded.” 2 Chronicles 29:28

Bible Verses on Worship

Let’s look at 3 powerful and encouraging verses to help us sort this out.

Our first verse comes from the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus met her with compassion and an extraordinary explanation of worship that left her confused.

When Jesus begins speaking of her past, she quickly tries redirecting the conversation away from herself and towards the correct place to worship- a dispute that bitterly divided Jews and Samaritans.

What is true worship according to Jesus?

Jesus doesn’t further her argument, but instead, steers the conversation towards a more important truth- the attitude of the worshiper.

Worship in Spirit and Truth Verse

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshiper will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24.

What Does it Mean to Worship in Spirit and Truth?

Jesus told the woman “God is Spirit” to help her understand that God is not a physical presence that is limited to physical places. He is everywhere and may be worshiped at any time and in any place.

For both Jews and Samaritans, God symbolically dwelled in the temple and worship meant following the law. When the woman heard Jesus say God was everywhere, she responds with what is on her heart.

“I know that the Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” v25.

She confesses she doesn’t understand, but you can almost hear the longing for the day when she would receive what she needs from the Messiah.

How To Worship God in Spirit

The “requirements” for worshipping God in spirit have never changed. He doesn’t want us to confine it to a church building. It should not be strictly ritualistic in nature. Worship should be sincere, genuine, and come from the depths of our heart.

We have the distinct advantage of having the gift of the Holy Spirit who helps us worship. He opens our hearts to see His beauty and love surrounding us.

Worship In Truth

Worshiping Him in truth means reading and studying to know His Word. Everything we need to know about God is in the Bible. Our worship should be grounded in all we know and love about Him.

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Worship God Alone Verse

Our second verse takes place while Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. Satan wants Jesus to bow down and worship him. Jesus says:

“Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” Matthew 4:10 NKJV.

God demands that we worship Him alone. How would you explain this to those who are offended by this expectation? Why does God need or demand to be worshipped?

The truth is that God doesn’t need our worship. He is perfect and lacks for nothing. Why then does God want to be worshipped?

He gives us the directive to worship Him alone because He wants our focus to be on Him. He knows the temptations to worship far lesser things exist in our lives. Satan tempts us constantly in this way.

God knows that worshiping Him alone is good for us! Coming into His presence and offering worship brings us closer to Him. We receive spiritual refreshment, comfort, and joy as we worship.

True and Proper Worship Verse

Our 3rd verse is Romans 12:1-

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Paul tells us true and proper worship is daily living out the Christian life in light of all He has done for us. He is asking us to put aside our own desires and follow God’s path to eternal life, letting Him guide and direct our ways.

Examples of Worship

There are so many forms of Christian worship!

∙At its heart is our personal connection and relationship with Jesus, which is our private worship practice. Jesus gives us many beautiful examples of how He worshiped His Father!

∙We can come to His throne with confidence and be met with His mercy and grace. (Hebrews 4:16) We can sit at His heavenly throne and worship Him without any fear or feelings of inadequacy! He freely welcomes us there!

∙Time spent in study and contemplation of His Word fills us with His character and helps us stay on the path He has set out for our lives.

∙Prayer is a form of worship that directly connects us to Him. He wants to hear from us; our prayers are like a sweet aroma to Him.

∙We worship when we come before Him in a spirit of reverence and awe and with thanksgiving-

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28

∙We can worship with music and singing-

“Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Psalm 100:2.

∙Gathering in church with fellow believers to worship and glorify Him strengthens our relationship with Him and others. We worship together to serve Him and bear each other’s burdens.

Worshiping God For Who He Is

Simply put, we worship God because He alone, in all of creation, is holy and worthy of our worship. God is just, loving, and faithful. He made all things and rules over all the heavens and earth.

“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place…Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name… worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.” 1 Chronicles 16:27-29.

“You alone are worthy, O lord, to receive glory and honor and power; For you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created.” Revelation 4:11.

Studying His Word increases our knowledge of His majesty, power, goodness, and love. As we contemplate these things, our hearts naturally respond to Him with the worship He deserves.

Purpose of Worship

I’ve been guilty of not “feeling” worshipful when the service music/sermon/pastor/ isn’t my style, or letting the crummy stuff/busyness going on in my life turn me away from Him.

Thank goodness the Holy Spirit convicted me about this attitude! We don’t worship to experience an emotional lift or to be entertained. The purpose of worship is to honor, glorify, and praise our Holy God.

Jesus had these harsh words for the Pharisees: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain.” Mark 7:6-7a.

True worship is meant to honor God. We can attend church, read our Bibles, pray, and serve in ways that do not honor God. Let our worship be motivated by our deep love for Him!

Worshiping the Lord

True worship is a matter of the heart. It shows us the priority we are placing on who God is in our day to day lives. We express this heart worship by living a life of holiness for Him. True worship expresses an over-the-top love for God, submitting all for Him to use, and reflecting His love to others.

The benefits of worship are many! The more we worship, the more we can experience His joy and peace in our lives. Worship can bring us up out of our sadness, depression, loneliness, trials, and any circumstance we are going through. Worship renews our hearts and minds and grows throughout our life.

Let all of us together, in one voice and perfect harmony, worship Him by giving Him the glory He deserves! A day is coming when this will be a perfect reality for each of us!



Photo Credit: Canva

All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.

2 thoughts on “What is True Worship?”

  1. Cynthia McCarthy

    Really good insight on worship. I liked so much of what you said including “Worship is a matter of the heart”, and “praise is about God; worship is to God.” I have often lumped those two expressions of faith together. Focusing on “true” worship and examining myself.
    Thanks, Ann

    1. Thanks Cindy- I thought the same. I know I’ve had a wrong view of worship in the past, and this lesson really helped me sort it all out!

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