What is Worship?

Worship is a State of Mind

Worship is the kind of honor rendered to God – in thought, feeling, or act – which should not be given to anything other than God.  To give this kind of honor to things other than God is idolatry.  It is a form of awe, reverence, and respect which exists in one’s thoughts and feelings and is expressed in one’s actions.  Worship enables a person’s mind and emotions to be freed up to love God, enjoy His presence in their life, and receive of His joy.  When we truly worship God we have elevated our spirit to a place of communion with the Most High where we dwell in holy awe of an awesome God.  We express this inner state of love, honor, awe, reverence, and respect for God through various outward forms of worship.  It can be through the choices we make on a daily basis or it can be through song and dance.  Some people enjoy using liturgy and various rituals to express their worship; while others enjoy doing so through their writing, praying, or quiet contemplation.

Worship is Admiration & Respect

The word used most often in the New Testament, proskuneo, means to “kiss (the hand or the ground) toward.”  It gives the idea of one bowing before something or someone else greater than they in an act of acknowledgment of their superior position and out of respect for that superior person or object.  This word is always translated worship.  Second to this word, sebomai, is the next most frequently used word in the New Testament.  This word itself means “venerate” and also has several different relatives in the Greek.  All of its relatives come from a root meaning “fear” and when they merge with that root develop into either the meaning of “reverence” or “hold in awe.”  With a cursory look at these things, we could describe it as an attitude of submission to God out of admiration and respect for His superiority.

Worship is in the Heart

The importance of the attitude of the heart cannot be overlooked when describing worship.  Jesus Himself points this out when speaking to some Pharisees and scribes about their rituals He quotes Isaiah the prophet: “These people honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:8,9; Isaiah 29:13).  The Greek word translated worship here is where we get our English word “liturgy” from.  It means “to perform sacred services publicly.”  The people in the context of this passage were publicly doing things they and others considered acts of worship.  On a regular basis, they were partaking of public services considered sacred acts of worship, like sacrifices at the Temple, but God said that there was no point in them doing it because their hearts were “far” from Him.  Jesus quotes this Scripture while being attacked about certain services His disciples did not partake in which were considered sacred and necessary for worshiping God.  He uses this Scripture to underscore the fact that it does no good to outwardly perform certain services if the inward attitude of your heart is “far” from God.

Worship is Not Limited to Time & Space

A biblical description of worship would present it as something that can be performed anytime, anywhere.  Jesus highlighted this when talking to the Samaritan woman at the well.  Her great concern was: Where is the right place to worship?  Essentially Jesus’ reply was: There is no such thing as a right place to worship.  There is only a right way.  Jesus tells her, “but an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24; emphasis mine).  Not only does His answer tell her there is no right place; but, He makes it a point to emphasize there is only one right way, and those who worship God in that way can do it anywhere, anytime.

Worship is Beautiful

In conclusion, one true way to describe worship is beautiful.  Biblically, worship is one of the most liberating things a person can experience.  When their heart has been freed to acknowledge God’s greatness, admire Him for it, and love Him for it with the greatest kind of respect one can possess; then, and only then, has that person experienced the most joyful feeling in life.  To love God, admire God, respect God, and submissively acknowledge God’s greatness is to worship God.  It takes place in the heart and we can enjoy it where ever we are and at all times.  This is the beauty of worship.

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