Understanding the true purpose of worship is fundamental to your faith, your spiritual strength and growth, and your intimacy with the One True God. Worship is a weapon of spiritual warfare, and the truth is: If you’re not intentionally worshipping the Lord, you are unintentionally worshipping someone or something else.
In Isaiah 43:21 the Lord said, “This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise.” (MEV)
You were created to worship the living God.
Everyone has a reason for “why” they worship, and not all of those reasons are God-honoring, but many believers have a genuine desire for more in their worship of God- more intimacy, more depth, more openness, and a greater sense of God’s presence.
The definition of worship is many things to many people, but the most important part of Biblical worship is that it reflects what God desires.
Think about it this way: If the deepest heart’s desire of someone you loved was to receive flowers on their birthday, why would you run to the store and get them new pajamas? Why would you bake them a cake? Why would you take them for a fancy dinner? All of those things are nice, but they didn’t meet the heart’s desire.
In the same way, in God’s Word, the Lord has expressed His desire for your willing worship and praise. Is it your heart’s desire to give that to Him?
Does God Require or Desire Worship?
In the Old Covenant, a flesh and blood sacrifice was required in order to draw near to God, however in the New Testament, under a New Covenant, a sacrifice is still required to enter into the presence of God. What’s the difference?
In the book of Psalms, the Lord said to Asaph:
“Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and pay your vows to the Most High, and call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.” (50:14-15, MEV)
Remember, God created human beings for relationship. Praise and worship create a unique spiritual dynamic where God’s presence is invited to dwell. (Psalm 22:3)
Once sin entered into the world through Adam, God immediately enacted His plan of redemption – to send His Son Christ Jesus as a willing sacrifice so His people could once again be close to His holy presence and in right relationship.
In the Bible, the word worship, when given to the Lord, is always a willing sacrifice. Nowhere in Scripture has God demanded worship. In fact the requirements of worship are not for God’s benefit – He doesn’t need your worship to be the Great King Above All Gods! (Psalm 95:3)
“…the requirements of worship are not for God’s benefit – He doesn’t need your worship to be the Great King Above All Gods!“~Alicia Purdy
Because of sin, God’s people could not enter into His holy presence. Even so, He lovingly laid out rituals, moral purity laws and feasts of sacrifice in the Old Testament to provide sinful people a path to cleansing and holiness that would let them draw close to His presence.
God is worshipped by:
- Recognizing Him (See 1 Chronicles 16:29)
- Remembering Him (Read Psalm 103)
- Relating to Him through a willing sacrifice of worship (Psalm 50:5, 23)
God does still require a “flesh and blood” willing sacrifice from you to enter His presence, but instead of sin and obligation as the motivating force, it’s freedom and thanksgiving.
The requirements of worship were set into place to enable God to work the lives of His people. Yet, He has always wanted it. He created it with a purpose. He attached worship to blessings and promises. He has beckoned for your worship, but never demanded. Why? Because worship must be a willing act of the heart.
You cannot worship the Lord if your heart isn’t in it.
The Difference Between Praise and Worship in the Bible
The Hebrew word for “worship” in the Old Testament is distinguished from the 7 Hebrew words for “praise“. Praise and worship are two distinct aspects of intimate communion with God’s spirit.
Each has unique physical and spiritual attributes, but they are both necessary in your faith journey if your heart’s desire is to give to the Lord a greater measure of access to you.
God will never override your freewill, but with everlasting lovingkindness, the Lord does draw you toward Himself. (Jeremiah 31:3) There are 7 Hebrew words for “praise” in the Bible, and each has a specific use in the lives of God’s people and each is used at specific times in response to the Lord.
Learn more about the 7 Hebrew Words for Praise and how each one helps create strength, intimacy, and fresh revelation as you understand more about God’s plan for praise in your life!
Each of the Hebrew words for “praise” involves a specific physical movement – clapping, singing, shouting, dancing, kneeling, playing an instrument, and lifting the hands.
When it comes to the subject of worship in the Bible, however, the most common word used to show how God’s people acknowledged His greatness and glory means: “To bow down close to the ground.”
In the Hebrew references, the acts of worship always involve a complete movement of prostration as an outward response to the glory of God, where God is being lifted high by the worshipper who is bringing themselves low – physically down to the ground. Worship in the Bible is the ultimate, physical act of total humility before the Lord.
“Worship in the Bible is the ultimate, physical act of total humility before the Lord.”~Alicia Purdy
Unlike the 7 Hebrew words for “praise”, the forms of worship in the Bible all refer to the literal falling down in the presence of a holy God.
It is important to have a “heart of worship” and praise and worship begin with gratitude to God, but every time “praise” or “worship” are mentioned in the Old Testament, expressing that gratitude to God is always expressed as an outward, physical expression.
What is Worship in the Bible?
Worship has existed since before the creation of the earth because it is what the heavenly hosts were already doing when God created the world. (Job 38:4-7) The act of worship, in the most basic terms, is a naturally spiritual, willing and sacrificial expression from those who acknowledge God’s holiness and desire to express their gratitude.
Under the Old Covenant, acceptable worship involved these two components conducted together:
- A flesh and blood sacrifice – The shedding of blood was required by God as a temporary cleansing so sinful man could draw near to the holy presence of God
- A physical expression of thanksgiving – Offering expressions of gratitude to God with the body (raising hands, singing, dancing)
Under the New Covenant, through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, these two once-separate acts have been reconciled together and now the “sacrifice of praise” is how God’s people offer themselves in thanksgiving to acknowledge the greatness of God.
- Paul wrote, “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship.” (Romans 12:1, MEV)
- The author of Hebrews said, “Through Him, then, let us continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15, MEV)
These two New Covenant verses show that through the body and the fruit of lips there is always a physical expression of the body as a willing sacrifice that defines the spiritual practice of worship.
How to Worship God in the Way He Desires
Many people have a holy view of God, but don’t understand the role of worship as a spiritual weapon or a faith-building strategy. As a result, worship is often misused, abused, and misunderstood.
While there aren’t Scriptural “rules” defining” what is “right” worship and what is “wrong” worship, according to the Word of God, there is false worship and “worship in spirit and in truth”. (John 4:24)
“…the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules…” (Isaiah 29:13, NLT)
In the most simplified definition, worship was created for one reason – to minister to the Lord.
How do you worship God in the way He desires? How do you give a God who is worthy of our worship everything you can when He doesn’t need anything? You offer Him the sacrifice of you – and that looks different for everyone – but it should always be a sacrifice.
Plenty of Christians argue about the Biblical theology of worship and how it “should” and “should not” be expressed, but here is the most important thing to remember:
If your worship doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to you, if worship is easy, routine, or predictable – it’s not true worship.
People go through the motions and sing spiritual songs of praise for many different reasons and not all of those reasons have anything to do with the Lord. True worshipers offer up a willing sacrifice of praise as God has said He desires – and He knows the difference!
Every believe must examine their “why” for their spiritual worship because the enemy would like nothing more than to disconnect Christians from God by using, abusing, twisting and redefining the very thing God created to connect to you!
What Does God Want in Worship? 4 Ways to Glorify Him
God desires a deeper connection with you and that will always start with gratitude. There isn’t anything you can ever give the Lord that He needs, but there is plenty you can give to Him that desires from you.
- In Psalm 50:12-14 & 23 the Lord said, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice a thank offering to God. Whoever sacrifices a thank offering glorifies Me and makes a way…”
- Leviticus 22:29 says, “When you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted.”
- Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; be thankful to Him, and bless His name.”
There are different expressions of worship, but without gratitude to the Lord there can be no true worship or praise.
Philippians 2:8 says “…[Jesus] was obedient unto death…” and that included His worship of God.
Jesus worshipped when things were great, as shown in Luke 10:21 when He “jumped for joy” in the Holy Spirit, and Jesus worshipped when things were bad, as in Matthew 26:30 before heading to the Garden of Gethsemane for His betrayal to the cross.
Paul wrote, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.“ Romans 12:1, NLT)
Remember, in the New Covenant, worship is optional, not a command. It’s a desire. Worship, in spirit and in truth, is also, however, a sign of willing submission from an obedient heart that doesn’t need to be asked or commanded.
Is Tithing an “Act of Worship?”
Sometimes churches refer to tithing or financial giving as an “act of worship” and it is often included as part of a worship service because it is considered to be an obedient response to the Lord’s faithfulness, but you can’t praise the Lord with money.
Scripturally speaking, there is no Biblical evidence that defines tithing as an act of worship” or “praise”. Tithing is an act of obedience, but worship is ministry unto the Lord. You cannot minister to the Lord with your money- He doesn’t need it.
“You cannot minister to the Lord with your money- He doesn’t need it.”~Alicia Purdy
Tithing is an act of obedience so that the house of the Lord (aka the local church) who then turn and provide for the people of God. (Malachi 3:8-10) In the Word of God, there is always blessing and promises tied to obedience. However, the essence of praise and worship to the Lord are entirely different. Blessing and promises are not the point of worship.
The point of praise and worship is to connect to the Spirit of the Lord. Praise and worship are sharp, spiritual weapons, but it’s not because of you, it’s because Psalm 22:3 says that the presence of Lord dwells within your praise! In His vital, dynamic presence is everything you need.
Of course, you should be obedient with your tithes, the Bible is very, very clear about the blessings associated with obedience, but uploading 10% into your tithing app isn’t worship or praise.
There are blessings attached to your praise and worship, but those flow naturally from the presence of the Lord- joy, a refreshing touch, spiritual power, strength, healing, vision, direction – those are all natural by-products of the power of God’s presence!
The more you place yourself in His presence through your willing sacrifice of praise and worship, the greater you’ll experience benefits of being close to His presence – and money cannot buy it.
The thing about sacrifice is this: Nothing wants to die! That’s why animals kick, and squeal, and writhe to get away! Psalm 118:37 says to “bind the sacrifice” to the altar. Why? Because otherwise you might run away!
Psalm 116:12,17 says, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call upon the name of the Lord.”
What is true worship? It’s the death of things that needed to die anyway.
Worship will feel physically and emotionally difficult at times, but you sacrifice anyway because of your desire to honor the Lord, to set aside yourself to lift Him high. Sacrifice is one of the foundational building blocks of true worship because a willing sacrifice is the reason Jesus came to earth.
That’s why a willing sacrifice is precious in the Lord’s sight and it is an honor to Him. God understands how hard a sacrifice is and He sees you.
In 2 Samuel 24:24 (NLT) David said, “I would never give the Lord anything that didn’t cost me.”
You’ll find the true power of praise when you sacrifice yourself before Him. You might think that worship is an easy way to show gratitude to the Lord, but worship can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do because in order to really worship God, something has to die.
Ministry to the Lord is the most significant and fundamental aspect true worship. Ministry to God must be the “why” for every worshipper. Everything else is secondary. Four times in Exodus 28 when the Lord laid out the perimeters for the priestly garments the sons of Aaron would wear, He said the purpose was to, “Minister to Me.”
Revelation 1:16 and 5:10 note that the people of God are all made to be kings and priests. In 1 Peter 2:9 Peter wrote that God’s people were chosen to be a royal priesthood. The purpose of the priesthood in the Bible was to minister to the Lord, and that is still the purpose of the priesthood of believers today.
One of the most common misunderstandings about worship is that it is about the worshipper.
God is faithful to minister through worship because His holy presence is filled with miracle-working power, but some look for the “blessings and promises” or personal ministry attached to worship instead of drawing close to bless, and praise the “author and finisher” of their faith with genuine thanksgiving in their heart.
True worshippers don’t praise God for a result, but for a reason – His worthiness.
Ministry to the Lord isn’t just the job of the pastor or something that happens only in corporate worship with a charismatic worship team! Every believer is called to minister to the Lord.
True Worship is Due to the Living God
Why does it seem like it is so easy for people to worship or serve dead things and dead people, but they struggle to put their faith God who is alive?
Empty, inanimate or created things like statues or Asherah poles, a tree, the universe, ancestors, animals, the moon… people will seek the stars or even shuffle through a deck of cards or a pile of bones for wisdom and answers, turning to the created thing instead of seeking the Creator!
Psalm 135:15-18 says, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear; neither is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.” (MEV)
Idols and “things” are worshipped, but they are the created, while God is the Creator! When you are desperate, a tree can’t help you. In fact, the trees worship Him too (Isaiah 55:12).
When you don’t know what to do, or what choice to make, don’t look to the stars or the star charts. The stars sing to Him. When your loved one is sick, or your finances are dwindling, or your health is suffering, or your children’s lives are falling apart, or your facing a divorce or whatever else- worship God!
There is no power in heaven, on earth or throughout all the universe that can match what God, THE CREATOR, can do.
In Genesis 22:17 the Lord says, “In blessing I will bless you…” That’s a promise! You don’t need to seek the blessing of God. You need to to worship Him! Your worship belongs to God alone, the only living God (Jeremiah 10:10).
The rest of the world is floundering, resenting God and worshipping created beings as if they have any power, and then wondering why everything goes wrong. When it comes to worship, “Everyone who trust in them” are like them, the Bible says. DEAD. Your life will reflect what you worship in your heart.
Even the most mature Christian struggles at times to worship, so don’t let the enemy make you feel you are alone when you’re just not feeling it. BUT. That is the place of your sacrifice. Once you understand your “why” in worship, even if the reason needs to be changed, you can then continue forward in your faith journey and seek to understand more.
God desires your worship because He desires more of you, but He also uses worship as part of His grander plan for your life!
- To bless you (Genesis 22:17)
- To use your life as a testimony to others (Psalm 40:3)
- To aid you in the fight against the enemy (Psalm 97:5)
- To be close to you (Psalm 22:3)
- To protect you (Psalm 91:1-2)
and so much more!
If you feel “required” to worship by tradition, pressure, or guilt, God wants to set you free to offering a willing sacrifice in worship to Him!
True worship is about the “worth-ship” of God – His goodness and His greatness. If you find that your passion has waned or that the meaning is lost on you or that the freshness is gone, or has never been there at all – God is beckoning you right now.
Will you always feel like worshipping? No. Pushing past your flesh is your starting point of sacrifice. Will you always sense God’s presence as you worship? No. But you cannot get so caught up in the feelings of worship that you forsake the faith of worship.
“…you cannot get so caught up in the feelings of worship that you forsake the faith of worship.”~Alicia Purdy
God’s desire is not only that you know Him more, but that you invite Him to know you – and to know yourself – by opening up your spirit in personal worship, building a lifestyle of praise and worship and presenting your body as a living sacrifice.
At the end of the day, true worshippers know that both praise and worship are about Jesus Christ, not themselves. The “heart of worship” is a good place to start your worship, but the “sacrifice of praise” is a physical expression of a heart condition.
Remember, He loved you first. A willing sacrifice of worship is how you express your love to Him in return!