What Is Worship?


By Claudine Lehman

Let’s start today with a very simple question:

What is worship?

Worship is hard to define, explain or teach because it is so personal. The act of worshiping covers a wide range of experiences and people. Worship can be very narrow and rigid, formal and liturgical or free and unstructured.

The point is we all worship something. What we place our focus on—whether it be tangible things like family, houses, and cars, or intangible qualities like success, power, reputation, approval, control or appearance—what we focus on is ultimately what we worship.  Eventually, everything in our lives will flow out of what we worship.

Worship cannot be separated out from daily living. It’s not something we do for one hour on Sunday. Worship is evident in our actions and attitudes. It can be seen in how we serve, in what we say and in how we sacrifice.

I think we can all agree, God alone is worthy of our worship. If you put your life’s focus on anything other than God—even good things, like a husband, your children, a hero or a friend—you are worshiping an idol. In my testimony last week, I confessed that my family and church work had become the #1 focus in my life. They were what I lived for. My security, my identity, pleasure and joy all came from my family. I was worshiping an idol and that type of worship left me empty.

Probably the best definition of true worship I’ve come across so far is from Warren Wiersbe in his book Real Worship:

“Worship is the believer’s response of all that he is—mind, emotion, will and body—to all that God is and says and does.”

This definition has helped me to think of worship as an upward look—keeping my focus vertical rather than horizontal. George MacDonald (one of my favorite English authors) says,

“All knowledge, all wisdom, all practicality of faith, indeed all relationships that can exist in the universe are rooted in the view one has of the character of God. Who is God and what is God like are the most vital questions of life. Only by coming to grips with who God truly is can one begin to know God intimately.”

True worship brings God pleasure.  Psalm 147:10-11 tells us “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, neither does he take satisfaction in the legs of a man; but the Lord takes pleasure in those who revere Him, those who place their hope in his covenant unfailing love.”

Worship, praise and adoration place the focus on God alone. Thanksgiving and worship are not the same. Both have a place in our relationship with God and are essential, but thanksgiving places our focus back on ourselves . . . on what He has done for us. We need to be thankful for our blessings and tell Him often, but in worship we need to focus on God apart from ourselves.

God alone is worthy of worship and praise totally apart from anything He may or may not have done for us. Simply who He is should elicit a response of worship.

Maybe it would help to go back and clarify some words and phrases we use so often in our Christian circles. What does it mean to praise . . . to give God glory . . . to adore God in truth?

To praise is the act of expressing approval of something. When we praise an athlete, we give our approval for the way they tackled, passed, shot a basket or performed on the bars. When I praise God, I am expressing my approval for all He has done in the past, all He is doing now and all He will do in the future.

To give glory to God is to recognize ALL of God—His beauty, His holiness, His greatness, His faithfulness, His justice, His power—all of Him. And as we recognize Him, we realize we had no part in any of it. It is all God. We can do nothing to add or take away from who He is.

To adore Him in truth means to see God as infinitely perfect and completely worthy of our praise and to see ourselves as the opposite.

Let’s see how this fleshes out in our worship. Let’s say we want to worship God for His creation for instance. We would say: “Lord, I give you glory and praise for Creation. You are the creator. You created the earth and all that is in it. It is good. You created man in your image. It’s just the way you wanted it. The way you created me—look, temperament, talent and abilities—I had no part in it. I am in harmony with all you created, the way you did it. I give you glory and honor and praise for creation –for you–the Creator.”

But praise and glory and adoration come a little harder for us in some situations. For example, many of us would struggle saying the following: “Lord, I give you glory and praise for all you are doing in my life. I give my approval of all the past, present and future. It is good and right. It is all of God and I am in harmony. I can’t add to or take away from it.”

Can we truly say that when life has been hard? When we’ve been hurt? When there have been failures, set-backs, sickness, death and all the evidences of sin? How?

We can praise and glorify God IF we know Him.

“If we would learn how to pray, we must first learn how to praise and if we would learn how to praise we must first have a true vision and some understanding of the true God.” Jill Briscoe

When we question what God is allowing in our lives, we are not focusing on what we know of God. Maybe we question so much because we know so little of God.

So, my challenge to you this week is this:

  • BE COMMITTED to learning the character of your God. Make it a driving passion. See it as your Bonding Time. After the rigors of birth, the baby is laid across the mother’s stomach and a bonding takes place.
  • Read God’s Word with a single objective in mind—to hear God speak to you about Himself.
  • Understand that although we have no guarantee traumas won’t come into our days, when we are focused on who God is and what He is doing, we’ll be able to handle the traumas in a God-honoring way.

 Discussion Question

Claudine reminds us “God alone is worthy of worship and praise totally apart from anything He may or may not have done for us. Simply who He is should elicit a response of worship.” Do you have trouble praising God without bringing yourself into the picture? Do you tend to confuse praise with thanksgiving? Why do you think that is?


Read any Psalm of your choice. (not more than 10-15 verses)

  1. Write down the words that describe Who God Is. i.e. “Rock, Covenant Love, Fortress, etc.”
  2. Write down action words that describe What He Does. i.e. “teaches, subdues, etc.”
  3. Write down anything that shows what pleases or displeases God. i.e. God is displeased with lies or false oaths. God is pleased to give victory.

Now look over what you have written, and meditate on these truths about God. Try to take yourself out of the picture for now. Leave out personal pronouns. Direct all your thinking Upward.

Using the thoughts you have been meditating upon, write a short paragraph praising, giving glory to and adoring God in truth.

i.e., God I praise, express my approval of _______________. I give you glory for ______________________. I worship and adore you in truth_______________________.

 Remember: Meditate on the character of God totally apart from how He benefits or blesses you.

If you missed last week’s lesson, Click HERE to read Personal Worship Lesson 1.

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