Praise and Worship – Understanding these Important Terms
Have you ever wondered why worship services tend to start with a fast song and end with a slow one?
This common practice is not one of personal choice or even of practicality. It is rooted in deep understanding of how the Bible instructs us to enter into the presence of the Lord. There is a protocol, a way it should be done. When we stop and think about this, it makes sense that the Scriptures would provide just such a pattern.
- Concerning public worship, the Bible says that “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Corinthians 14:40)
- In Romans Paul exhorts us to present ourselves to God in spiritual worship which is “reasonable,” perhaps even “logical” would be a good translation. (Romans 12:1)
The logical, reasonable, fitting, and orderly way is the truth behind the structure of New Covenant liturgy—“the work of the people” in worship.
To understand this, it is necessary for us to understand the words we are using, especially, “praise and worship.” These terms are not synonyms. Sometimes we treat them as if they meant the same thing but they do not. What does the internet say?
Verb: express warm approval or admiration of. “we can’t praise Chris enough—he did a brilliant job” Synonyms: commend, applaud, eulogize, compliment, congratulate, lionize, admire, hail, laud.
Noun: the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something. “the audience was full of praise for the whole production” Synonyms: approval, acclaim, admiration, approbation, acclamation, commendation
Noun: the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. “the worship of God” synonyms: reverence, veneration, adoration, glorification, glory, exaltation.
Verb: show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites. “the Maya built jungle pyramids to worship their gods” synonyms: revere, reverence, venerate, pay homage, adore, praise, pray to, glorify, exalt, extol
“Honor to Whom Honor Is Due”
What is the primary distinction?
Praise is due to humans as well as to God. The New Testament tells us repeatedly that we are to honor, a form of praise, those among who are worthy.
Romans 13:7 NKJV
Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
Parents do well to praise their children and to let them hear the deserved recognition of others from the mouths of their parents.
Worship, on the other hand is due only to God. The same Bible that instructs us to be generous with the praise of others, warns us that there is only One God and He alone is worthy of worship. In fact it is the state of supreme worthiness that serves as the engine of the magnificent and continuous praise and worship in the Throne Room of God. Our two earthly witnesses to the worship of heaven agree in the smallest of details of the worship before the Throne of God. Read about it in Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4-5. It is the supreme worthiness of God that will send every person ever made to their knees to confess that Jesus is Lord to the Glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10)
Praise is due to people as well as to God:
Worship is due only to God:
The Importance of the Distinction
Understanding this distinction, let us define praise and worship in the light of His presence.
- Praise is the expression of thanksgiving to the Lord and the exaltation of the Lord that brings us into His presence.
- Praise is the willful entrance into the presence of God by speaking forth thanksgiving to God and by exalting God’s name, His character, His mighty deeds, and His glory.
- Praise is a deliberate action of soul and body. We praise God by expressing gratitude to Him and by proclaiming His glory, deeds, and character.
- Praise is centered on God but is often expressed to others. We tell others how thankful we are or how great God is.
- The music of praise tends to be horizontal in direction, singing about God.
- Worship is the expression of submission to God, adoration of Him, and commitment to Him.
- Worship is the willing response of our spirit to the revelation of the character of God by the moving of His Spirit in our hearts.
- Worship is the act of communing with God when we are in His presence. We worship God by expressing love for Him and commitment to Him.
- Worship is centered on God himself and is primarily expressed directly to Him, although many worshipful expressions of God’s glory can be directed to others.
- The music of worship tends to be vertical in direction, singing directly to the Lord—in other words, songs of prayer. Through praise, we enter the Lord’s presence. Through worship we respond to His presence.
The Praise-to-Worship Sequence
Repeatedly we are told in the Bible to enter into the Lord’s presence with praise and then to respond to His visitation with worship.
Scriptures on the Praise-to-Worship Sequence
This establishes a two-part process of praise leading to worship. Here is what happens:
- As the people of God minister to the Lord with thanksgiving and exaltation and exhort one another to join in praising God, the Lord responds with the two-fold gift of His presence and His sovereignty. (Psalm 22:3)
- When the Lord grants worshipers the deep sense of His Manifest presence, we respond with worship: adoration, devotion, commitment, and communing with Him.
This illustration describes this reasonable praise-to-worship sequence.
This is a key to understand how worship is planned and led. Of course the great biblical illustration of this is the Tabernacle/Temple Model. It is the Old Covenant illustration of our New Covenant reality.
The Classical Pentecostal worship structure conforms to this biblical pattern.
So, there is more going on than fast songs and slow songs, or as I heard one pastor describe, “happy songs and sad songs.” When the worship service starts with a lively song of Thanksgiving, it isn’t a cultural thing; it is the entrance to the manifest presence of God. As Isaiah said, “Go through the gates!”
Isaiah 62:10 NKJV
Go through, Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, Lift up a banner for the peoples!
For more on this topic go to: “Recovering the Wilderness Protocol” https://stevephifer.com/recovering-the-wilderness-protocol/
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Steve Phifer
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