As a child growing up, the emphasis in church seemed to be on reverence. We were taught to keep still and to be quiet. We sang with enthusiasm, but not clapping and certainly no hands were in the air, nor did we move to the music. Rhythm to my childish mind, equated to sinfulness. God, the object of our worship, was veiled in a mystery that commanded awe. After all He is Spirit. I remember one elderly lady who interjected some Pentecostal exclamations of “Praise the Lord!” “Hallelujah” much to the amazement of the adults and to the amusement of the kids. Our music was joyful, but reverent – the organist was accompanied by 2 violinists and a pianist. We seldom sang choruses unless it was a Sunday School or Youth event.
However, I also had opportunities, as a child, to worship God as I lay on the grass of the upper field watching the clouds float by, listening to bird-songs and the babbling brook running through a little forest of trees just off a cow pasture, in the fields beyond our home. My parents encouraged me to worship the Creator – not the creation itself, but the great God who designed this magnificent world for our pleasure.
Worship formed an integral part of life itself. We were taught that God is everywhere. This gave us a sense of accountability, as well as the comfort of His presence when we were in trouble. Worship lifts us out of the here and now, into another realm, a place of purity and perfection. It is very hard to put such a supernatural experience into words. But worship is also practical because we offer our gifts as an act of worship (Hebrews 13:16).
Worship differs from praise. These themes are closely linked and too fine a point can be made of the difference. Both praise and worship centre on God in gratitude for who He is as well as for what He does. Surely the Holy Spirit will define our gratitude as genuine when it comes from the heart.
“Here I am to worship,
Here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that You’re my God!
Altogether lovely, altogether worthy, Altogether wonderful to me!”
There are many different ways to worship God. The Bible does not tell us we must always kneel. Sometimes we lift our hands towards heaven. At times we are awestruck into silence; at other times we must shout for joy to the Lord! Even the hills are described by the Psalmist as clapping their hands.
God requires only one thing when we come before Him in either praise or worship. Very clearly He demands we be genuine. “Stop bringing meaningless offerings (of praise)” (Isaiah 1:13). “These people…… honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me” (Isaiah 29:13). “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of Praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name” (Hebrews 13: 15). This genuine praise can only be born of love – that exquisite certainty which calls forth a human response prompted by the loving heart of God.
It is easy to get carried away in the moment as we raise our voices in corporate worship, but God knows the intention of our hearts. This is at once challenging and comforting!
Jesus said: “God is a spirit and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
When does worship bring you greatest pleasure? Are you conscious of the object being God?
What joy does the heart of God experience when we truly worship Him?
Do you distinguish between praise and worship? If so why?
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