What is Worship?

Let’s face it; worship is a weird word. Forming the word worship feels weird in my mouth, and using it in a conversation feels another kind of weird. It sounds like some forbidden, pagan practice that a person shouldn’t participate in, and definitely shouldn’t invite others to do.

Worship is a confusing word. It can be a noun or a verb. If you google “worship book”, you will find pages and pages of titles. There is much that can be and has been said about worship, but somehow there seems to be no clear definition. “Worship is…” can be a hard sentence to finish.

But worship really shouldn’t feel weird or ambiguous to us. After all, Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the childlike (Matthew 18:3). It follows, then, that worshiping HIm should be a simple thing to understand and to do. And it can be.  We just need a simple definition.

Simply put, worship is making choices that honor God. Yes, it can be singing His praises at church with other believers, but it is also a whole host of other things. In Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, worship is defined as including “…prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, [and] the acknowledgment and celebration of the mercy and help of Jehovah” (found in their commentary on Genesis 4:26). Worship is so much more than the fifteen minutes of music at the beginning of your Sunday morning service. In fact, for those who are merely spectating, those fifteen minutes may not count as worship at all. Even for the worship leader and his or her musicians, those fifteen minutes often, at best, only resemble worship.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV says, 

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Prayer is worship. When are we to pray? Continually. Thanksgiving is worship. When are we to give thanks? In all circumstances. The “..celebration of the mercy and help of Jehovah” is worship. When are we to rejoice? Always.


In all circumstances.


Ideally, every moment of our lives should be offered in worship. Every time we inhale a life-giving breath, we should exhale a “thank you”. That’s the kind of closeness God wants with us. He is constantly available, constantly providing for us, and constantly loving us. He deserves constant appreciation and affection.  That the God who created and maintains the universe is ever-attentive to each one of us is unfathomable. That we generally prefer to interact with Him only publicly and for a fraction of an hour each week is disgraceful. This practice is detrimental to us and disrespectful to Him. True worship is not a weekly service we attend. True worship is an ongoing, intimate conversation we have with our loving Father.

Every choice you make holds within it the potential to honor God. Every moment of every day is another chance to worship. The flip side of this, of course, is that every moment of every day we may fail to worship God. But God is “…merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth…”(Exodus 34:6 AMPC). 

Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV says, 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

 his mercies never come to an end; 

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

If we rely on His steadfast love and HIs mercy, we can approach each day with confidence and optimism. Our choices become opportunities rather than obligations. His love will inspire us to behave lovingly, and His mercy will encourage us to work persistently toward more Christ-like behavior. 

So often, we go through our days unaware of the decisions we are making. By lunchtime, we may barely remember what we ate for breakfast. But just eating breakfast required us to make multiple decisions. Am I going to eat breakfast? What am I going to have for breakfast? How long will I toast my bread? What will I put on the bread once it’s toasted? Do I have time to make coffee? Will I drink it here or take it with me? And so on.  We may not realize it, but all day long, we are making choices. It may not seem like it, but in each of those choices is the chance to acknowledge and honor God. 

When you wake up in the morning, you can start your day with a smile or a groan. A smile expresses gratitude for the gift of a new day. It acknowledges that this new day is full of the potential of all the good things your loving Father has planned for you. A smile sets an intention to enjoy the gift that is this new day, and to share that joy with others. A groan expresses a lack of gratitude. It shows a lack of faith in God’s goodness. A groan sets an intention to view all the day’s happenings through a negative lens, and to infect everyone around you with your negativity. 

Notice how this one, seemingly insignificant, decision is not only an opportunity to praise God, but also to “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 NIV). When we consult with and acknowledge God in each of our decisions, He becomes greater and more evident in us, while our own sinful, selfish nature becomes less (see John 3:30 NIV). In this way, everyone is a worship leader. In this way, leading worship from a platform becomes a genuine extension of a worship-filled life.

Everything you have, down to the skin you wear and the air you breathe, belongs to God. It is a gift from HIm to you. The only thing that is exclusively yours, that you can offer to God as an expression of thanks, is your choices. We worship when we acknowledge God with our choices. As we worship, we become “…the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14 NIV).