The Worship of God
Praise and worship should be the primary focus of every Christian. It must be the heart beat of Christ followers everywhere. The hearts of true Spirit-Filled believers are continually crying out from within “Abba Father” (Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6). How should we worship the Lord? What is the purpose of Praise and worship? We must prepare our hearts for the worship of our Lord and King and as we begin to praise and worship Him we’ll discover the power of praise.
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Expressions of Worship
While there are different ways to worship God, He’s not as concerned about how we express our praise and worship, but that we continue to worship Him. Worship will be the primary focus in heaven when we see Jesus face to face. While in our earthly bodies, we are training for eternity.
Worship can be defined as “worth-ship.” The degree to which we praise and worship God is the degree of His worth to us. If there is anything that God needs from us, it’s worship. There are many expressions and styles of worship in the church and God loves them all.
Many congregations get hung up on a certain type of worship and want to stick with that style only. God doesn’t want us stuck in rut when we worship Him. He can be praised in a myriad of ways, and we should use them all. Below are some Biblical expressions of worship.
- Silent worship. We are challenged in Psalm 46:10 to “be still, and know that He is God.” At times it’s appropriate to worship God in silence. There’s something about being completely still and calm before the Lord.
At such times, we often feel a sense of awe in His presence. In Revelation 8:1 we see a scene in heaven “when the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” This was the calm before the storm. The problem is, in most churches instead of silent worship, we simply have dead silence.
- Uplifted voices. Psalm 47:1 encourages us to “Shout to God with the voice of triumph.” This was done in both worship and prayer. The early church “lifted their voices to God with one accord” (Acts 4:24). When Judah was under attack the Levites “stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with a very loud voice” (2 Chronicles 20:19).
Worship was always expressed in the Bible with uplifted, loud voices. In Revelation 19:6, as the Apostle John viewed a heavenly scene of worship, the worshippers were so radical in their expression he heard “the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns.”
- Clapping hands. Vocal expressions of worship are frequently accompanied with clapping. Psalm 47:1 says, “Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!” An offering of praise can be expressed by people clapping and lifting their voices to God.
Some think this is a strange thing to do in church, but what do we do at ball games or other times of celebration? We clap our hands and shout. How much more should we applaud and celebrate the one who redeemed us from sin and shame?
- The Lifting of our hands. Psalm 63:4 says, “Thus will I bless thee while I live. I will lift up my hands in thy name.” Paul wrote to Timothy, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands” (1 Timothy 2:8).
Lifting our hands is a sign of worship, surrender and adoration. This was not invented by charismatics and pentecostals, but by God. It was a practice of worship in the Old Testament long before the birth of the church.
- Singing. Psalm 146:1-2 says, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord while I live. I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”
In Ephesians 5:19, Paul wrote, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” There are different kinds of songs mentioned in these verses – palms, hymns and spiritual songs. In churches today we sing hymns, choruses and new worship songs. The point is, we are worshiping in song.
- Musical instruments. Psalm 150:3-6 says, “Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet. Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance. Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals. Praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
Obviously, any kind of instrument can be used when worshipping God. The verses above tell us they worshipped with loud, clashing cymbals. They really got into it. Psalm 33:3 says, “Sing unto him a new song. Play skilfully with a loud noise.” Notice, the only restriction is that it must be done skillfully. God deserves nothing more than our best.
Some groups believe you shouldn’t use instruments at all when worshiping God. They say it’s because instruments are not mentioned in the New Testament. However, 1 Corinthians 10:11 says, “These things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction.”
Although we are not under the law, things written under the old covenant were written for our example and instruction. In Revelation 5:8 we see that each of the 24 elders had a harp. If instruments were used in the Old Testament, and in heaven, why would God forbid us from using them in worship today? The answer is obvious. He would not.
- Dancing. Psalm 150:4 says, “Praise him with the timbrel and dance.” David was so excited that he danced before the Lord with all his might. Michal, his wife, thought he was making a fool of himself and despised him. As a result, God struck her barren (2 Samuel 6). We should be willing to make fools of ourselves when worshiping God. God help anyone who mocks us for it.
- In Spirit and truth. No matter how we express our worship of God, sometimes we do it in the flesh and not the spirit. John 4:23-24 tells us we must worship in spirit and truth. Too often in church our flesh is worked up into a frenzy, and it has nothing to do with the Spirit.
That being said, most worship begins in the flesh before it can moves into the realm of the Spirit. We live in the flesh and worship must begin somewhere, just don’t let it stay there.
No matter how we express worship, we must put all we have into it. In some of the heavenly accounts of worship (Revelation 4:8-11, Revelation 5:9-14, Revelation 7:9-12, Revelation 19:1, and Revelation 19:4-6) they sang, fell on their faces, and put everything they had into their worship.
Psalms 103:1 – “Bless the Lord, oh my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” Worship God with everything you have.
Preparing for Worship
Worship is something we choose to do, even when we don’t feel like it. Maybe we’ve had a bad day or are going through a time of discouragement. Whatever the reason, it’s in these times we must choose to worship, offering a sacrifice of praise to God.
Hebrews 13:15 – “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.”
John 4:23 – “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.”
Psalm 146:1-2 – “Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life. I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”
1 Corinthians 14:15 – “I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.”
- Worship is a willful act. Notice the repetition of “I will” in 1 Corinthians 14:15. It was something they choose to do. At times we must challenge and encourage ourselves in worship.
Psalm 103:1 and Psalm 146:1 tell us to, “praise the Lord my soul” and “bless the Lord oh my soul.” The Psalmist was determined to worship the Lord. We also must be determined to praise the Lord as a willful act.
I’m reminded of Jacob who had experienced a hard life with many trials, discouragements and set backs. It was so bad that at one point he cried out, “All these things are against me” (Genesis 42:36). Yet, at the end of his life, at 120 years of age, he “worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21). If only we had such a determination in worshiping God.
- Worship in an act of obedience. We are commanded to worship. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name.” We are priests of the most high God and our function is that of a worshiper (1 Peter 2:9). Every person has a built-in worship mechanism. Worship is something we must choose to do in obedience. People frequently refrain from worshiping for a couple of reasons:
- Pride. They feel foolish giving outward expressions of worship, especially in a public setting. It’s okay for everyone else. They may even enjoy seeing others involved in worship, but they feel foolish participating. James 4:6 says, “But He gives more grace. Wherefore He says, God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble.” Let’s humble ourselves and surrender to worshiping the Savior.
- Rebellion. Not worshiping God is an act of willful rebellion. We often try to disguise our rebellion with some other type of service, as if it were for God. Teaching a class, cleaning the church, etc. Imagine a worship leader challenging everyone to worship and seeing someone standing with their arms folded and with a nasty look on their face saying, “I’m not doing that.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23 – “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.”
- Prepare your heart for worship. In our personal time with God we should spend time in the Word asking for divine help to worship Him. We cannot worship God on our own. It’s the love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which enables us to worship Him (Romans 5:5). It’s His spirit of adoption which cries out from within us “Abba Father” (Romans 8:15).
As for public worship, Paul said, “Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm” (1 Corinthians 14:26). He gives the indication that we should have our gifts of worship ready when we come to the assembly (church). We must prepare our hearts for our worship experience before arriving at church.
If we are honest, many times we arrive at church ready to worship, but we feel resistance. This must be broken before we get there. I imagine few actually come to their local assembly already equipped to worship.
We should spend time in the Word and prayer prior to the worship service. For all of us, there are things in both the natural and spiritual realms that must be dealt with and broken before we worship God. This is why I insist on a prayer meeting before each church service. I can tell how the worship service will go by the atmosphere of the prayer meeting beforehand.
- The participation of the individual determines the participation of the majority. In a public worship service, there may be people who are inhibited by the folks around them. If each person has prepared for worship and begins to worship as an act of obedience, the walls of inhibition will come down (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
The opposite is also true. If the majority are actively involved in the worship experience, individuals will lose their inhibitions and find themselves lost in the freedom of praise and worship. No matter where or when, you help to determine the degree to which God is worshiped.
The Purpose of Praise and Worship
Praise and worship should be a large part of every Christian’s life, but there are also clear Biblical reasons for us to worship God. There is a purpose in all God does. Likewise, there is a purpose for our praise and worship of Him.
- Worship is an expression of God’s worth. Praise and worship is the measuring rod of His worth to us. Show me a person involved in worship and I will show you someone who has a high estimation of God. Likewise, one who doesn’t express God’s worth through worship is one who has a low estimation of God. Praise and worship is the means through which we express His worth in our sight.
How much do we really love Him? If we really love and esteem Him, we will show it through our praise, worship, surrender, and obedience. “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me” (John 14:21). Paul exhorts, “To present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).
- Worship is the purpose for which we were created. In Revelation 4:11, twenty-four elders were praising God saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Our purpose is to bring pleasure to God. One of the best ways to do that is through praise and worship.
Worship will be one of the primary activities in heaven. We are presently enrolled in on-the-job training for eternity. If we feel out of place worshiping here, imagine how awkward we will feel in eternity. For a clear picture of what worship will be like in eternity study Revelation 4:8-11, Revelation 5:9-11, Revelation 7:9-12, and Revelation 19:1-8.
- Worship ushers in God’s presence. Jesus promised He would always be with us, especially when we gather in His name (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 18:20). He also promised that we will enter into His presence in a special way when we worship and praise Him.
Psalm 100:1-4 – “Make a joyful noise, shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness, come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God. It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise.”
You can feel the presence of God in a powerful way when you are worshiping. I’ve always been able to tell a huge difference when I’m putting all I have into my worship experience, as opposed to when I’m not. We enter into the presence of God through praise and worship.
Psalm 16:11 tells us that being in His presence brings “fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.” When Moses left God’s presence in Exodus 34, his face was glowing. As Solomon worshiped the Lord the glory of God filled the temple so much that the priests could not stand to minister (1 Kings 8:11, 2 Chronicles 5:6 and 2 Chronicles 7:1-4). Throughout the Bible, when people experienced the presence of God they were changed (Isaiah 6:1-8).
What would it be like if we worshiped God with all our might? How would we be affected by His presence? One thing is sure, we will never be the same. When we enter His presence through worship “we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
- We minister to God through worship. In Acts 13:2, the church at Antioch was “ministering to the Lord.” We talk about ministering to others, and God ministering to us, but God needs us to minister to Him as well. John 4:23 says, “For the Father seeks such to worship Him.”
We normally don’t think about God having needs, but He wants and needs our worship. The only way His need will ever be met is by praising and worshiping Him with all of our heart.
The Power of Praise
Praise is the act of expressing approval or admiration. Worship is reverent honor and homage paid to God. While most Christians think of praise and worship as interchangeable, there is tremendous power in praise.
- Praise is the means of and response to the infilling of the Spirit. Praise and worship triggers the overflow of God’s Spirit in our hearts. We not only enter God’s presence through praise (Psalms 100:4), but we are also filled with His presence through worship. Are you feeling spiritually dry? Worship Jesus with all your heart and the Spirit of the living God will fill your innermost being to overflowing.
John 7:37-39 – “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water. This He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive.”
Ephesians 5:18-19 – “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
James 4:8 – “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
Praise is also the response to being filled with God’s Spirit, which cries out from within us in prayer and praise.
Romans 8:15 – “You have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”
Galatians 4:6 – “And because you are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”
Throughout scripture people were worshiping and magnifying God when filled with the Holy Spirit. Worship is one of the evidences of the Spirit filled life. As the Holy Spirit flows within our heart, the natural response of the human spirit is praise and worship.
Acts 10:45-46 – “On the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.”
- Praise creates an atmosphere for hearing from God. If you want to hear from God, you must worship Him. Acts 13:2 says, “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said.”
When I am in a service where the praise and worship is intense, I feel the greatest anointing in my preaching and teaching. It’s in this type of atmosphere that God seems to speak the clearest. Whether in your personal time with God, or a public setting, praise is the key to hearing from Him.
We also find this when we are in a spiritual battle. It’s when we are going through a time of difficulty and spiritual conflict that we desperately need to hear from God. In 2 Kings 3:15-16, Ahab and Jehoshaphat ran out of water while going to battle Moab. Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here that we may inquire by him?” One of the king’s servants said, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here.” Jehoshaphat said, “The Word of the Lord is with him” (2 Kings 3:11-12).
They went to Elisha and he told them, “Bring me a minstrel.” After the minstrel played Elisha proclaimed, “Thus says the Lord.” It was when the musician began to play that the Lord spoke to Elisha, giving him the needed Word to lead them to victory.
It was only after the musician began to play that the Lord spoke to Elisha, who gave them the Word of God they needed for victory. This is why a worship leader’s job is so important.
People who minister on a worship team should never underestimate the importance of their calling. They are the ones who set an atmosphere for the church hearing God speak. Worship ushers in the anointing of God, not only in church services, but also in our personal devotions. We should always have a time of praise and worship prior to our study of the Word, whether it’s in a corporate setting or in our personal devotions.
- Praise releases stress and anxiety. When we’re filled with stress, anxiety, and care we don’t need medicated. What we need is a praise pill. Too many of God’s people today are turning to medication to deal with the pressures of life instead of the Lord. Praise and worship is one of the major keys to ushering the peace of God into our life and situation.
Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The prescription for stress and anxiety in Philippians 4:6-8 is prayer, praise, and a positive mindset. We need to “cast all our care upon Him, for He cares for us” (1 Peter 5:7). That said, prayer alone is not enough. Prayer focuses on the problem, where praise focuses on the solution. Prayer keeps our concentration on the cause of our stress and anxiety, whereas praise moves our focus and concentration from the cause to the one who is the solution to our stress.
It’s important to pray, but don’t stop there. We must always move from prayer to praise, so we don’t dwell on the problem but on the solution. In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.” True rest in found in God! “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9).
- Praise releases the generosity of God. Think about how you feel when your children tell you how great you are. Our immediate response is usually, “What do you want?” We laugh, but if they are constantly praising us, we usually give them anything they want. This is especially true of grandchildren. God is the same. If we are continually praising and worshiping the Lord, telling Him how much we love Him and how great He is, He is likely to give us anything we desire (Psalm 37:4), sometimes even before we ask.
Isaiah 65:24 – “It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer, and while they are still speaking, I will hear.”
How great is that? Praise brings this to fulfillment in our lives. If we will spend more time in praise and worship, we will have a lot less to pray about.
- Praise causes our enemies to flee. In 2 Chronicles 20:12, the enemy was coming against the people of God and Jehoshaphat was afraid and said, “We have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”
Have you ever been in a place where you were afraid, felt completely overwhelmed, and had no idea what to do? That is exactly where they were. It was only when they praised the Lord with all of their heart that He struck down the enemy before them. They didn’t even have to lift a hand to fight. Their praise was not timid and ritualistic, they “stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with a very loud voice” (2 Chronicles 20:19). They praised Him with all their might, and as a result, God fought for them, struck down their enemy, and gave them victory.
In Exodus 17:10-13, when Amalek fought against Israel at Rephidim, Moses sent Joshua to fight for Israel while he stood on top of the hill with Aaron and Hur. When Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed. When he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. When Moses grew weary, Aaron and Hur held up his hand allowing Joshua to overwhelm Amalek. Every man of God needs those who will hold his hands up when he becomes weary.
In Exodus 17:15, Moses built an altar and named it Jehovah-Nissi, “The Lord is My banner.” As long as Moses kept his hand lifted high in praise, Israel prevailed against the enemy. The same is true for us. If we constantly praise and worship Him, God will cause us to prevail and our enemies to flea before us. Let’s lift up His banner high and unashamedly for all to see. Victory is ours!