What is worship?

Photo by Bill Lollar via Flick (Creative Commons)

A youth worker in Minnesota asked me to share my definition of worship with her as part of a lesson she’s preparing for her youth group. I thought it’d be fun to post my response to her (with her permission) for a couple of reasons.

  1. I hadn’t thought about it like this before.
  2. I like it when people call me a heretic.

What is worship?

I think the English word for worship is limiting versus what God asks of us. So I break up the act of worship into a bunch different categories. (Not limited to this list)

  • We come together to worship God in community.
  • We spend time in prayer, fasting, song, reading of Scripture individually.
  • Our work is worship.
  • Our attitude is worship.
  • When I give my talents and treasure to God, that is an act of worship.
  • When I journal, that is worship.
  • When I am alone with my wife, that is worship.
  • Everything I do… I can do as worship of God.

Now, how do I define worship? Worship is any intentional human actions which bring glory and honor to God.

What do you think? Is the intention what makes an act worship? Or have I overstated what worship can be?

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

5 comments

  1. We agree that worship is limited by the present Englsh and ecclesiastic usage; i.e. too often worship is only seen as singing, praying, and not the stuff we do in the “real world”. However I personally tend to swing the pendulum too far. I need to remember that worship is adoration as well as action. Sometimes I just need to prostrate myself before God. And I”m not sure I get that done without “going to church” to “worship.” … My recent post on this: http://www.tcporter.com/2010/08/worship-is-all-of-life-not-sunday.html

  2. Adam, Yes! of course. All of the above. Worship is what we do with our lives for God.

    I would add though, that there is a tendency to make worship “everything” which ends up making worship nothing. Brother Lawrence famously felt the intense presence of God best while doing dishes. I’m not if we’re all so in tune with God as brother Lawrence to make every mundane action glorifying to God. I want everything I do to be worship, but I think I’m still working on the baby-steps sometimes.

    As far as the Old Testament is concerned, worship was always a very intentional act done in response to God’s action, it was intentionally praising and thanking God for what God was doing in their lives personally and communally. This is what we do on Sunday mornings, we reflect on the weeks past and upcoming and thank God for it and petition God to be in the middle of it.

    So while I agree that the goal of how I conduct myself everyday should be worship, I think that is such a lofty goal that it sometimes becomes irrelevant. I’d be making progress if I can go through a sunday morning “worship service” without being overly critical or jealous or covetous, etc.

  3. I heard someone say once that worship is when God’s creation does what He created it to do. A flower blooming in the springtime is an act of worship to God, because it is doing what He created it to do.

    I don’t like it when worship is only assigned to the singing on a Sunday morning. It is so much more than that.

  4. You hit the nail on the head when you said, “Worship is any intentional human actions which bring glory and honor to God.”

    Not long after I was saved I was given copy of “The Purpose Driven Life.” In it Rick Warren says, “Bringing pleasure to God is called ‘worship.'” He also agrees with you by saying, “Worship is not a part of your life; it is your life.” “Every activity can be transformed into an act of worship when you do it for the praise, glory, and pleasure of God … By doing everything as if you were doing it for Jesus and by carrying on a continual conversation with him while you do it.” Later he writes, “But surrendering to God is the heart of worship. It is the natural response to God’s amazing love and mercy. We give ourselves to him, not out of fear or duty, but in love, ‘because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:9-10).” True worship — bringing God pleasure –happens when you give yourself completely to God. Offering yourself to God is what worship is all about.”

    I strongly feel that many have misguided views of what church, religion, and worship are about, and who they are actually for. Many are looking for a God who only makes them feel good and for their benefit.

    It’s all about God first. He loves us and wants to bless us, but we have to remember our humble roles.

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