What should be our understanding of ‘worship’? Rev Dr Paul David discusses.
The word ‘worship’ usually gets people’s attention and is an act that is loved by all. Many times, people say they know the meaning of worship, but in their mind, it is usually related to specifically, a time of praise and worship involving music and singing. Phrases used today, such as ‘worship leader’, ‘praise and worship’, ‘worship team’, ‘worship and prayer’ have also added to this misunderstanding. This has resulted in a narrow understanding of worship.
A biblical survey will bring to one’s understanding that worship isn’t just about singing. In fact, music is just an aid to worship and while in the truest sense is one of the best ways to express one’s worship of God, every component in a Christian gathering is worship, not just the time of praise and worship.
Given this understanding, we should always remember that worship encompasses one’s entire life and whatever is done should be an act of worship unto Him. The more God speaks and reveals Himself, the more we change and live out a life of worship. Here are the three foundational P’s to enhance our understanding of worship.
One of the oldest definitions and a traditional starting point of worship stems from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘weorthscipe’. Weorth means honor and worthiness, while scipe, means “to create”. This definition talks about giving God the highest praise, because He alone is worthy. “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)
Revelation 4 and 5 gives a perfected picture of worship. Both chapters portray an image of concentric circles with the throne in the center, where one day every knee shall bow and confess that He alone is God. These chapters also give a clear understanding of the worth and honor that should be due to God because He alone should be glorified. Worship can never be worship unless God is at the center of it all. When He is not the focus, the worship offered can result in idolatry because someone or something else takes that place. The second commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) from the Ten Commandments is an important reminder of how serious this is.
A question to ponder: When you worship, is God (Person) at the center of it?
Throughout Scripture, it can be seen that worship is both an attitude and an act. There are two key words of worship, ‘shachah’ in Hebrew and ‘proskuneo’ in Greek. These two words connote an external physical action. However, a deeper study of these words in their contexts will show that these external actions always reflect the heart’s deepest desire of honor, humility, respect, submission, obedience and above all, gratitude.In the Old Testament, the Hebraic understanding of worship always consisted of a whole person’s response to God. “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” (Psalm 63:1-4) These verses talk about a totality where the mind, lips, will, body and entire being is engaged in worship.The greatest commandment stated in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 says: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” This also highlights and demands a wholehearted response in loving God.
Jesus draws from the passage in Isaiah 29:13 and addresses this very issue by saying, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” (Matthew 15:7-9)
The word ‘hypocrite’ refers to someone who may look ‘worshipful’ on the outside, but can be devoid of it internally. John MacArthur puts it succinctly by saying that actions cannot make a “non-worshiping heart into a worshiping one. The danger is that they can give a non-worshiping heart the sense of having worshiped.”
Actions can only assist in expressing one’s love and adoration toward Him. It is important to kneel, lift up one’s hands, fall prostrate, stay silent, bask in His presence to depict the desire of one’s heart. The danger lies when one tries to look worshipful on the outside just so people around them have a good impression of them. What one needs to be more concerned with is that God is more interested with the attitude of their hearts.
It is therefore important to always balance the external and the internal because He is not interested in lip service, not even eloquent and polished words. He is looking for genuine worshipers, whose actions reflect what the heart says.
A question to ponder: Does your external Posture always match your heart’s attitude?
As seen earlier, true worship is the response of a person’s entire being. In the same light, the presence of God is not limited to just a Christian gathering or times of singing. Andrew Hill mentions that the Hebrews negated “any notion of separating the sacred (holy in relationship to God) from the secular (a way of life and thought without reference to God).” The danger arises when only Sunday is viewed as worship time because it is a sacred day, and the other days of the week are viewed as secular.
This understanding reduces worship to just a period of time when Christians gather.
A.W. Tozer puts it succinctly, “If you cannot worship God in the midst of your responsibilities on Monday, then it is very unlikely you were worshiping God on Sunday!” One needs to also make a conscious effort to have regular daily personal encounters with Him. At a corporate worship gathering, this personal encounter will enhance the worship atmosphere, as God is always looking for those that are in tune with His Spirit, to pour out His heart upon them.
When we come prepared with an expectant heart to exalt Him, our eyes are taken off our favorite song leader or preacher to lead us into worship. The song leader or preacher are just facilitators to assist us in our worship. The focus should never be on them, but on the Person of worship.
Psalm 139 highlights that the presence of God is everywhere. God is looking for people who are carriers of His presence wherever they go. He is looking for true worshipers that will always cultivate an “awakened heart”, aware of His presence and make worship a lifestyle.
A question to ponder: Do you live with a conscious awareness that His Presence is everywhere?
Let us always remember these 3 P’s (Person, Posture and Presence) and continue to grow in our worship of Him till we see Him face to face.
About Rev Dr Paul David:
Rev Dr Paul David is currently the Dean, School of Creative Arts at TCA College. He has a Doctor of Ministry in Worship from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, USA. He is also an Ordained Minister with the Assemblies of God as well as lead worshiper and drummer in Creative Ministries at Trinity Christian Centre.
A music enthusiast since young, he has been involved in the church’s music ministry and productions as well as various secular music performances. He is passionate about teaching and correcting mindsets on worship, nurturing music teams who are first and foremost worshipers, improving musical standards and giving excellence to God by using the arts as a powerful tool in propagating the Gospel and above all seeing lives touched and transformed. He is happily married to his wife, Lynn.