by: Maryann LeVine
Have you ever noticed the marquis beside a church with the words ‘Come worship with us’? I see it several times a day and realize that the word ‘worship’ has lost its unique meaning. It has become generic, encompassing liturgy and teaching, or music that is simply Christian in nature, and because of that, we have lost the very essence of the word.
Throughout scripture, the words ‘praise’ and ‘worship’ seem to be used interchangeably, however, they are not the same. Both of the words are expressions of respect and honor, and have movement attached to them. Some of the implied actions are processions, shouting, clapping, lifting hands, falling to one’s knees, and bowing low. The English word ‘praise’ means ‘to set a price on’ or to ‘appraise,’ so it’s a response to the worthiness of something or someone. It is an expression of approval, and of gratitude for things received. ‘Worship,’ on the other hand, is an expression of reverence and admiration, and implies a posture of listening and ready obedience. In the Old Testament, the word often means to fall on your knees touching your forehead to the ground. The word most frequently used in the New Testament for ‘worship’ means to turn toward as to kiss, or to kiss the hand.
Praise is how we enter His courts. Psalm 100 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” In order to proceed from His outer courts and into His Holy Place, we must continue to press in, and worship Him, positioning ourselves before Him with hearts ready to follow, listening, and waiting for the moment to turn to Him as though to kiss Him. This requires intimacy and relationship, and most of all, His Presence. Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for us so that we may be with Him where He is. We know the way because we know Him, and He IS the way, the Truth and the Life. As His sheep, we hear His voice and follow Him. When we praise, we enter His courts. When we worship, we enter the King’s chamber where we are with Him where He is. We hear the rhythms of His heart, smell the aroma of His spices, and feel the warmth of His breath.
Both of these words, ‘praise’ and ‘worship,’ have an inherent proximity to God. Praise doesn’t necessarily require relationship with God. We can declare or sing of all that He has done without relationship. ‘The horse and rider fell into the sea!’ is a declaration of something He has done but it doesn’t require Holy Spirit unction. One only needs to look in the scripture, and find something incredible that God has done for us to make a praise song or declaration. As we begin to praise, we remember what He has done, assign a value, and create gratitude in our hearts opening the gates from the outer courts to the inner courts. It is the beginning of relationship. “Praise the Lord!” is how we start, and if we move toward worship, this declaration changes to “I praise You, my Lord.” The gates have now opened to a more intimate place of heart, a transition to worship.
Praise has a synergy with worship in that the higher the praise, the potential for deep worship exists. Praise is not less than worship; it simply has a different purpose. It is related and required to move into intimate worship, but praise in itself is incomplete. Our praise has turned His eyes and ears toward us, and He is moved by our sound. Our praise has created a tent of meeting, and then our worship ushers in His glorious presence.
Worship requires relationship, and is Holy Spirit prompted and Holy Spirit driven. Worship will not happen without His presence. Worship is a matter of intimacy. It’s a matter of close proximity. We have all been issued an invitation beckoning us to come into an intimate relationship with the King of all kings. We choose by our actions and investment of heart how close we will come. Jesus fed the 5,000, sent Holy Spirit to the 100 waiting, sent out the 70, called the 12, allowed 3 to witness the transfiguration, and then there was the 1. There was one who pressed in and laid his head on Jesus’ breast. We can choose to stay in the crowd of 5,000 and be thankful for His provision and marvel at what He has done, or we can continue to press in and respond to His invitation to come and be with Him. That is the difference between ‘praise’ and ‘worship.’
How close do we want to be? We have each received the invitation to be the one the one who lays his head upon the breast of the King. Will we risk leaving the outer courts of praise and enter the inner chambers of His heart in worship? Will we commune with Him in spirit and in truth? Will we embrace Him in His Presence? Or, will we choose to keep Him at an arm’s distance? Will we continue to stay in the outer courts of gratitude, shying away from intimacy and nakedness of heart?
Time is short. Let’s cast away our protocols and adopt His, recapturing the meaning of the word ‘worship.’ Let’s accept His invitation to soar with Him to lofty heights in praise and then to plunge into His heart’s depths in worship. Like Enoch, let’s walk with Him, have faith in Him, and be pleasing to Him. Let’s believe that He rewards those who seek Him. Let’s meet Him face to face, eye to eye, and breath to breath. Let’s lavish Him with our love. Most of all, let’s love Him with all that we have, all that we are, with all of our strength, and all of our might. Let’s be whole-hearted lovers of God with single-eyed devotion to the One who loves like no other. Selah! Maryann LeVine
References: Unger’s Bible Dictionary The Dictionary of Bible Imagery
Recommended reading: Glory by Ruth Ward Heflin and The Secret of the Stairs by Wade Taylor