You've probably heard someone at church say, "We are going to have Praise and Worship."

What once began as a simple catchphrase to attract people towards Christian music has morphed into vague Christian-ese. We’ve tossed the phrase around without stopping to consider the meaning behind the words. The unintended result is that music, one of God’s gifts to aid us in worshiping, has for many become an end in itself. The danger of overfamiliarity and of misusing biblical terms is that the purity of our praise and worship actually ends up diluted.

When I was a new Christian, having been raised Jewish, I was oblivious to the various Christian phrases being taught to me. All I knew was the experience I was having with God. As I began to grow spiritually, Christian lingo became a part of my Christian life ― somehow dulling out those experiences I used to have. I had become numb in a way. No longer was praise and worship an experience with God; it was just another part of the “church” experience.

So, I decided to do some research on my own and get back to the basics. Here is what I discovered.

What is Praise?

Praise in the original Greek means to sing, to tell of, to give, or to confess.* In simpler terms, it means to be thankful for God’s blessings, and to declare that good news to God and to others. Here are some examples in Scripture:

Each of these Scriptures emphasize that praise is an outward expression, not just to God, but in order to tell others how good God is. This is the true foundation of praise. It doesn’t have to be directly correlated with music, and it has nothing to do with putting on a show. True praise comes from deep in the heart, and the outcome is that others see God working in us.

A wonderful example of this can be found in the song Mary proclaims while still carrying Jesus in her womb (Luke 1:46-55). Filled with His Spirit and fully aware of His greatness, Mary tells of how magnificent God is. She sings of how great He is, not only to her, but to all people of all nations.

What is Worship?

Worship, in both the original Greek and Hebrew, convey the idea of: “to prostrate oneself, to bow down, to fall face down, to pay homage and to pay respect.”* In other words, worship is the highest form of honor and respect that we can show towards God. While worship can be done in public, its main directive is very different from praise. Worship is a direct conversation between you and God. It is highly intimate and personal. Here are some examples in Scripture:

There is great importance to be placed on worship. The devil himself knew this, which is why he made it the final temptation for Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8-10). What we worship is who and what we will follow. Worship goes beyond words and feelings. It is the foundation for our true servanthood towards God. This is why worship is so intimate ― it defines our relationship with Him. There is nothing on this earth, or in our lives, that is more important than our relationship with God.

An excellent example of this is found in John 12:3 when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anoints the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume. Judas, who was later to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, was quick to criticize her because he saw it as a waste of money. He claimed the money could instead have fed the poor and helped the unfortunate. Jesus saw that his statement held no true worship-value toward Him, so He rebuked Judas. Whereas He defended Mary by saying she anointed Him in preparation for His burial, thus showing her devotion. Basically, Jesus was teaching there is no higher value than worshiping God.

Praise and worship clearly go beyond something we do in church or at a concert.

It is not just a title to be assigned to describe an activity. Rather it is a complete way of life for one who follows Christ. Praise and worship are in fact to be the foundation on which we live our lives. Without both, we can’t possibly be effective at being the hands and feet of God. To accomplish this, worship of God and of Him alone must be a first priority at all times. Through our worship of Him and the intimacy that comes through such worship, praise for Him will naturally flow from our actions and words. In doing this our lives will be a true reflection of Christ, from the inside out.


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*Definitions from: Strong, J. (1890). Strong's exhaustive concordance of the Bible. Abingdon Press.

Photo Credit: Mars Hill Church Seattle