Hey, this is Izzy with James River Worship! I lead the Worship and Production Practicum here at James River College. In practicum, I’ve always been asked what the difference is between praise and worship. Is it my favorite guitar-ripping, drum-beating, foot-stomping thriller or my hands raised, tear-dropping, knee-buckling, voice-cracking slow song that is the anthem of my past youth group days? That is what most of the students think, but I hope to encourage you and help bring some clarity! So, let’s define praise and worship. I love what A.W. Tozer says, “Without worship, we go about miserable.” Praise and worship bring life, energy, and joy into any situation. Read any of the Psalms and you will see! Understanding the difference between praise and worship can bring a new depth to the way we love, honor, and serve God.
The Sacrifice of Praise is the “Fruit of the Lips”
If you read your Bible, you will see the calls to “praise the Lord” are found in many books of the Bible! Angels and the heavenly hosts are commanded to praise the Lord (Psalm 89:5; 103:20; 148:2). All inhabitants of the earth are instructed to praise the Lord (Psalm 138:4; Romans 15:11). We can praise Him with singing (Isaiah 12:5; Psalm 9:11), with shouting (Psalm 33:1; 98:4), with dance (Psalm 150:4), and with musical instruments (1 Chronicles 13:8; Psalm 108:2; 150:3-5).
So, what is praise? Praise is the joyful recounting of all God has done for us. He is good isn’t He?! Slap your neighbor and tell them God’s been too good to keep quiet! My favorite Psalm says, “If I were to recall all of your deeds, I would never come to the end of them!” Plain and simple– it’s about thanksgiving. Not just the once-a-year holiday, but a lifestyle. Do you live thankfully? When was the last time you worshipped just out of thankfulness and not out of a need for something? Praise doesn’t require anything of us but is us seeing the righteous act of another. You can praise other things. For example, praising your waiter for serving you so well, or the barista for getting your coffee AND your name right. Come on somebody! Since God has done many wonderful deeds, He is worthy of praise (Psalm 18:3). I hope this is beginning to provide clarity for you.
Worship Should be For God Alone
Now that we have praise covered, let’s talk about Worship! If praise is from our lips, then worship comes from a different place within our heart and spirit. Worship should be for God alone (Luke 4:8). Worship is the act of losing self in the presence of the Lord. Worship is that moment when it seems like no one else is in the room and the only thing that matters is making sure God knows how much you really love and adore Him. Worship is to be unwrapped, undone, and somewhat broken. Praise can have a part of worship, but worship takes a step beyond that.
Praise is Easy; Worship is Not
Praise is easy; worship is not. I always say in the Worship Practicum that worship gets to the heart of who we are. Worship needs to be honest and open. Worship is meant to expose us! That’s why it’s easy to shout and jump through the fast songs, but when Reckless Love comes on, we tend to retreat or go through the motions of our shallow routine.
To truly worship God in spirit and in truth, we must let go of the worship of ourselves.
God will be praised, if not by us, by creation! Jesus said that if people don’t praise God, even the “stones will cry out”. But when the Bible mentions worship you can feel a shift in the text. We read verses like, “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”. And, “Come let us worship and bow down”. If you can see, the loud, joyful, cymbal clashing’s of praise has died down, and now you see words like, bow and kneel. This shows us that worship has to be partnered with humility and honor. We must be willing to allow God to humble us to get to the place where we worship Him, not just for what He has done, but because of who He is. This kind of worship requires surrender. We have been taught that to surrender is to show weakness and to show failure. Don’t get it twisted, but it is when we posture ourselves in this way that we are the stronger than ever!
“Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One worshipped.”
– Jack Hayford
So, praise aligns itself with thanksgiving and worship is parallel with surrender. It is clearly impossible to worship God and anything else at the same time. Worship is the attitude and posture of the heart and spirit. Is it possible for someone to be in a praise and worship set and do all of the physical motions but not actually be worshipping? Absolutely. God sees the heart, and He desires and deserves sincere, heartfelt praise and worship. Knowing the difference is crucial to understanding how God wants to be worshiped and why we should worship Him. All in all, I hope this challenged and encouraged you to praise and worship with everything you have and be honest in it. Allow God to speak to you and love on you. When you do this, you will discover the wonderful truth that when we worship, God changes us.