There is a lot of emphasis in churches today on praise and worship. The practical understanding that many people have of this subject is that praise and worship is the first part of a church service. We “warm people up” with some fast songs (praise) and then we sing some mellow songs of adoration.
Doing all this is fine but the 30 minutes or so usually allocated to this does not constitute a lifestyle of praise, nor a lifestyle of worship. Being a true worshiper of God is a lot more than this. There are a lot of people who draw near to God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. They enjoy the music styles, because the sounds are fashionable, the music is professional, and they sing the words projected on the screen whether or not they have any real correspondence with the way they truly feel towards God. I do not believe that God is impressed with such things. God our Father is looking for those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. We need to be sincere and authentic with our loving Father. And we can’t just turn this sincerity on and off depending on whether we are in a half hour praise session in a large assembly or in a home meeting. It needs to be there consistently to count with God.
I look at the example of Jesus Christ. He spent a lot of time in prayer, and a lot of time teaching people. He also demonstrated God’s Kingdom by healing the sick and casting out demons. All these things Jesus did out of a personal relationship with the Father. I only see one example in the gospels where Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn, and that was just before Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, after the Lord’s Supper. Apart from that the Scripture does not indicate that Jesus and the disciples organised any open air singing and music meetings for the express purpose of praising and worshiping God. Yet, judging by today’s church activities, you would think that Jesus brought the music on every time He was about to speak!
Music is great. Its a gift from God. And it can help us to praise and worship God. But it is not the main part of praise and worship.
Praise normally should be talking about the greatness and goodness of God. It is speaking well of God, talking about His works, what He is doing in our lives, as well as His attributes. How often are we doing that throughout the day? It should be happening “continually”. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer up the sacrifice of praise, that is the fruit of lips, giving thanks to His name”. How can we do this if praise is predominantly meant to be musical? Are we supposed to sing with our lips all day long? No, the praise God wants is not only musical. It is to express our appreciation to God not only to Him directly but to others as well, even those who do not as yet know the Lord.
In the New Testament, “worship” is based on two different words – ‘proskuneo’ and ‘latreuo’. ‘Proskuneo’ means to bow down and kiss. ‘Latreueo’ means to serve, especially as in religious service. True worship towards God is submission to God, adoration, honoring, reverence and obedience. We can have fellowship with God when we truly adopt this posture before God in our hearts and by our lives.
God is really wanting us to hear His voice, and do what He shows us to do. We must unreservedly give ourselves to God for this to happen consistently. This presenting of our bodies as living sacrifices to God is our true and reasonable worship (Romans 12:1). If we withhold ourselves from God, and don’t do this, our lovely song services may stimulate us soulishly but the spirit of man is not touched. The result can include emotions, excitement and so forth – but these also occur at a rock concert. What is needed is spirit to spirit communication with our Father – and that only happens as we lay down our lives for Him, His purposes and for the needs of the world.
The Old Testament ways of worshiping God by means of shouting, singing, dancing and enthusiastic behavior also have their place in our life of praise and worship. They can release God’s blessing if the Spirit of the Lord is truly freeing us to do these things. But no motions of the body and vocal chords can ever substitute for true worship, which is submission and reverent fear of God which leads to obedience. True Worship is expressed by our putting Jesus first 24 hours a day.