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7-Day Practical Faith Blog: The Discipline of Worship

Psalm 96: 9

What is worship?

As I continue this Lenten series on spiritual disciplines, I think this question is a good one as we examine worship together. It might be easiest to start with worship is not, or at least, what it SHOULD not be.

Worship may look like a performance, and we too often treat it that way. We treat it like watching a Broadway musical. We evaluate the script, the music, the actors. We check out who went to the performance and how many were there. We wonder if we were entertained properly, whether we got out of it what we needed, whether we would recommend it, whether we want to visit it again. Hey, I get it - I am as guilty of this approach as anyone.

Like so many things in life, we make it all about us. We make worship about us when we should be making it about God.

Casting around for various descriptions of worship, here are some of the descriptions you see:

  • Expressing in words, music, rituals, and silent adoration the greatness, beauty, and goodness of God. (Richard J. Foster)

  • Worship includes all our responses to God – including a response with our mind, such as our belief in God’s worthiness, our emotions, such as love and trust, and our actions and our words. (Michael Morrison)

  • To worship something is to prize it above everything else. To honor it as the thing of highest importance and to act accordingly. (Love Worth Finding)

  • Praise is the joyful recounting of all God has done for us. It is closely intertwined with thanksgiving...Worship comes from a different place within our spirits. Worship should be reserved for God alone. Worship is the art of losing self in the adoration of another. Praise can be a part of worship, but worship goes beyond praise. (

Blending these together, I think it should be clear that our worship focus should not be on entertainment, but on the Eternal One.

As shown in the accompanying photo mash-up, worship styles may be different. They may be full of hand-waving, singing, and shouting, or they may be quiet and ritualistic, or they may be somewhere in between. For my own part, I attend a church that offers a couple of worship styles, and I like to alternate between them, as they both have meaning to me. I have visited churches with other worship styles and appreciate most of those, too.

The worship style is not as important as the worship focus. Certainly we should spend some worship time in introspection, but not about our to-do list or about who is sitting near us that we want to catch up with. Our introspection should be about our connection to God, our devotion to God, our learning from God, our love relationship with God, our commitment to God. Our focus should be on the sacrificial goodness and wisdom of Jesus, and the present presence of the Holy Spirit within the worship experience.

In short, we properly engage in the discipline of worship when we emerge from it focused not on what we got out of it, but on what we put into it; not whether our needs were filled, but whether God was glorified and adored and worshipped. It takes mental discipline to practice the spiritual discipline of worship.

Psalm 96: 9 - Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.

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