Praise And Worship – Is There A Difference?
Worship and praise are those seemingly synonymous words in any religious service and many people feel that they are inherently the same things.
However, is there a difference between praise and worship? Yes, although they are similar, there are significant distinctions between praise and worship. In short, praise is only one form of worship while worship as a whole encompasses many types of activities.
And if there is, what makes them uniquely distinct from one another? In this article, we will discuss the meanings of praise and worship and arrive at the following conclusion: while involving many similarities, there are unmistakable distinctions between praise and worship.
Similar But Different
Worship is not always praise, but praise is always worship. These words are often used interchangeably in casual conversations and church services, but there is a distinct difference between them.
So right now what we’re going to do is take a step back. We’re going to go beyond the typical, surface-level answer because it’s amazing how many “Christianese” phrases are taken for granted these days.
So let’s dig deeper into praise and worship, what they mean – and why you can’t have one without the other.
If you’re familiar with the Christian faith, your New Testament probably defines worship as reverence or adoration for God (Matthew 4:10; Revelation 19:5), while praise is recognition of His beneficence (Psalm 28:7).
But these definitions show different aspects of each word without really explaining why one differs from the other.
Learning From Theologians
So what’s the difference? To start, let’s look at how both words are defined by people who study these things for a living – the theologians. Traditionally, theologians have defined worship as any activity that exhibits reverence for God, while praise is only one form of worship.
To understand what makes praise different from worship, it’s helpful to look at the Greek word behind the two concepts. The Greek word most commonly translated as “worship” in the New Testament is proskuneo.
It means “to kiss (in homage to someone superior); generally to adore“. It also means, essentially, to bow down to something or someone that has more authority than you do – ideally God Himself.
You may have heard it defined as “man bringing his needs before God“. The implication is that when man humbles himself enough to approach God through prayer, he so with all of his problems because he knows that God is the only one who can help him.
Thus, its metaphorical meaning revolves around paying respect or honor to whom it is due. For example, when Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him he said, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47). He was saying here comes someone who truly knows how to pay homage to his superior.
The Greek word translated as praise is epaino. It means “to express admiration and approval, to commend“. It’s a much stronger statement than proskuneo, for it implies delight in who or what we are praising.
If worship is the act of paying homage, then praise is the hymn we sing about why we know we need to pay homage. For example, consider Psalm 34:1 – it reads that God’s people should extol (praise) His name at all times (whether times of feast or famine).
Or consider Luke 19:37 – when Zaccheus said he’d give half his possessions to the poor and restore fourfold anything he had defrauded people of, he was praising Jesus for who He is and what He had done.
Praise & Worship: Companions In Reverence
Of course, praise and worship work together to show our submission to God’s authority. So if you’re asking whether one can be a worshipper without being a praise-er, that would depend on the motive behind the act.
If I’m bowing before my king because I fear his wrath if I don’t, then’s not true worship. But if I am bowing before my Lord out of love or adoration, then yes – I am certainly a worshipper even though I have yet to sing His praises.
However, this may confuse those who think of worship as singing songs about God rather than their doing whatever makes them feel most submissive to God.
If you think of worship as singing songs, then you probably see praise as extolling the virtues of God and His deeds rather than the act of paying homage to Him or expressing admiration for what He has done or is currently doing.
Such a distinction is not incorrect, but it does emphasize different aspects of the words’ meanings than many theologians do.
But let’s say praise is extolling the virtues of God – what makes praises any different from sermons?
Theologians distinguish between praises/praise songs and sermons by noting that every sermon has an element of praise in it, but not vice versa (i.e., no song can be used in a sermon- at least typically).
So Is Sunday A Praise Or Worship Service?
So which word comes closer to describing a Christian worship service: praise or worship service? It depends on which of these two definitions of worship you use: “any activity that exhibits reverence for God,” or ” any activity in which we pay homage“.
If you think of worship as paying homage, then most likely your local church will be providing an atmosphere where members get to extol God’s virtues through song.
However, if you think of worship as anything related to reverence, then expect to hear sermons on God’s nature and character.
The bottom line is this: worship is not limited to a song. It involves the expression of our submissive spirit through any means necessary (e.g., gestures of respect, singing songs about God).
And praise is simply that expression by which we extol the virtues of who He is and what He has done for us. Thus, the two are closely related but different in purpose.
Praise focuses more on describing God’s virtues, while worship focuses more on expressing our affections toward Him – thus bringing us closer to His heart.
While worship is a posture of the heart and daily attitude in the manner in which we live, praise can be a simple decision to give thanks to God.
Here are some tips on how to praise God:
Keep it Simple
First of all, let’s just note that there’s nothing wrong with using your own words when praising God for who he is and what he has done. It doesn’t have to be complicated or poetic or even spiritual sounding; just speak from your heart about why you love God.
Try to be honest, and don’t worry about falling short of the eloquence that other people might be able to express in their praises. Remember that you can praise God for anything at all even if it seems trivial or silly!
If there’s something you’re grateful for, then it’s worth praising God for.
One way to make your praise more specific is by giving some real-world examples of what you’re talking about. For example, imagine that someone is praising God because he has a loving wife/husband/family who makes him feel happy and secure daily.
That person could go on to say “I am very thankful for my family because they cheer me up when I’m in a bad mood, they help me in hard situations, and they are always there when I need them. Most of all, I praise God for the way that my family loves me unconditionally.”
The most important thing when praising God is to mean it with all your heart. If you are giving praise out of duty or obligation rather than out of genuine adoration for God’s character, people will be able to tell the difference.
When you speak about how much you love someone – whether it’s a spouse, child, friend, or even just an animal companion- do you talk in a monotone voice? Of course not! Try speaking to God using the same energy and enthusiasm that you would use when trying to make someone you love feel special.
Praise Makes God Seem More Real
One reason why people might not praise God much is that they find it hard to imagine what he’s like in general. It can be difficult to understand a being who exists outside our limited human frame of reference. However, by praising him we can get closer to an understanding of who God is and how his actions reveal his character.
When you’re praising God, try asking yourself questions about why things happen the way they do in your life and ask for wisdom in knowing God better through these difficult or confusing moments.
You may also want to read scripture so that you have something concrete to work with when expressing your adoration for God’s deeds!
In essence, praise is a way to come together with others who love God and celebrate what he has done for us. By praising him we can feel more fulfilled spiritually, by getting closer to understanding our loving heavenly Father.
Praising God should be an integral part of our lives as believers because it reminds us not only why we believe, but also how we can better understand the One whose glory should never be forgotten. Praise ye the Lord!