Most of the time when we think of “praise and worship” we think of a worship services—this is a phrase I was really familiar with growing up in church. But really, praise and worship have more to do with the state of the heart rather than a phase of church experience (though it can be that, too). They also are not one and the same thing—praise has its own purpose and meaning, and so does worship. Let’s take a look at a passage that describes each of them.
Psalms 100:4: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”
We must come to God with a thankful heart first and foremost. When we come to God with a heart that is humble and gives Him the glory He deserves, we are acknowledging that we are dependent upon Him in our lives. First we thank Him for who He is and what He has done, then we praise Him for who He is and what He has done. We thank Him and then we declare Him worthy of that thanks. By praising God, we’re acknowledging that He is Lord and “ascribing greatness” to Him. Our praise doesn’t actually make God any greater, of course, except in our own hearts. Essentially, praise expands our capacity to understand how great He really is.
Romans 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
When we worship God, it must be with our whole being. When we worship, we lay ourselves down and say, “God, I want you to be glorified in all that I am and in all that I do.” Our bodies our to be a living sacrifice—we must count the cost, take up our cross, and follow Christ daily in everything that we say and do. It is pleasing to God when we lead godly lives. Our physical lives must be without blemish, washed by the Blood of Christ, in order to be holy and pure and pleasing to God. Then, when we come to him, giving all we are to Him, consecrating it, dedicating it to Him, we are truly worshipping Him.
Worship causes us to share intimate fellowship with God, as individuals and as a fellowship. In worship, our hearts can experience the very presence of God in all its wondrous diversity and power. If praise is a declaration to God of His greatness, worship is an intimate conversation with one’s True Love.
Perhaps a marriage relationship can illustrate this difference. It may be that praise is much like a wife boasting about her husband’s qualities, and worship like the whispered expressions of her love to him in their embrace. And like the marriage relationship, our praise and worship to God is not only words but action, activity that confirms the reality of our love.