What Exactly Is Worship in the Bible?

Have you ever asked this? I want to share a helpful way of understanding what worship consists of.

Abraham and the Three Angels

We can worship God because he has spoken. That’s where worship in the Bible starts: God speaking. If he had not told us who he is and what pleases him, we would have no way to worship him. It is helpful to understand worship as a sequence: God’s revelation to us, and our response to him. In God’s revealed word he shows how he wants us to respond. He doesn’t leave us guessing how to worship him.

Fundamentally, our worship is this: to respond to what God says by confessing that it is true. It’s that simple. Whatever God says goes. That’s what it means to follow him. To worship God means to trust and obey him, for real belief leads to action. Here are four kinds of attitudes/actions God tells us to take:

1.  Glad adoration of God (Matthew 6:9, Psalm 95:1-7).
2.  Submissive confession of our sin (Matthew 6:12, Isaiah 6:5).
3.  Grateful thanksgiving for Christ’s redemptive sacrifice (Psalm 118:1).
4.  Trusting dependence on the Holy Spirit to supply our needs (Philippians 4:6-7, 19).

Christian worship is therefore glad submission and grateful trust toward God—glad because of who God is, submitting because who we are relative to God, grateful because of what God has done for us, and trusting because of what we believe God will do.  The Christian life must be characterized by such worship: gladness, submission, gratefulness, and trust. This kind of life leads to our good and God’s glory.

Looking at worship in the above terms, I cannot resist pointing out some interesting parallels. The various parts of worship line up with the aspects of the gospel:

God is holy—Man is sinful—Jesus is the answer—We must receive the Holy Spirit, repenting and believing.

 We may even discover helpful similarities between the parts of worship and the parts of the well-known prayer model:

Adoration—Confession—Thanksgiving—Supplication

Here is a way of looking at the parallels:

Aspects of Prayer Adoration Confession Thanksgiving Supplication
Aspects of the Gospel God is Holy Man is Sinful Jesus is the Answer We must receive the Holy Spirit, repenting and believing.
Aspects of Worship Gladness leading to Adoration of God’s Holiness Submission leading to Confession of Man’s Sinfulness Gratefulness leading to Thanksgiving for Christ’s Atonement Trust leading to Dependence on the Holy Spirit’s Supply

These are biblical categories, so it comes as no surprise that there are parallels in the aspects of worship, the gospel, and prayer. To worship God is to pray the gospel.

The above set of categories may be helpful for structuring our corporate worship, our gospel presentations, and our prayers. These particular categories are only some (among many) ways of understanding the truths of God’s word. I do find them helpful for clarifying my own thinking and for remembering not to leave out important components as I lead worship in my church, as I teach the gospel, and as I pray.