Christian worship is one of the most important spiritual disciplines in the Christian life. If you don’t like worship then you will not like heaven because worship is something that happens all the time in heaven. (Revelation 4:9-11) It is not just something we do as a warm up act for the preaching of the Bible. It is something that we do that has just as much importance as the preaching of the Bible. It is an expression of gratitude and reverence from our heart towards God. So I want to take a moment to share with you some of the things I have learned about worship over the 33 years I have been a believer in Jesus and some of the biblical principles I use when worshiping God.
Principles of Christian Worship
Worship starts in the heart.
Jesus gives an important principle in John’s Gospel Chapter 4.
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. —John 4:23, ESV
In this passage, we see that worship cannot be just a form or function. It has to come from our spirit or in layman’s terms, heart. It must be sincere and honest. It cannot be just some type of ritual or duty you perform out of a sense of obligation or because other people are doing it. It has to come from your heart and come from a truthful heart.
Worship must go beyond being personal and must be public.
I have heard it said many times from people that they worship God in their heart. That is good but it does not qualify as Christian worship. Christian worship must go beyond the heart and be shown in outward ways. Jesus said in Luke 6:45 that people will speak out of the abundance of their heart. If you are a worshiper of God in your heart, then you will naturally speak that worship from your lips.
The Bible tells us to bring the sacrifice of praise to God. This is done with the words that come out of our mouths.
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. —Hebrews 13:15, NKJV
Christian worship is not silent worship. It is vocal worship. If you are going to be biblical about your worship then you are going to have to speak up. In the book of Romans, we see that worship is not even limited to what we speak but it also includes what we do.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. —Romans 12:1, NLT
Now many may find it hard to worship with their lips. Many more find it hard to worship with their bodies. Now this verse includes living out our daily lives in a manner that brings praise and worship to God but it also includes showing our worship by the use of our bodies. In other words, Christian worship should include the use of our bodies and part of that expression of worship. When you find it hard to do something but you do it anyways, that is called sacrifice. If it is easy or something that doesn’t cost you something, then it is not a sacrifice. When we are worshiping using our bodies, then many times we have to sacrifice things like self-respect, pride and our sense of dignity.
So let’s take a look at some of the forms of worship that include the heart, the lips and the body.
Forms of Christian Worship
The most common form of Christian worship is singing. The Bible tells us to sing in our worship.
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, —Ephesians 5:19, NKJV
God is not interested in whether or not you are a great singer. He wants to know that you are expressing the melody that has been given to you in your heart by Him. My mother and my son both can’t carry a tune in a bucket but they sing to the Lord. They make a joyful noise. The reason is because Jesus has given them a song in their heart that they want to give back to him. The only excuse not to sing in worship is pride and self consciousness. Worship is not about your comfort. It is about blessing God and God wants to hear you sing.
I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; —1 Timothy 2:8, NKJV
And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. —Nehemiah 8:6, NKJV
Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. —Psalm 141:2, NKJV
Many have said that the raising of hands in worship is a modern thing and not traditional Christian worship. I beg to differ. Worship in its truest form is singing a prayer to God. The early church regularly practiced the raising of hands in prayer and worship.
If you think about the practice for a second then you will realize that people raise their hands in our society as well. When a child runs up to their father and lifts there hands what do they want? They want to be picked up by their dad. When a person surrenders to someone in authority, what do they do? They lift their hands. The lifting of hands is a type of body language that shows intimacy between a child and their father and a sign of surrender to authority. I think that this is a very proper form of Christian worship and is directly applicable.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. —Psalm 95:6, NKJV
Probably one of the least used yet most sincere form of worship is bowing down. Whether you get flat on your face or on your knees, bowing down is a sign of surrender and reverence. It is also the form of worship our flesh and pride resists the most.
Very rarely do you see people in church actually engaging in this form of Christian worship. In fact, I am not sure it would even be accepted in most churches in the western world. However it is a very legitimate form of Christian worship. It takes great humility not to care about what others are thinking and just humble yourself before the Lord.
Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! —Psalm 47:1, NKJV
Clapping is a universal sign of applause. Who is better to receive our applause than Jesus? You clap for your sports teams, for a good movie, for a politician who says something you agree with, so start clapping for Jesus. He deserves your applause for what He has done for you. In fact he deserves your first applause, not just as an afterthought.
Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. —Psalms 149:3, NKJV
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! —Psalms 150:4, NKJV
Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice. —Jeremiah 31:4, NKJV
Dancing is a controversial form of Christian worship. It is very biblical but many people either do not understand it or think it is worldly because they have taken it and used to for less than godly things. However dancing is an expression of celebration.
The people of God have every reason to celebrate. Think of everything that Jesus has done for you and if you have any life in you at all, there should be a bounce starting in your step. When people dance they are celebrating. When Christians worship, part of that should be a celebration of the life, victory and wonderful grace that they have been given by God. Dancing is a form of Christian worship and I recommend you dance at least once in worship before the Lord. It may just change your life.
So What Is Christian Worship?
The Greek word for worship found in Romans 12:1 is the word “latreia” It means the service and worship of God. Christian worship is the act from the heart of ministering or showing God how much He is valued and adored. We must remember that worship is centered towards God and for God. It is not just singing about God. It is singing to God. It is not clapping about God, dancing about God, bowing about God. It is clapping, dancing, bowing and whatever other form of worship you use, to or towards God. It is God focused and God centered.
So I would encourage you to take what you have learned about Christian worship and start applying it in your worship of God. Remember, however you apply this and wherever you apply this, do so to bless God. If you are doing it as an honest and heartfelt response to what God has done for you, then it will not detract from others who are worshiping. It will in fact bless and encourage them to follow your example.
Pastor Duke Taber has been a believer in Jesus for 33 years. He has been a pastor for over 20 years currently serving at the Vineyard church in Pine Haven Wyoming and was formerly the secretary treasurer of White Pine County Ministerial Association. He is an alumnus of LIFE Bible College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary. Pastor Duke publishes a Christian living magazine called Taber’s Truths and is the owner of Christian Faithbook.