Worship is a term used in every Christian’s walk of faith. It is often thought of as an act or something done one or twice a week, Sunday and Wednesday. The truth is that worship is a way of living that includes actions and thoughts of the heart.
When I think about worship, I think about my ritual of grabbing my morning cup of coffee and walking on my back porch. As I savor the flavors of caramel macchiato, I walk around to inspect each flower and vegetable growing. This may sound crazy, but each day I am reminded of how God created each plant differently and perfectly. It is amazing! The feeling of awe never changes.
As we walk through this life each day, we need to worship. But how? We find the answer located throughout the words of Scripture. Let’s explore the words of Scripture and learn what the Bible says about worship.
What Is Worship?
Dictionaries define worship as a noun and a verb. In the noun form, worship is the feeling or expression of adoration for a deity. It is that feeling you get when you see something amazing. The smile that forms on your face when we experience that still small voice or witness something that we know only came from God.
Worship as a verb is defined as showing reverence and adoration for a deity. This is the act of raising our voices in song or lifting our eyes to heaven when we give thanks. We mostly witness this form of worship in weekly worship services.
Our worship cannot be one or the other, it must be both. Christians have the privilege of worshipping the one true God and the Bible clearly explains what our worship should be in action and heart.
The Act of Worship
Worship can happen in many positions. Our bodies were made to bend and twist in various positions. Those positions were developed to worship our Lord. Scriptures gives us many examples of the act of worship with our bodies.
Our first example comes from Acts 2:1-2. In these verses we find the disciples gathering for Pentecost. We can imagine what they were thinking and feeling as they had just witnessed the ascension of Jesus, the man they had walked with and ministered with for the last three years. In this moment, all the people had come together and were sitting.
Secondly, we find worship happening in the kneeling position. In Psalm 95:6 it says “Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” The action of kneeling shows our humbleness. We are expressing the knowledge that our God is all-knowing, and we are but humble servants.
Thirdly, the Bible shows people lying prostrate when worshipping. 1 Kings 18:39 says “When all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, ‘The Lord he is God! The Lord, he is God!’” Elijah had just challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to prove their God and they failed. The true God had answered Elijah’s plea and fire fell on the burnt offering. The people were amazed and fell prostrate to the ground.
Our fourth example comes from Psalms 63:4. It says, “So I will bless you as long as I live; at your name, I will lift up my hands.” I often see this in services when worship music is being played or during prayer.
The fifth position I find is dancing. Psalm 149:3 tells us “Let them praise his name with dancing…” Our bodies were made to move, and God wants us to dance in His name.
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Our last example – and one that is most often seen – is bowing. 2 Chronicles 29 is a beautiful chapter describing the first year of King Hezekiah’s reign. The first verses tell us that King Hezekiah opened the doors of the Temple and began repairs. In verse 30 Hezekiah tells the Levites to praise the Lord and they “bowed down and worshipped.”
The act of worship is seen in many forms throughout the Bible. What this tells the believer is that worship is not just one position or act. It is the culmination of acts throughout our daily life that show God we love him and praise him for all things good and bad.
Richard J. Foster stated “The point is that we are to offer God our bodies as well as the rest of our being. Worship is appropriately physical.” We cannot worship fully without the physical actions of our bodies.
Worship Within Our Hearts
Our God has given us the Bible to instruct us. In the area of worship, we have seen how the positioning of our bodies are a part of our worship experience. God doesn’t stop there. He has given us examples of worship that happens in our hearts. He has written out the stories of His people in a worship experience to show us how our hearts our vital to the worship experience.
In Genesis 22 we read of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord. Abraham and Sarah had prayed for this child and now God is asking Abraham to sacrifice his son as an offering to Him. Abraham loves the Lord so much that he is willing to do this. His heart is fully given to god. A quote from C.S. Lewis says, “In the process of being worshipped… God communicates his presence to men.” God communicated his presence when he spared Isaac and delivered a ram for the sacrifice.
The story of the woman with the alabaster box in Luke 7:36-50 is one that clearly shows where our hearts should be in worship. These verses show this woman who had sinned much bringing an alabaster jar of perfume to Jesus as He sits in the Pharisees’ home. She uses the perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus and her tears wash them. In that time, a jar of perfume would have been a prized possession. Very expensive and hard to get. She is willing to use this on the feet of Jesus. She is willing to bow down in the lowliest form to worship Jesus, the Son of God.
The most powerful example of worship in the Bible is found in Luke 22:42. Jesus is in the garden with his disciples. His time on earth is coming to a close and He withdraws himself from the disciples to go and pray. In verse 42 we read His words, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me – nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” The Son of God is asking his Father for another way. He is bowed down before the Father in anguish. Even though his heart is heavy, Jesus still says “not my will, but yours, be done.”
These examples tell us that worship is the giving back of the gifts God gives us. It’s the releasing of control over our own lives and giving it back to the One who is in control. Our worship is meant to give God the glory He deserves. To recognize our life without Him is nothing and turn our hearts to Him is the worship God desires.
What Can We Conclude?
Studying the positions and examples of worship in the Bible can help us understand what worship is and how we should worship. As stated before, worship is not what we do on Sundays and Wednesdays. It is what we do each day from the moment we wake to when we lie down at night.
Worship starts with the renewing of our minds and hearts. It happens when we realize that God is in control. We can humble ourselves before Him with this knowledge. We can bow our heads in thankful praise for the gifts He has given us. We can lift our hands up to Him and sing praises in our cars, homes, and churches.
It is clear, worship, according to the Bible, is to be done with our whole being. To truly worship we must use our hearts, minds, and body. If we are missing one of these pieces our worship becomes hindered. The good news is we can begin anew each day and give Him the worship he deserves.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Alex Sava
Ashley Hooker is a freelance writer who spends her time homeschooling her two children, supporting her husband as he finishes school to become a pastor, and writing about her faith. Currently, she is a contributing author for Journey Christian magazine. She has taken part in mission trips with the NC Baptist Men during the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey in Mississippi and Texas. In her local church, she has served on various committees focusing in the area of evangelism along with traveling to West Virginia and Vermont to share the Gospel. Her dream is to spend her time writing and sharing the love of Christ with all she meets.