In the early 80s, I worked in Chicago as an intern relying on public transportation for my daily commute. After working second shift one night, I encountered a drunk man on my bus ride home. He approached me with a not-so-enticing proposal asking if I had a husband.
Attempting to take advantage of an opportunity to either preach Christ or to get this not-so-nice-smelling man off my back (whichever came first), I replied, “Yes, as a matter of fact! I’m married to Jesus”.
“He’s the author and finisher of my faith too”, he exclaimed in a “how about that!” tone.
Flabbergasted, I exited the bus thanking God that I arrived at my stop before having to pursue the conversation any further and prayed that he wouldn’t become my midnight stalker.
This drunkard acknowledged God. He didn’t have a problem praising God. Did that make him a worshipper?
Over the years, I’ve heard several explanations for the difference between praise and worship. Here are my top three:
- Fast songs are praise songs and slow songs are worship songs. This concept has boggled me for years because it tends to imply that God judges worship based on tempo alone.
- The difference between praise and worship is that we praise God for what He’s done, but we worship Him for who He is. Although this sounds like a neatly packaged explanation, for some reason it never seemed to make much sense to me. It also didn’t help that I couldn’t find scriptural support for this reasoning. I’m not saying that there is none. I’m just saying that I’ve never found any, nor have I ever heard anyone else quote any. Have you?
- The third option is to use the terms praise and worship synonymously as if they are one and the same? But are they?
To clear up what I consider inconsistent portrayals of praise and worship, I briefly listed seven comparisons in a previous post entitled Tapping Into The Image Of Christ. Over the next couple of Worship Factor posts, I’d like to shed more light on each distinction I listed.
DISTINCTION #1: ANYONE CAN PRAISE HIM, BUT ONLY THOSE WHO ARE IN HIM CAN WORSHIP HIM
While anyone can praise God, the Biblical qualifications for what God honors as worship are more acutely defined.
Psalms 150:6 commands everything that breathes to praise the Lord. You don’t have to have a relationship with God to appreciate Him. For proof, just watch any annual awards shows. From the Emmys to the Grammys to the MTV or BET music awards, you can find winner after winner thanking God for their success which is often gained through a public promotion of lewdness.
Should we picket or sign petitions to stop them for saying “Thank You Jesus”, “Praise The Lord”, or “Hallelujah”? Absolutely not. This is how I see it: Since they have breath, they might as well praise Him. Their praise doesn’t identify them as a part of the body of Christ. It just helps to keep the rocks from crying out…which always makes me think of earthquakes. I shudder at that thought.
Praise springs forth out of our emotions, but true worship flows from our resurrected spirit.
During His encounter with the Samaritan woman, Jesus provides us with the first clue for tapping into worship. As she discussed her cultural “location” for acts of worship, Jesus revealed that the only kind of worship God honors comes only through the spirit.
When God created Adam, He breathed His spirit into Adam and he became a living soul. Because of Adam’s sin, from birth our spirit is in a state of death. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, however, He breathes His Spirit back into you afresh and you become a live spirit. It is then that you can freely worship God in spirit and in truth.
DISTINCTION #2: YOU CAN PRAISE APART FROM WORSHIP, BUT YOU CANNOT WORSHIP APART FROM PRAISE.
As noted earlier, everyone who breathes is free to praise. Worship, however, encompasses a lifestyle that consists of constant intimacy with God. It is a lifestyle that seeks to include God in everything you do just as you would a spouse.
Most happily married couples will tell you that they acknowledge each other with every decision they make. Sometimes the acknowledgement may come after the fact, but open communication is the order of the day. This commitment to communication extends further than just decision making. The commitment to transparency is the key to true intimacy.
Just as it is in the natural marriage, so it is in our spiritual marriage to our Bridegroom. Exposing your deepest, darkest secrets to your Father; revealing your insecurities to Him; allowing yourself to be vulnerable before Him; welcoming Him into your entire thought process are all a part of the transparency that transforms your lifestyle from that of casual acquaintance of God to that of a true worshipper.
The more transparent you allow yourself to become with God, the greater your intimacy with Him. As your intimacy deepens, you’ll soon discover that your praise awaits Him. It is then that expressing what He means to you and your love for Him becomes a part of your very essence. As a worshipper, praise wells up from out of your very core even when you least expect it because praise is no longer what you do. It becomes who you are.
Stay tuned for more…
 Luke 19:40
 John 4:5-24
 Corinthians 15:44-45
 1 John 3:3-8
 Psalm 100:4, John 4:23-24
 Psalm 65:1