The Who, What, When, Why, Where and How of Worship

When you hear the term worship, what comes to mind? For what ever reason, singing songs of praise is the first thing that comes to my mind but is praise and worship the same thing? Is worship only singing? Can worship be preaching? How about prayer, tithing, or Bible reading?


Who should be worshiped? Of course God should be worshiped, no-brainer there but what about angels, preachers, or your spouse or children? How about Mary the mother of Jesus?

When should we worship? Is there a prescribed time? Once a week at 10am on Sunday?

Where should worship occur? Can worship only occur in a sanctuary or “worship center”? How about in a car driving down the interstate? Can worship occur in a dome or in a home? How about in a house with a mouse or in a box with a fox?

How should worship be done? Is there a right way and a wrong way to worship?

Why worship at all? Is worship necessary? Are we commanded to worship? What’s the purpose of worship?

There are lots of questions surrounding worship and while there may be some confusion over the who, what, when, why, where, and how – everyone has an opinion and everyone also knows what they like and what don’t like when it comes to worship!

What does God’s Word have to say about worship?

Abraham Sacrifices Isaac

Genesis 22:
On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together.(ESV)

Worship requires sacrifice, either giving up something or giving something to God! Frequently it requires dying to yourself, taking up your cross and following Jesus.

The Ten Commandments

Exodus 20:
God said to the people of Israel:
I am the Lord your God, the one who brought you out of Egypt where you were slaves.
Do not worship any god except me.
Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the Lord your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me, I will punish your families for three or four generations. But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations.(CEV)

God requires worship of Himself and forbids worship of anyone or anything else, including angels, demons, or saints; pets, children, stars, sports teams, television shows, recreational activities, money, fame, or your church – anything that gets exalted above Him.

Preparing for the Battle of Jericho

Joshua 5:
13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua,“Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.(ESV)

Worship is submission and subservience to God in recognition of His holiness! Remove all pride and humble yourself in the presence of a holy God.

Solomon Dedicates Temple

2 Chronicles 7:
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”(ESV)

Worship is recognizing that you cannot stand in the presence of the glory of the Lord and offering Him thanks for His steadfast love!

Psalm 29:
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.(ESV)

Worship is ascribing to God the glory He is due because of His holiness!

Psalm 95:
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts,(ESV)

Worship is kneeling before God because He is our Lord, our God, our Creator, our King! He is great and there is none above Him!

The Fiery Furnace

Daniel 3:
14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.(KJV)

Worship is refusing to bow down to inferior man-made idols because you recognize there is a God in Heaven that is great and mighty to save!

My Soul Thirsts For You

Psalm 63:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.(ESV)

Ezra Reads The Law

Nehemiah 8:
Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.
Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.(NIV)

The Temptation of Jesus

Matthew 4:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.(ESV)

Worship is forsaking the riches and glory of this world with it’s seductive promises and putting them behind you so you can worship the one true God!

The scriptures are very clear, worship is about bowing down or falling upon your face in the presence of one mightier than yourself. It is also equally clear that God requires and reserves worship for Himself only.

The Samaritan Woman at the Well

John 4:
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”(ESV)

Worship, especially in the Old Testament times, has a physical component but now we start to see there is also an inner attitudinal response as well. True worship of God comes from a desire within our hearts.

The account in Luke of Jesus having dinner with Simon the Pharisee is an excellent picture of worship though the term worship is not used.

Dinner with Simon the Pharisee

Luke 7:

36 A Pharisee invited Jesus to have dinner with him. So Jesus went to the Pharisee’s home and got ready to eat.

37 When a sinful woman in that town found out that Jesus was there, she bought an expensive bottle of perfume. 38 Then she came and stood behind Jesus. She cried and started washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. The woman kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them.

39 The Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this and said to himself, “If this man really were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him! He would know that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus said to the Pharisee, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Teacher, what is it?” Simon replied.

41 Jesus told him, “Two people were in debt to a moneylender. One of them owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. 42 Since neither of them could pay him back, the moneylender said that they didn’t have to pay him anything. Which one of them will like him more?”

43 Simon answered, “I suppose it would be the one who had owed more and didn’t have to pay it back.”

“You are right,” Jesus said.

44 He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Have you noticed this woman? When I came into your home, you didn’t give me any water so I could wash my feet. But she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You didn’t even pour olive oil on my head, but she has poured expensive perfume on my feet. 47 So I tell you that all her sins are forgiven, and that is why she has shown great love. But anyone who has been forgiven for only a little will show only a little love.”

48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 Some other guests started saying to one another, “Who is this who dares to forgive sins?”

50 But Jesus told the woman, “Because of your faith, you are now saved. May God give you peace!”

“If this man really were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him! He would know that she is a sinner.” Jesus did know that she was a sinner, so did the woman and that is why she was laying at Jesus feet washing them with her tears and drying them with that which is typically a woman’s glory – her hair, because that which should me most glorious to her was only good enough to be used to wipe the dirt from Jesus’ feet. She understood worship.

What is worship? Worship is submission, it is humbling yourself before a holy, righteous God. Worship is prostrating yourself before Him because you are not worthy to stand in His presence. Worship is honoring the great God of Heaven with your entire being and knowing you are completely incapable of doing enough, saying enough, or loving Him to the degree He deserves!

Why do we worship Him? Because while we were still sinners and incapable of saving ourselves, Christ died for us thereby creating a way of reconciliation to the Father for us.

How do we worship Him? We worship Him in spirit and in truth.

When and where do we worship? Whenever you have the opportunity, as often as possible, ever chance you get and where ever you are.

Who should you worship? The Lord Jesus, there is none other worthy!

Philippians 2:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(ESV)

You are only going to experience the power of worship when you remove all distractions, humble yourself, and focus on Jesus. Who He is – your Lord, your God, your Savior. What He has done – He humbled Himself and gave His life’s blood for you. It’s going to require repentance of sin. It’s going to require forgiveness of grievances. It’s going to require a humble heart. It’s going to require a desire to completely empty yourself to seek to please Him. Why? Because He is worthy! One last thing – because no one is capable of worshiping the Lord to the degree which He deserves, multitudes are needed to come together to worship Him, ultimately every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord! 

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