What is true worship in the Bible?

The word worship in Hebrew is saha and in the Greek is proskyneo. Worship means to bow down; to prostrate or humble oneself; to pay homage or reverence, to obey, to adore, and to serve. These definitions show us how we should approach a holy God.

The Position of Worship

We’re to worship in humility; to prostrate ourselves before the Lord God. We see this happen throughout the Bible. For instance, in Exodus 34:8, “Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.” In the New Testament, we see many people, before and after the resurrection, prostrate themselves before Jesus, pointing to the fact that He is God. An example of this is found shortly after Jesus’ birth as the Magi worshiped Him. “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

We’re to worship in spirit and truth. (See John 4:24.) In spirit speaks to our attitude; even if we cannot get in a prone or prostrate position physically, we do so spiritually before the Lord. This means we have an attitude of reverence and awe when approaching His throne of grace. In truth means we adhere to what we know of God from Scripture when we approach Him. God is holy!! Therefore, we do not need to come before him with anything until we have asked for forgiveness; until we are clean through the righteousness of Christ. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 96:9, “Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.” We should never come flippantly before the Creator of the Universe. He is El Shaddai, God all powerful! He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God!! His very existence, much less all that He has done for us, demands the utmost reverence, so it is imperative to remember whose presence we are entering when we worship!

The Purpose of Worship

When we choose to worship the Lord in any manner, the purpose needs to be to magnify Him; to make much of His name. “Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:3). “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name” (Psalm 103:1). “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven” (Psalm 148:13). These verses describe the purpose of our worship. Whether we are interceding for others, sharing our faith, preaching, teaching, or serving in some way, our objective ought to be to glorify God and magnify His holy name. As we worship and serve, if any praise is directed our way from man, we need to act as spiritual reflectors and redirect that praise to the Father. In speaking about the pride of the Pharisees, Jesus said in John 12:43, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” God desires us to praise Him now so that He may praise us later. If we only desire the praise of men, then that’s all we will ever receive. However, if all we desire is to give praise to God and receive nothing for ourselves here on Earth, then God will reward us openly; and that’s praise that truly fulfills and lasts. Matthew 6:3-4 says, “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

The Place of Worship

Where can I worship that God will see me and be pleased? ANYWHERE!! God loves your worship, and He does not care where it takes place. In the Bible we see worship take place in the desert, on a mountain, in a home, in the street, and in the house of God. For us, it might not be much different. We can worship in those places too, as well as in the car on the way to work, at our job, in the grocery store, at the gym, and anywhere else we go. We can worship in the things we do if we do so in the right spirit; “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:17, 23-24).

When we work, serve, or play with our children or grandchildren, all can be done as an act of worship—as long as we do everything for His glory.