Understanding the difference between praise and worship brings a new depth to the way we honor the Lord. Throughout the Bible, we are commanded to praise the Lord. Angels and the heavenly hosts are commanded to praise the Lord (Psalms 103:20, Psalm 19:1). All inhabitants of the earth are instructed to praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6). We can praise Him with singing, and with shouting, and with the dance, and with musical instruments of all types. We are even instructed to make a joyful noise (Psalm 98:4). However, the Bible seems to imply that sometimes singing just isn’t enough, sometimes shouting just isn’t adequate, sometimes dancing is out of the question, sometimes words fail, and in those moments, you should simply make a joyful noise.
Praise: from the Hebrew verb HALAL (where we get the word hallelujah), means to praise, celebrate, glory, sing, or boast. Praise is, in fact, the joyful recounting of all that God has done for us. It’s closely intertwined with thanksgiving as we offer back to God appreciation for His mighty works on our behalf. Praise is universal and can be applied to other relationships as well. We can praise our family, our friends, our boss, and on and on. Worship, however, comes from a different place within our spirits. Worship should be reserved for God alone (Luke 4:8). Praise can be a part of worship, but worship goes beyond praise. Praise is easy; worship is not. Worship gets to the heart of who we are. To truly worship God, we must let go of our self-worship. Worshipers humble themselves before God, surrender every part of their lives to His control, and adore Him for who He is, not just what He has done. Worship is a lifestyle, not an occasional activity. Jesus said, “…the Father is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).
In Scripture, praise is usually presented as boisterous, joyful, and uninhibited. God invites praise of all kinds from His creation. Jesus said that if people don’t praise God, even the “stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40). But when the Bible mentions worship, the tone changes. We read verses like, “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 96:9). And, “Come let us worship and bow down” (Psalm 95:6). Often, worship is coupled with the act of bowing or kneeling, which shows humility and contrition. Through true worship, we invite the Holy Spirit to speak to us, convict us, and comfort us. We realign our priorities with God and acknowledge Him once more as the rightful Lord of our lives through worship. Praise is intertwined with thanksgiving. Worship is intertwined with surrender. It is impossible to worship God and anything else at the same time (Luke 4:8). The physical acts often associated with worship—bowing, kneeling, lifting hands—help create the attitude of humility required for real worship.
The differences between praise and worship are often described in this way: Praise is about God, and worship is to God. Praise is opening up. Worship is entering in. Praise is boldly declaring. Worship is humbly bowing in the presence of a Holy God. Praise applauds what God has done. Worship is honoring God for who He is. Worship is an attitude of the heart. A person can go through the outward motions of praise and not be worshiping. God sees the heart, and He desires and deserves sincere, heartfelt praise and worship.