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A simple question, but complex answer. How do you define Worship?

What is the definition of Worship?:

I think we would all agree it's more than a specific act[s] of religious devotion. But how? What emotions are involved, or in what matter of attitude do we worship?
Christian mystic Evelyn Underhill defines worship this way:

"The adoring acknowledgment of all that lies beyond us—the glory that fills heaven and earth. It is the response that conscious beings make to their Creator, to the Eternal Reality from which they came forth; to God, however they may think of Him or recognize Him, and whether He be realized through religion, through nature, through history, through science, art, or human life and character."

I would agree totally with this definition. Worship can manifest itself in different ways:
  • prayer;
  • sacrifice;
  • rituals;
  • some forms of meditation;
  • holidays, festivals;
  • sacraments;
  • pilgrimages;
  • music or singing;
  • dance;
  • eating food;
  • readings from sacred books;
  • listening to a talk or sermon;
  • the construction of temples or shrines;
  • the creation of idols of the deity.
  • private acts of devotion
In Christianity, check out "Christian Worship" or "Contemporay Worship" on Wikipedia. Personally I was surprised 99% of the information pertained to music, while most Christians would profess music is only one aspect of Worship, while in the same breath talk about how "Worship" (pertaining to music) was good or bad in their church.


Both the Larger and Smaller Westminster Catechisms state: "Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever." This is the theme of John Piper's book "Desiring God," which offers some excellent thoughts on the subject of worship.

With the statement of the Westminster Catechisms in mind, I would suggest that true Christian worship consists in two primary and directly corresponding aims: 1) to glorify God and 2) to facilitate the enjoyment of His presence.

Piper uses the intentionally provocative phrase "Christian hedonism" to describe the worship experience. What he means by that is that the Christian's greatest desire - and indeed, greatest appetite - should be for the presence and company of God.

Thus, I would suggest that worship is ultimately an experience, which may or may not consistent in music, prayer, ritual, etc. True worship is the experience and enjoyment of God's presence, which is often facilitated through the activities that you mention.

One of the problems that I see in some churches is that 'worship' is relegated to the status of a side show, consisting primarily in entertainment. I believe that worship should be part of a single, organic experience of God that is complimentary to the teaching of the Word, rather than artificially divorced from it. The two key questions to ask are: Is our worship glorifying to God, and does it allow us the opportunity to enjoy His presence?

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