If it could be stated in one sentence the question “what is worship” could have the answer “anything someone does to please or glorify God that is within His will.” This is the inner core of worship. All manifestations and aspects of worship feed back into this basic principle. Even prayer is worship, because we do it knowing that it is pleasing to God and in His will. Of course, it is not enough to stay at knowing the basic essence of worship, rather it is necessary to see the ways we can practically carry out our worship to God.
First of all, there are several different types of worship. The main type of worship that we usually mean by the word is our worship in singing songs to God. There is often a mindset that relegates our verbal worship to Sunday services. Just as much if not more, of one’s verbal worship should be done to God throughout the week, as on Sunday in the congregation. Though there is something powerful about congregational worship (“where two or three are gathered in my name I am there in the midst of them…”), there is also something special about simply worshiping God alone. God desires our worship more than just once a week on Sunday, but it is best to get in a habit of singing at least a few songs to Him each day, even if it is just quietly or under our breath.
One principle that is absolutely crucial to grasp is that there are two voices singing to God when we worship. There is our physical voice singing, then there is our soul singing to Him also. These must be harmonized. If one has a bad attitude, and is just worshiping because they “have to” they are singing nice words to God with their voice, but singing their boredom of Him with their spirit. God wants us to worship “in spirit and in truth” and this means genuinely getting to the place where we are glad to worship Him because it is a joy to please and glorify Him, not because we drudgingly “have to” because it’s a duty. If a husband tells his wife he loves her with a bored and annoyed attitude it will absolutely not please her. Likewise, in our relationship with God, if we tell Him we love Him because this is what the overhead told us to say, but have a bored and annoyed attitude that can’t wait to be out of the service, he will not accept it. To worship in spirit and truth, our spirit itself must have a proper heart attitude that enjoys worshiping Him. If we sing the words “I love to praise you Lord” with a bored and drudging attitude then we are lying, and not worshiping in truth. Once the voice of our spirit and the voice from our mouth are harmonized there is immense power in the worship, and it becomes very pleasing to God.
There is also the “living sacrifices” aspect of worship. This is the non-verbal aspect of worship. This is where we sacrifice our life plans and/or comforts to obey Him. The most powerful worship is when we go through suffering with a good attitude and praise God through it. Again the actions of our service and the heart attitude must be harmonized if the service is to be acceptable to God. “God loves a cheerful giver,” just like in verbal worship, it is not pleasing if we labour whiningly or drudgingly because we “have to.” No, but worshiping in spirit and truth applies also to non-verbal worship.
One last consideration, is that even if we intentionally seek to please or glorify God, we must not be doing it against God’s will. Paul had hunted down Christians and thought he was being pleasing to God by doing so. Obviously God did not accept Paul’s attempts. It is not enough to simply strive to please God, but we must also do it in a way that He permits. This means gaining more and more knowledge of God and His word, so we can stay away from worship-attempts which are not acceptable to Him.