Understanding the difference between praise and  worship can bring a new depth to the way we  honor the Lord. Throughout the Bible, the commands to “praise the Lord” are too  numerous to mention. Angels and the heavenly hosts are commanded to praise the  Lord (Psalm 89:5103:20; 148:2). All inhabitants of the earth are instructed to  praise the Lord (Psalm 138:4Romans 15:11). We can  praise Him with singing (Isaiah 12:5Psalm 9:11), with shouting  (Psalm 33:1; 98:4), with the dance (Psalm  150:4), and with musical instruments (1  Chronicles 13:8; Psalm 108:2150:3-5).

Praise is the joyful recounting of all  God has done for us. It is 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,  friends, boss, or paperboy. Praise does not require anything of us. It is merely  the truthful acknowledgment of the righteous acts of another. Since God has done  many wonderful deeds, He is worthy of praise (Psalm  18:3).

Worship, however, comes from a different place within our  spirits. Worship should be reserved for God alone (Luke 4:8).  Worship is the art of losing self in the adoration of another. 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. We must be willing to humble ourselves before God, surrender  every part of our lives to His control, and adore Him for who He is, not just  what He has done. Worship is a lifestyle, not just 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).  When the Bible mentions worship, however, 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 (2  Chronicles 29:28; Hebrews  11:21; Revelation  19:10). It is through true worship that we invite the Holy Spirit to speak  to us, convict us, and comfort us. Through worship, we realign our priorities  with God’s and acknowledge Him once more as the rightful Lord of our  lives.

Just as 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  to create the necessary attitude of humility required for real worship. Wise  worship leaders know how to structure a worship service to allow participants to  both praise and worship the Lord. Often, services begin with joyous praise songs  and transition to a quieter, more introspective opportunity for worship.

Worship is an attitude of the heart. A person can go through the outward  motions and not be worshiping (Psalm  51:16-17; Matthew  6:5-6). God sees the heart, and He desires and deserves sincere, heartfelt  praise and worship.