As a child attending church, our pastor would occasionally invite a group of us to sing on stage.
I loved being selected and clearly remember singing, “I’ll fly away, oh glory” with my three friends while sensing the presence of God.
In my mind, our performance was spectacular even though none of us were accomplished or trained vocalists.
What is true worship? At that time in my life, I didn’t realize we were true worshippers; I thought we were just fortunate participants.
Anytime we glorify Jesus we are engaged in true worship. I still have vivid memories of God’s presence surrounding us as we belted out His praises.
Since being in a ‘girl band,’ my experience with the presence of God during worship has helped me grow closer to Him and enriched my life beyond words.
What does the Bible say about worship? Here is one example from the book of Psalms.
“Sing out your praises to our God, our King. Yes, sing your highest praises to our King, the King of all the earth. Sing thoughtful praises!”
Psalm 47:6 TLB
What is True Worship?
As a new Christian, I did not know the answer to “what is true worship?”, at least not true worship to our awesome God. To me, worship was just a part of the church service where we sang together.
Oh, how I was mistaken! Singing is a wonderful element of worship but there are many ways to worship God.
As you grow in your relationship with Christ, true worshippers will long to be in His presence.
Worship is an expression of your humble love and devotion to Christ which changes your life.
What is true worship?
- True worship comes from a deep well of gratitude for the sacrifice Jesus made so that we may have abundant life now and in eternity.
- True worship is tied to your transformed identity in Christ and is a passage to connect, praise, and release your gratitude and angst to the Savior who loves us.
- True worship honors our Savior and is an opportunity to openly lavish God with our love through praise.
Of course, we can worship other things too–like food, goals, people, fame, family, safety, fear–and the list goes on.
But anything we worship, direct our focus and devotion to, outside of Christ will eventually run dry and leave us dissatisfied and spiritually bankrupt.
Honoring and praising Jesus is the only type of true worship that brings life and transforms everything…mind, spirit, and soul.
“At last I shall be fully satisfied; I will praise you with great joy. I lie awake at night thinking of you—of how much you have helped me—and how I rejoice through the night beneath the protecting shadow of your wings. I follow close behind you, protected by your strong right arm.”
Psalm 63:5-8 TLB
What Does the Bible Say About Worship?
A beautiful place to start when discovering what is true worship is in the book of Psalms.
“The Psalms are full of the emotional side of man. You can hear repentance, joy, awe, and fear in these lines of poetry. Many are prayers directly to God asking for deliverance or protection.
Many are simply praises to the one true God. Whatever you are experiencing, there is a Psalm for that!
When we don’t have the words to pray on our own, we can find them in these pages.”
“Hallelujah! O my soul, praise God! All my life long I’ll praise God, singing songs to my God as long as I live.”
Psalm 142:1-2 MSG
Another example that answers the question of what is true worship is found in the story of Mary and Martha, close friends of Jesus.
Mary’s interactions with Jesus are beautiful depictions of true worship.
Every recorded encounter Mary had with Jesus was a form of true worship. It demonstrated her love and respect for Him despite what was happening or who was around her.
“Martha had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching.”
Luke 10:39 AMP
“Mary took a very expensive bottle of perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet. She wiped them with her hair, and the sweet smell of the perfume filled the house.”
John 12:3 CEV
The perfume Mary lavished on Jesus was burial perfume. She may have known the great cost Jesus was about to pay and this would be her last chance to show her devotion to Him.
What a beautiful picture for us to learn the meaning of what is true worship. Are we ready to pour ourselves out as an illustration of true worship to Jesus who cares deeply for us?
What is Idol Worship?
When discussing the meaning of true worship, it’s important to understand what is idol worship.
I used to think of idols as only objects such as the golden calves depicted in the Old Testament.
“Do not put your trust in idols or make metal images of gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God.”
Leviticus 19:4 NLT
Of course, we can worship metal images of gods, but idols are usually less obvious.
Idols can be objects, people, experiences, or even ourselves.
An idol is something we have an unhealthy adoration for that is placed on a pedestal and elevated in our life.
Around the time we were singing, “I’ll fly away”, in church, I began to take pride in my bedroom and the special things I collected.
One day a toddler who was visiting snuck into my bedroom and caused havoc.
It was like a tornado had swept through my bedroom; the baby even broke my cherished bottle of “Charlie” perfume. I was furious.
After lashing out at my mom for allowing someone to go into my room, I realized my thoughts and behavior were out of line with the character of God. I felt convicted for the way I handled the situation.
Did I worship my stuff? Maybe a little but that is how idol worship grows. Little by little until we lose sight of true worship.
“But be careful. Don’t let your heart be deceived so that you turn away from the Lord and serve and worship other gods.”
Deuteronomy 11:16 NLT
When we are consumed with anything more than God, it can dangerously cross over into becoming idol worship.
We must continually pour ourselves out and understand the meaning of true worship to avoid the snare of idol worship.
It is a special gift that worshippers of Christ have the help of the Holy Spirit to nudge us in the right direction.
“Turn my eyes away from worthless things. Give me a new life in your ways.”
Psalm 119:37 GW
What are the Elements of True Worship?
Elements of true worship go far beyond singing although that is one element.
Anytime we are in the presence of God, honoring and blessing Him while displaying gratitude, we are in the act of worship.
True worship occurs in many ways but here are five elements to experience God through worship.
5 Elements of True Worship
Singing praises to God through worship songs is still one of my favorite ways to connect with Jesus. I sing in my car, while I walk, while I work, and in church.
For years I felt the tug to go on a mission trip but fear gripped my heart greater than my desire to serve.
But once I trusted God with my decision and began to serve through missions, I learned a new form of true worship.
Serving others and meeting their practical and spiritual needs is one element of true worship.
So how is sacrifice an element of true worship? By releasing our right to something we value because of our devotion to God, we actively worship Him.
Trusting and obeying God sometimes requires letting go or sacrificing what we want.
“So through Jesus, we should never stop offering our sacrifice to God. That sacrifice is our praise, coming from lips that speak his name.” Hebrews 13:15 ERV
When we are steady or immovable in our devotion to Christ it is a key element of true worship.
Surrendering is not an easy element of true worship, but when we surrender our life to Christ, we are truly transformed.
True worship is hindered when you hold on tightly to your will.
As often as not, spiritual giants of the Bible are shown contending with God. They prefer to go away limping, like Jacob, rather than to shut God out.”
What is True Worship?
I feel I’ve come full circle since my days of singing in the impromptu choir.
Now as I enter my church home, I anticipate starting the morning with worship realizing it is not just something we do as an order of service but an expression of my love for God.
I am free to spend this special time in a community of other worshippers honoring the one who is the air I breathe and the reason I live.
What is true worship? A personal encounter with our living God…there is nothing that compares!
Have you experienced true worship with our awesome creator? Would love to hear from you in the comments!
Mary Rooney Armand
Mary is the creator and writer for the faith-based blog ButterflyLiving.org. Her writing has been featured on multiple Christian websites and she is the author of the book, “Identity, Understanding, and Accepting Who I am in Christ” and the devotional collection Life Changing Stories available on Amazon.