Ask Pastor Roger Barrier - Church Leadership

What is the Difference between Praise and Worship?

What is the Difference between Praise and Worship?

Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at

Dear Roger,

I hear people talking about praise and worship. Are they the same? If not, how are they related? What is the difference between them?

Sincerely, Liz

Dear Liz,

The ministry of praise and the experience of worship are not the same.

Praise is unidirectional. We praise God. He does not praise us. Praise is our acknowledgement of His power, authority, wisdom and worthiness. Praise does not require a response from the one who is being praised.

On the other hand, worship is relational. It is not only our communion with God. It is also is His communion with us.

“Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; (these three phrases describe praise). bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness (these two phrases describe worship)” (1 Chronicles 16:28-29).

Praise is something that we can do by ourselves--or with others. Worship is something that we do alone--in our innermost being.

Praise has to do with our telling God and others how wonderful He is. 

Praise has to do with shouting forth of his marvelous character, compassion, and marvelous creation, just to name a few of his powerful attributes.

Some definitions may help to further our understanding of worship.

The Hebrew word for worship is "Shaha."  It means to "bow low" or to "prostrate" oneself.  Worship involves our bowing low before the Lord, not only physically, but in our hearts.

The Greek word for worship is "Proskyneo." This word means "to kiss the hand of one who is revered."

Praise usually precedes worship. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise" (Psalm 100:4). 

Understanding the nature of worship means understanding Paul’s allegory that compares us to the Temple in Jerusalem.

“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Praise manifests itself in our body and soul.

Worship manifests itself in our human spirit where God dwells.

Paul wrote, “I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind” (1 Corinthians 14:15).

Worship flows both ways. God wants to be with me. I want to be with God.

Here are some ways that may help us transition into true worship.

1. Begin with a time of praise.

2. Transition into quieting your soul. 

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). 

Taking thoughts captive is the key to quieting down our souls. Unfortunately, we evangelical Christians don’t know much about meditation.

If you are just a beginner, try quieting your mind for 15 minutes. If you get distracted then capture that runaway thought and return to quietness.

This principle is described by David In Psalm 131:1-2:

“Oh Lord, my heart is not lifted up. I do not occupy myself with things too high and mighty for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted it and its mother’s breast. Like a child that is quieted is my soul.”

Notice that we can choose to quiet our souls if we want. A quiet soul is well within our reach.

3. Transition from soul to spirit.

Don’t be in a hurry for something to happen. Take time to listen for God to speak.

Listening for God to speak is one of the most dynamic dimensions of worship.

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2).

It’s a very precious moment when our souls quiet down and God begins speaking.

The more time we spend worshiping with Him in our spirits the more intimate our relationship, and friendship with Him will be.

Worshiping in the spirit is relational.

In John 4, Jesus told the woman at the well that true worshipers are those who worship in spirit and truth.

Jesus makes it clear that God is seeking out true worshipers. Think what it means to be the kind of person with whom God wants to spend time. What does it do to your heart when you realize that God wants to spend time with you in worship?

Here are some worship tools that I use to help transition from soul to spirit.

Tool #1: One dimension of worship is sensing Christ’s pain and then comforting Him.

For example, we discover in Genesis 6 that God was grieved that He had made mankind. People who are hurting need comfort. Have you ever considered that intimacy comes from comforting God for the hurts he’s experienced? Tell Him you’re sorry that he got hurt. Imagine the pain he’s experienced.

Tool #2: Try seeing Jesus from a relational perspective.

We call Psalm 23 the “Shepherd’s Psalm” but it’s really not. It is the “Sheep’s Psalm.” David gets down on his knees and imagines his shepherd from the sheep’s point of view.

Now, quietly on your knees, picture yourself as a sheep and sense what it’s like to be secure in the hands of the Shepherd.

Tool #3: Look for biblical examples that help us see into the heart of God.

Ten lepers came to Jesus for healing. As they followed his instructions and were running to the Temple priests, they were healed as they ran.

One of them turned back in gratitude, and kneeled at Jesus’ feet to worship. Listen to the sadness in Jesus’ voice when he asked, “Didn’t I heal ten? Where are the other nine?” Can you meditate on the pain in his voice?

Tool #4: Put yourself in Bible stories.

Reflect on the Red Sea in Exodus. What would it be like to be the last one out of the sea? The Egyptians are getting closer and closer. I am running faster and faster. I see Moses’ hands raised in the distance. The Rod of God is about to descend and re-flood the Sea. It is going to be close. Will the Egyptians catch me before Moses lowers his staff?

At the moment I’m clear, Moses lowers his hands and the sea rushes in to destroy the Egyptian army. What a relief? Saved by the hand of God. Imagine my feelings and emotions!

A sense of holiness and awe overwhelm those who worship in the spirit.

Well Liz, I hope that I answered your question and that you’ll spend many wonderful moments praising God and communing with him -- Holy Spirit to human spirit.

Sincerely, Roger

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

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