What is Worship?

Worship is a common Christian word.  But what does it really mean? On Thursdays I will be posting on the meaning of various words related to this important topic.  Here is a complete list of the words we will bestudying:


Worship – What is the meaning of this English word
Shachah – The primary Hebrew word
Proskuneo – The primary Greek word
Halal – A Hebrew word for crazy exuberant praise
Shabach – A Hebrew word for loud praise
Tehillah – A Hebrew word for song of praise
Zamar – A Hebrew word for making music accompanied by strings
Yadah – A Hebrew word for extending the hands in thanksgiving and praise
Towdah – A Hebrew word for a thanks offering
Barak – A Hebrew word for kneeling before God in humble submission

Hidden Meaning in Psalm 100:4 - See how understanding these words enhances the meaning of this popular praise verse.

In this post we will take a look at the English word "worship" and how its meaning can help us to better approach God.


Crazy, exuberant praise

History of the English Word "Worship"

A quick look at the Online Etymology Dictionary informs us that the word comes from the Old English words worthscip, wurthscip (Anglian) and weorthscipe (West Saxon). The first half of the word, Worth/wurth/weorth, all mean “worthy”. The suffix, scip/scipe, eventually became the suffix ship which means “the state or condition of being”.

Putting this all together we come up with this simple definition:

the condition or state of being worthy

When used as a verb, worship has the sense of ascribing worth to a being or object.

God is Worthy!

So, what does all this word study mean for us as we approach God? Here are a few of thoughts:

  1. God is the greatest possible object of worship. In Old English anyone worthy of their position could be given the title “your worship” meaning “you are a worthy person”. But all humans are only relatively worthy and are always flawed. God is perfect and as such is the perfect object of our adoration.
  2. Exalt Him. When we come before God we should recognize the fact that He is the the greatest possible being of worth. No being or thing is more worthy of our praise and adoration than God.
  3. Worship is a privilege. Recognizing the worthiness of God should help us to recognize our unworthiness to come into His presence. It is a great and awesome privilege to come into the presence of God.
  4. The cross made this possible. It was through the blood of Jesus that we can now enter God's presence with confidence and joy.  (Hebrews 10:19-22)

Definition of Worship

There are many great definitions of worship but let me add one more based upon these observations:

Worship is the privilege, made possible by the cross, for us as unworthy beings to come before the most worthy being and declare His worth to us.

All of this reminds me of Psalm 96:7-9.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!

And Revelation 4:11

Worthy are You, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for You created all things,
and by Your will they existed and were created.


Shachah - kneel down in worship


Question: What does it mean to you to ascribe worth to God? How do you ascribe worth to God?  Please leave a comment.

by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory


Posted in General Worship and tagged , .