In my circles we often delineate praise and worship like this:
- Praise is fast paced, loud, and forceful.
- Worship is slower, softer, and more gentle.
So when we sing a faster song that is accompanied with dancing and shouting we’re said to be praising God. When we sing a slower song that keeps our feet on the ground and is accompanied by whispers and tears, we’re worshiping.
I’ve been dissatisfied with this delineation for a long time now. It seems arbitrary. Why is praise the faster, louder, and more forceful of the two? Why is worship the slower, softer, and more gentle? Who says?
But arbitrariness aside, this seems to relegate praise and worship to mere acts of singing and dancing. There have been a few occasions when I’ve had the opportunity to speak or teach in my church that I’ve expressed my belief that praise & worship extends past the beginning of the church service and into our entire lives (see Rom. 12:1).
I believe that attentively listening to the sermon and allowing the word of God to change us is an act of worship. I believe that loving our neighbors as ourselves in obedience to God’s command is an act of worship. I believe that functioning according to God’s plan is an act of worship. So on and so forth.
So in the end how do we distinguish between praise and worship? Does it have to do with speed, or tone, or force, or time, or place, or style, or what? I don’t know. In my head I keep saying something like, “Praise is something we do with our mouths; worship is something we do with out lives.” Sounds profound (or at least catchy) but I’m not sure that it really works.
I welcome any thoughts on the difference between the two, if you see a difference at all.