The Principles of Worship

With the many different styles of worship in our society today, the question has arisen: What is acceptable worship to God and what is the best way to worship Him?

The word worship, derived from an old English word, means to give honor or respect to a personage, especially to God. The first part comes from the word worth; to give worth to something, worthiness and respect. On the Sabbath we attend church to give God honor and respect and spend the day in worship with Him.

Worship, when rendered to another god or a created being, is called idolatry. Such worship Peter refused (Acts 10:25, 26). In the book of Revelation we see that John bowed down to the angel who refused to be worshiped.

From ancient times all civilizations had some form of worship. They may not have worshiped the God of heaven, but they did have worship and worship ceremonies. In Egypt, the Pharaohs worshiped snakes, the Nile and many other objects of creation. Even as horrific as it was, some forms of worship involved human sacrifices.

Today, in modern worship there are different types of worship where people adore things or people, called adoration, and there is worship of saints, called veneration, and there are also contemporary worship services known as celebration services. It is believed that by bringing music and contemporary things into Christian worship, the young people will stay in the church. I have attended some contemporary services where the Bible was not opened throughout the whole service. In some cases the worship is very light and informal and the speakers crack jokes, resulting in much laughter. That type of church service is more like a social club designed to gather with people and have a good time. Leaving such a service as that leaves one devoid of any spiritual meat to contemplate through the following week and nothing to contemplate in making a closer relationship with God. Once I attended a service where the preacher talked about a recent football game, which provided no spiritual food.

There are many examples in the Bible of worship. God’s people worshiped in their own peculiar style as well as did the heathen. During the time of Ahab and Jezebel, God’s people fell into Baal worship. At the time Nebuchadnezzar ruled the Babylonian kingdom, he had a vision of an image describing all of the kingdoms that would come after him. He wanted his kingdom to last forever and wasn’t happy to be told that his kingdom would come to an end, so he made a golden image and demanded everybody to worship that image, representing his kingdom which he believed should endure forever.

Later Belshazzar, with his rulers, feasted and praised the gods of wood, stone, silver and gold in place of the God of heaven.

Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den because he refused to stop praying or worshiping his God for even a few days.

As you read through the Bible you can learn about the patriarchs and prophets, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who set up altars to God. Moses was told to take off his sandals, because the place on which he was standing, near the burning bush, was holy ground.

There were very specific and explicit instructions given to Moses in regard to the performance of the sanctuary services that were implemented in the wilderness. In the New Testament, it is recorded that Jesus worshiped on the Sabbath day and tells of Him standing up to read from Isaiah, the prophet (Luke 4:16, 17).

In the book of Acts, the apostle, Paul, whose many letters to the churches that he ministered to and make up most of the New Testament, met and worshiped with the believers on the Sabbath day.

Worship is the theme of the book of Daniel and also the book of Revelation where three angels were sent to give the last message of warning to the world to worship God who made heaven and the earth. Within those messages there is also warning against worshiping the beast and his image.

It is very important to understand the important principles of whom to worship, what to worship and how to worship.


In Ephesians 5:19 it says, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Music is mentioned over and over again in the book of Psalms as an act of worship. “Singing, as a part of religious service, is as much an act of worship as is prayer.” Christian Education, 63. Songs that praise and give devotion to God should be selected and never music that is devoid of beauty and power.

“Those who make singing a part of divine worship should select hymns with music appropriate to the occasion, not funeral notes, but cheerful yet solemn melodies. The voice can and should be modulated, softened, and subdued.” The Signs of the Times, June 22, 1882. In some churches music is selected that is so loud that it is impossible to hear that still quiet voice. Such does not show reverence toward God.


“O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” Psalm 95:6, 7. Part of worship is to kneel before God in prayer. There are other times to be in communication with heaven when it is inconvenient and even dangerous to kneel with eyes closed, e.g., while driving a car or going walking, but there are several examples in the New Testament written by Paul describing bowing down on our knees before God as part of public worship. Prayer and kneeling are principles of worship and to bow reverently with eyes closed is an act of submission, allowing the mind to concentrate on the prayer without being distracted. Public prayers need to be spoken clearly and plainly so all listening will benefit from the words, and when children are present prayer should be short so they are not wearied.

Listening and Reverence

“Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Habakkuk 2:20. This brings in the aspect of listening and of reverence in the house of God. “When the benediction is pronounced, all should still be quiet, as if fearful of losing the peace of Christ. Let all pass out without jostling or loud talking, feeling that they are in the presence of God, that His eye is resting upon them, and that they must act as in His visible presence. Let there be no stopping in the aisles to visit or gossip, thus blocking them up so that others cannot pass out. The precincts of the church should be invested with a sacred reverence. It should not be made a place to meet old friends and visit and introduce common thoughts and worldly business transactions. These should be left outside the church. God and angels have been dishonored by the careless, noisy laughing and shuffling of feet heard in some places.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 493, 494.

When we enter into the presence of God, no matter where that is, an atmosphere of reverence should prevail.

Observing Personal Boundaries

In one church service I attended the pastor encouraged the congregation to go around and greet everyone and hug everyone and kiss the ladies if they could get away with it. That surely does not sound right for this culture. Some people read the verse that says to greet others with a holy kiss and in some countries men do greet each other with a kiss on each cheek (II Corinthians 13:12), but where did that come from? Some earlier commentaries say that this custom was usually men greeting men and the women greeting women in this manner, that being the culture. In our culture greetings should be in a different context which should also correlate with the whole Bible. If you read I Corinthians 7:1, it says, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” There needs to be balance here; the Bible does not contradict itself and the cultural context must be considered. Though it is not good that men kiss the ladies in church, they do not want to be so cold and formal that visitors feel unwelcome without being greeted with a smile or handshake. Paul tells us in Romans 12:10 that we are to be “kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” There is always a balance in these things, showing friendship but also respecting personal boundaries.

No Idolatry

Christ should be the theme of our conversation. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” I Corinthians 2:1, 2. The theme of all the apostles preaching and discussion in the New Testament was Christ and so should it be the theme of our own worship.

“The science of salvation is to be the burden of every sermon, the theme of every song. Let it be poured forth in every supplication. Let nothing be brought into the preaching of the Word to supplement Christ, the Word and power of God.” The Voice in Speech and Song, 337.

Christ is the only name given by which we are saved; He is our salvation. Christ should be in every worship service. He should always be the theme of all worship.


“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” II Corinthians 9:7. When Abraham returned from the battle, rescuing Lot and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, he gave an offering and tithe to God for all that He had done. This instruction of giving tithes and offerings was also given to the children of Israel. There is also the example in the New Testament of Jesus commending the widow who gave her two mites, which was all that she had. Her contribution, because it was all her wealth, was far more than all the others who gave.

Hebrews chapter 10 tells us that we are not saved by the blood of bulls and goats, but we are saved through the blood of Christ. The Lamb of God has already paid that price by His sacrifice so today it is no longer necessary to offer these sacrifices.

Worship God in Truth

“But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” I Timothy 3:15.

Where we worship God should be a place of truth. We are also told of the importance of worshiping God. The Bible talks about assembling together in Hebrews 10:25. It says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the Day approaching.” In Matthew 18:20 it says, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” It is important to worship God in His house on His day. We need that fellowship and communion with one another to strengthen and encourage us in our spiritual walk. Those who go to church only on New Year’s Day, Christmas and Thanksgiving, or even less than that, miss the blessing promised that where people are gathered together in His name He will be among them (Matthew 18:20).

John Wesley once said, “Sir, if you wish to serve God, you can’t serve Him alone. You must find companions or make them. The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.” We are meant to associate together and to help each other on the way to the kingdom of heaven.

Praise and Thanksgiving

Praise is a key component of worship. We need to remember to praise the Lord and thank Him for all of the things He has done for us. “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1. This does not say that I will bless the Lord when I feel good or when things are going good or bad. It does not say that I will bless the Lord when I am rich or poor. It does not say I will bless the Lord when I have everything or when I am in trouble. It says all of the time, no matter what condition you are in.

In Psalm 42:5 it says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” This praise is repeated several times.

There are many verses in the book of Psalms that praise the Lord. “Whoso offers praise glorifies Me: and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” Psalm 50:23. God likes to be praised. We can join David when he said, “I will praise You; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are Your works; and that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:14.

“Where the church is walking in the light, there will ever be cheerful, hearty responses and words of joyful praise.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 318. Ellen White also said, “Have we not reason to talk of God’s goodness and to tell of His power? When friends are kind to us we esteem it a privilege to thank them for their kindness. How much more should we count it a joy to return thanks to the Friend who has given us every good and perfect gift. Then let us, in every church, cultivate thanksgiving to God. Let us educate our lips to praise God in the family circle. … God’s goodness in hearing and answering prayer places us under heavy obligation to express our thanksgiving for the favors bestowed upon us. We should praise God much more than we do. The blessings received in answer to prayer should be promptly acknowledged.

“We grieve the Spirit of Christ by our complaints and murmurings and repinings. We should not dishonor God by the mournful relation of trials that appear grievous. All trials that are received as educators will produce joy. The whole religious life will be uplifting, elevating, ennobling, fragrant with good words and works.

“Let the peace of God reign in your soul. Then you will have strength to bear all suffering, and you will rejoice that you have grace to endure. Praise the Lord; talk of His goodness; tell of His power. Sweeten the atmosphere that surrounds your soul. … Praise with heart and soul and voice, Him who is the health of your countenance, your Saviour, and your God.” God’s Amazing Grace, 325.

We have many things to praise God and to thank Him for. One favorite quote comes from the book, The Ministry of Healing, 251. It says, “Nothing tends more to promote health of body and of soul than does a spirit of gratitude and praise. It is a positive duty to resist melancholy, discontented thoughts and feelings—as much a duty as it is to pray. If we are heaven-bound, how can we go as a band of mourners, groaning and complaining all along the way to our Father’s house?” This goes along with the text in Proverbs 17:22: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”

“Forgetting our own difficulties and troubles, let us praise God for an opportunity to live for the glory of His name. Let the fresh blessings of each new day awaken praise in our hearts for these tokens of His loving care. When you open your eyes in the morning, thank God that He has kept you through the night. Thank Him for His peace in your heart. Morning, noon, and night, let gratitude as a sweet perfume ascend to heaven.” Ibid., 253.

There are so many reasons for which to be thankful and to give praise to the Lord for what He has done for us. If nothing else, you can be thankful that there is a God in heaven who cares about you and listens to you—that is something to be really thankful for!

Whatever trial you may be going through you often do not have to look very far to find someone who is in a worse situation. Not too long ago I read about a lady journalist who was laid off from her job. She drew unemployment which soon ran out, along with her savings, causing her to lose her apartment. About that same time, her father died and she inherited a motor home which then provided her with a place to live. She parked her motor home in a business parking lot until she was asked to leave and then made a temporary arrangement with some people whom she knew to park her motor home in their back yard while searching for work, putting up notices in coffee shops and online.

Anyone who has a roof over their head, a job, clothes and shoes, has something to be thankful for. It may not be the best, but it is more than many other people have in this world.

When I visited the Philippines, I saw that there were some very wealthy people there and then there were the very poor. In the city, most of the poor have crude, corrugated iron shacks which become very muddy when it rains. If you have a place to live, be thankful. Be thankful if you have a family.

A story is told of a Christian lady and her friend who enjoyed bike riding. One day as they were riding on a bike trail she was about a minute ahead of her friend who heard a commotion up ahead. As her friend caught up she saw that a cougar had attacked her and had her by the face. She was struggling to free herself from the mountain lion without success. Eventually, others arrived and threw rocks at the cougar which finally ran off. Surprisingly, the woman survived the attack with minimal scarring. She relates now with Daniel who was thrown into the lion’s den and survived. She now praises God for her own deliverance from the cougar.

A private plane crashed in the desert in Arizona, bursting into flames upon impact. Surviving the crash and in flames, both the parents rolled on the ground to extinguish the flames. The woman had massive burns and it was uncertain for several weeks if she would come out of the coma and survive. Though her husband was also severely burned, he was not as badly burned as she was and a vigil was held by that mother’s bedside every day to talk to and encourage her. While lying there in the hospital, she resolved to survive and return home to her family. In time, she left the hospital still with bandages over her burns. Simple chores that normally took little time were now mammoth tasks, but she was thankful to be alive.

A young mother gave birth to her second daughter. Three days later she was running a high temperature and it was discovered that she had some sort of bacterial infection. As a result of this, she underwent many surgeries during which both of her hands and legs were amputated, because they had turned black. Her survival was uncertain, but she was determined to be there for her baby. With sheer determination, very soon she, with prosthetic arms and legs, was back home caring for her two daughters, remaining cheerful and thankful to be alive and an encouragement to others in far less difficult situations.

One lady came to grief when her chimpanzee got loose while attempting to get the 200-pound animal back into its cage. The chimp was a bit upset and started to fight with her, literally ripping off her face. Her fingers, her hand and her teeth, eyes, nose and mouth were all gone. When help arrived, the chimpanzee was shot and all were amazed to find the lady who was in such a terrible condition still breathing. Even with such horrific injuries and also blind, this poor lady hung on to life to be there for her daughter. She insisted that though she had been damaged physically, she was still the same person inside and wanted acceptance in spite of her appearance.

Considering what others have endured, most of us have nothing to complain about. Lord, forgive me for complaining about anything. I have all of my limbs, my face and my hands. No matter what situation you are going through, there is always something to be thankful for. Stories like these inspire me with God’s faithfulness, knowing that there is a better place where those horrible things will no longer happen. It also gives a proper perspective on life. Whatever problems or difficulties you face, there is still something to be thankful for, if you still have life. We all have troubles, disappointments and hard experiences to go through, but in spite of all of those things, if we look beyond to the big picture, there is always something for which to give praise and thanks.

Each of us has been blessed abundantly. The greatest thing we have to be thankful for is Jesus. We should be thankful that there is something beyond this fragile life of which there are no certainties and Someone who is going to make all things better. If we are ready for His kingdom, our bodies will be repaired and we will live for eternity. Jesus was willing to leave heaven and to sacrifice His life so that we may have eternal life. That is the number one thing that we can be thankful for every day. Heaven is a real place worth considering and something we do not often grasp.

Because of His great love for us and the hope He gives to all who choose to accept His invitation, God deserves all of our worship. Let us honor Him with reverence, praise and thanksgiving for He has blessed us above all things, way more than we are worthy.

A network engineer, Jana Grosboll lives in Derby, Kansas.