“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9:1-2)
An older understanding is nearer the truth about worship: it should be all that takes place during the “worship service,” not just the music. That view must govern our thinking and planning if we are to worship in spirit and in truth. For example, to give generously in the offering should be to worship God most authentically. And the sermon, above all elements of worship, should point people Godward, put his glories on display, enable people to live out their lives in the coming week as true worshipers. So every element of the time of God’s people gathered should be worship.
Having said that, however, the directly spoken worship of God (prayers and singing) is essential to true corporate worship. And it needs to be monitored carefully to see that it incorporates all biblical elements of verbal worship: thanksgiving, praise, and adoration. These certainly may blend, but if care is not taken to insure that each element is fully expressed in corporate worship, we will come up short in bringing pleasure to our God.
Thanksgiving-thank him specifically for what he has done for you.
Praise-praise him for who he is. Tell him what you like about him, each glorious characteristic.
Adoration-tell him how you feel about him. Love talk.
Here’s a sample from my own experience. When on my annual retreat alone with the Lord, the following worship overflowed. It’s not immortal prose, to be sure, but gives an indication of what these essential elements of worship might mean.
Thank you, Father, for your marvelous gifts: salvation and hope, the Savior’s loving presence within and about, the blessed Spirit who transforms and empowers, your friendship, incredible as that is. Thank you, thank you, for the wonderful Book. And thank you for the gift of such a magnificent world: the flowers, the grass and trees, the lovely birds and wondrous beasts, mountains and seas, streams and mighty rivers, rocks and sands and all things beautiful. And food-what a delightful way to survive and thrive! And what a glorious idea marriage was! And family. Friends so loyal and loving and bountiful. And humankind, displaying your image-imprint, creating magnificent art and literature and music. I love fine architecture and astounding technologies. You’ve given me work to do that counts for eternity. Thank you for the gifts of health and abilities and, especially, my wife. Thank you.
I praise you, Father, for what you have done, your mighty acts: You saved me and save me and will save me, and a world of men and women besides. Creation that seems almost as infinite as you; the invincible Church, made of impossible building material. Your incredibly complex and wondrously beautiful planning and your meticulous execution of every intricate part; your sustaining power for all the worlds and for each sparrow. What a wonder you are! Hallelujah!
My adoration, Father, above all is for who you are. Every characteristic speaks your majestic godhood. But from among them all, in splendid array, I focus often on your wisdom, power and love. Wisdom to know all things, power to do all you will, and love to count me in. What more could I ask? I could ask for holiness, for what kind of god would we have if he could figure everything out, accomplish anything and felt affectionately toward us, but were crooked, no model of right and dispenser of justice? And what if you were unpredictable and given to change? How insecure we would be! And what if you had a beginning or worse an end? That would be the ultimate insecurity. But no, you are all there is of perfection, beyond all imagination. And today I bow in humble gratitude.
Note that the thanksgiving, praise and adoration interplay throughout. It isn’t necessary to make each part of worship a discrete element, but only to be sure all elements are present when we worship. We can’t express our love for him too extravagantly, just as two young lovers find praise and adoration exploding beyond containment. Take a few minutes now to express your adoration!