Praise and Worship - The Difference

A lot of people probably think that the difference between praise and worship is that praise includes all the bright fast songs, whereas worship is all the slow songs. Well, that's probably a helpful generalisation, but there's more to it than that.


The dictionary definition of praise is "commendation expressed for virtues, or concerning meritorious actions; utterance of approval, honour given."

Yeah, I know. That's a bit of a mouthful, but the basic idea is that praise is where we express our appreciation for who someone is or what they've done. Praise isn't praise unless it is expressed in some way. It cannot remain silent, otherwise it isn't praise.

There are lots of ways God's Word tells us to do this, but the key thing to remember is that praise is always demonstrative. Bible words that are associated with the idea of praise include, magnify, glorify, rejoice, thanksgiving, lift up, exalt, and extoll.


Worship can involve praise, but it's more than that; worship is love and adoration.

I always think of praise as being noisy, excitable and active. But I think of worship as being gentle, tender. Worship is an expression of love and adoration.

An example of the difference between praise and worship can be clearly seen in 2 Chronicles 20:18-19:

And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the LORD, worshipping the LORD. Then the Levites of the children of the Kohathites and of the children of the Korahites stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with voices loud and high.

Notice they bowed down to worship the Lord - a very common position in worship; but they stood up to praise Him with voices loud and high.

Praise is concerned with the outward man and its activities.

Outward man is a term that refers to the physical body (see 2 Cor 4:16). In praise, the focus is on outward expressions using the physical body as a means of expression.

Worship is very much about the inward man, the heart or spirit. Here are some Scriptures that show the importance of the heart in worship:

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24) Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. (Psalm 29:2) For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3) And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:9)

Praise is something you can choose to do at any time.

But worship is something you can only participate in if God allows you to. Just because you're singing, "I love You Lord," doesn't mean you are worshipping - you're heart has to be in it.

Praise is something where you can be the initiator. Worship is a heart response to an encounter with the presence of God. A response to a revelation of who God is. In other words, your spirit is responding because an aspect of God's character or attributes has been revealed to you.

There are many instances of this happening in Scripture; people have an encounter with God the Father or the Lord Jesus Christ and are so overwhelmed they cannot help but respond with worship.

As it says in 1 John 4:19, "We love Him because He first loved us." Here are some examples of a worship response to God's presence:

2 Chronicles 20:18: And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the LORD, worshipping the LORD.

This was a response to a powerful prophetic word that God would intervene and keep His people safe while under attack.

Josh 5:13-15: And when Gideon had come, there was a man telling a dream to his companion. He said, "I have had a dream: To my surprise, a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian; it came to a tent and struck it so that it fell and overturned, and the tent collapsed." Then his companion answered and said, "This is nothing else but the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel! Into his hand God has delivered Midian and the whole camp. And so it was, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, that he worshiped."

Notice Gideon's heart response to God's promised intervention?

Ezekiel 44:4: ... and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD; and I fell on my face.

Ezekiel's response to the direct presence of the Lord was to fall on his face in worship. In Exodus 4:29-31, when Moses related to the elders of Israel God's promise of deliverance and confirmed it by signs and wonders, the natural response was that "they bowed their heads and worshiped."

People had same inward response when they had a meaningful encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. For instance, when Jesus walked on water and got into the disciples' boat (at which point the wind also ceased), we are told that "those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, 'Truly You are the Son of God.'" (Matthew 14:33)

When a woman of ill-repute received Christ's forgiveness for her sins, she could not help but respond with weeping, washing His feet, and even kissing His feet! (See Luke 7:36-49)

Worship is a heart response to an encounter with God's presence.

Now read: Praise & Worship - The Difference Part 2