Worship is an active response to the character, words and actions of God, initiated by His revelation and enabled by His redemption, whereby the mind is transformed (e.g. belief, repentance), the heart is renewed (e.g. love, trust), and actions are surrendered (e.g. obedience, service), all in accordance with His will and in order to declare His infinite worthiness.

In both Hebrew and Greek, there are two categories of words for worship. The first is about body language that demonstrates respect and submission; to bow down, to kneel, to prostrate oneself. The second is about doing something for God that demonstrates sacrifice and obedience; to offer, to serve.


Biblical words for worship


  • shâchâh (^ _[Strong's\ #7812]_^) This term literally means to depress or prostrate oneself, and is translated in the King James Version of the Old Testament as "worship" (100 times), "bow down" (54 times), "do obeisance" (9 times), "do reverence" (5 times), "fall down" (Psa 72:11; Isa 45:14;), "crouch" (1 Sam 2:36), "humbly beseech" (2 Sam 16:4), or "make to stoop" (Pro 12:25).

  • ?âbad (^ _[Strong's\ #5647]_^) This term literally means to work in any sense, but by implication to serve or enslave. It is used more than 250 times in the Old Testament, most often translated as "serve" and 31 times in conjunction with shâchâh (see above). However, three times the translators of the ESV chose the word "worship" (2 Sam 15:8; Psa 102:22; Isa 19:21).

  • dârash (^ _[Strong's\ #1875]_^) In Ezra 4:2 and 6:21, the ESV translates this term meaning to seek as "worship".

  • yârê' (^ _[Strong's\ #3372]_^) In Joshua 22:25, the ESV translates this term meaning to fear as "worship".

  • ?âtsab (^ _[Strong's\ #6087]_^) In Jeremiah 44:19, where the KJV translates this term meaning to carve or fashion as "worship", the ESV renders it as "made cakes for her bearing her image..."


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  • "Worship is the believer's response of all that they are – mind, emotions, will, body – to what God is and says and does" ^ [1]^
  • "Christians believe that true worship is the highest and noblest activity of which man, by the grace of God, is capable"^ [2]^
  • "Worship of the living and true God is essentially an engagement with him on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible"^[3]^
  • "Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin" ^ [4]^
  • "Worship is the activity of the new life of a believer in which, recognizing the fullness of the Godhead as it is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and His mighty redemptive acts, he seeks by the power of the Holy Spirit to render to the living God the glory, honor, and submission which are His due"^[5]^
  • "Worship is the human response to the self-revelation of the triune God, which involves: (1) divine initiation in which God graciously reveals himself, his purposes, and will; (2) a spiritual and personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ enabled by the ministry of the Holy Spirit; and (3) a response by the worshiper of joyful adoration, reverence, humility, submission and obedience"^ [6]^


  1. ? Warren Wiersbe (2000), Real Worship, p. 26, ISBN 080106189X
  2. ? John Stott (1970), Christ the Controversialist: A Study in Some Essentials of Evangelical Religion, p. 160, ISBN 0877847134
  3. ? David Peterson (2002), Engaging with God, p. 20, ISBN 0830826971
  4. ? William Temple, Readings in St. John's Gospel
  5. ? Robert Gibson Rayburn (1980), O Come Let Us Worship, p. 20, ISBN 0801076900
  6. ? David Nelson (2002), Authentic Worship, p. 149, ISBN 082542092X


  • James Torrance, Worship, Community & the Triune God of Grace (InterVarsity Press, 1997)

See also