Thanksgiving, Praise, and Worship . . .
. . . and why we need all three
As followers of Jesus Christ, we want to stay connected to our Lord. We want to foster and deepen our relationship with Him. And we want to focus our whole lives on Him and His Kingdom. We want to fulfill the first and greatest commandment.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
We relate to the Lord in many ways, including thanksgiving, praise, and worship. All three of these engagements with our God build and nourish our love from Him. Each is different, yet connected. And each is necessary.
But how are thanksgiving, praise, and worship different? And why is it good and meaningful for us to practice all three of these activities with our Lord?
Here is how I like to think about the differences so that I can understand them better:
Thanksgiving – imagine that someone, such as a friend or co-worker, has done something very nice and helpful for you. You are grateful for their kindness and for their consideration. You make a special point of going to that person and thanking them specifically for their help and kindness.
The same is when we give thanks to the Lord for the specific things He has done in our lives. Perhaps you’ve had a tough time financial issues and you’ve prayed about it and asked the Lord for help. He blessed you with an unexpected gift or circumstance and relieved the pressure and stress. You would thank Him specifically for that blessing. This is thanksgiving. Giving thanks for the specific ways the Lord intervenes with our lives so we can experience the peace and joy He promises to us.
Thanksgiving can be practiced in many ways. Counting your blessings is thanksgiving. Or perhaps you keep a gratitude journal. Our lives our enriched as we recognize the blessings of God by giving Him thanks through the act of thanksgiving.
Praise – now imagine that same person who helped you. Instead of focusing on the specific way you’ve been blessed, think about this person’s qualities and characteristics. You now go to that person and honor them by recounting what you appreciate about who they are and how they live their lives. “You are so kind. You are so giving. You are so wise.” These are all about the other person and how you are touched by their goodness. This is praise. You are praising the person for who they are.
We praise the Lord for His mercy and grace. We acknowledge Him for His loving kindness. For His wisdom that He shares to freely with us. We praise Him for His specific attributes and it’s all about Him.
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!”
Praise can be practiced in many ways. Songs of praise are a common way to express our hearts to the Lord as we acknowledge His greatness. David danced in thanksgiving for all the Lord had done for His people. And praise can be quite expressions of acknowledgment as we take in the beauty of His creation. Think about ways you can praise the Lord and enter into this sacred experience with Him.
Worship – now we move into a totally different realm. Worship is giving total and complete adoration and is reserved for our God. We worship the Lord by recognizing His uniqueness as the great I AM. He alone is our Creator. He alone is our Savior. He alone is our Father. He alone is our God.
We worship God by submitting ourselves to Him. We worship Him from our spirit to His Spirit. Our worship is a deep and boundless love because of who He is.
We don’t worship people. We don’t worship things. We worship God. And our worship has nothing to do with the blessings for which we are thankful. And our worship has nothing to do with the praise we have for His attributes. Worship is total abandonment from anything about us and it’s all about pouring everything we are to everything He is.
Worship is often expressed in music, dancing, and shouts to the Lord. Worship can also be expressed through our actions of submission and obedience. And again, quiet worship from our heart to His is precious to God when it is sincere and filled with love and reverence.
As we enter into thanksgiving, praise, and worship, we join our hearts to the heart of God. Our relationship with Him is strengthened as we turn more of our adoration and acknowledgement to Him. We point our thoughts and emotions to Him and His goodness.