God said, "What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me."1
The word "worship" comes from an old English word "worth-ship" meaning to acknowledge the worth of someone. For the Christian worship means to acknowledge the worth of God.
Many in the church today equate worship with singing upbeat choruses. Others equate it with a more traditional approach where the main meetings on the Lord's Day are called "worship" services—both of which may or may not have anything to do with worship.
A friend of mine, John Fitzroy, was once asked where he worshiped, which meant what church he attended. He gave a straightforward answer when he replied, "I attend such and such a church where I lead the choir, but I don't worship!" At least he was being honest.
As important as attending a good church is, I don't need to be in a church or chapel to worship. I can worship when I see a beautiful sunset, a new-born baby, a flower, a tree, a singing bird, an animal, the ocean, in sunshine or in rain, on a mountain, in the desert—wherever I am at home, school, work, or play—as well as at church.
I need to constantly acknowledge the worth of God which is what worship is. Chances are, if I'm not practicing worship throughout the week, I'm not too likely to do so sitting in a church for one hour a week. We bring a worship attitude or spirit with us. If we don't, we're not too likely to find it in church regardless of whether the service is contemporary or traditional.
Worship is an attitude of the heart. Going through the motions when the heart isn't in it may be religiosity or churchianity, but it isn't worship. It's just a shadow of the real. My best guess is that God thinks about the same of this as he did the burning of incense and burnt offerings in OT days when they were rituals without heart or sincerity. The same is true of prayers that are insincere and are words without heart.
How absurd it must be to God when he sees us trying to "drum up" what we call worship—whether it's with a pipe organ, a grand piano, a clanging symbol, an electric guitar, or noisy drums—when our heart isn't in it, and in so doing not be acknowledging the worth of God!
David had it right. He said, "I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High." And again, "I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly."2 Now that's worship—with or without music. And, by the way, I love music and used to be on a gospel musical team in younger days.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to understand the true meaning of worship and learn how to worship you in spirit and in truth, not only at church, but wherever I am. Please give me a worshipful heart and spirit. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Jeremiah 6:20 (NIV).
2. Psalm 9:1-2; 111:1 (NIV).