Question: “What is true worship? How can I worship the Lord in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)?”
Answer: True worship is God-centered worship. People tend to get caught up in where they should worship, what music they should sing in worship, and how the worship looks to other people. Focusing on these things completely misses the point. Jesus tells us that true worshipers will worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). This means we worship from the heart and the way God calls us to. Worship can include praying, reading God’s Word with an open heart, singing, participating in communion, and serving others. It is not limited to one act, but is done properly when the heart and attitude of the person is in the right place.
The first thing we should know is that worship and praise is reserved only for God. Only he is worthy; not any of his servants (Rev 19:10). We are not to worship saints, prophets, statues, angels, any other false gods, or even Mary, mother of Jesus. We also should not be worshiping for the expectation of something in return, such as a miraculous healing. Worship is done for God, and God’s pleasure alone. Worship can be public praise to God (Ps 22:22, 35:18), in a congregational setting, where we can proclaim through music and praise our adoration and thankfulness for him and what he has done for us. True worship is felt inwardly, then comes out through our actions. “Going through the motions” out of obligation is unpleasing to God, and is done completely in vain. He can see through all the hypocrisy, and he hates this. He demonstrates this in Amos 5:21-24 as he talks about coming judgment. An example is the story of Cain and Abel, the first sons of Adam and Eve. They both brought gift offerings to the Lord, but he was only pleased with Abel’s. Cain brought the gift out of obligation; Abel brought his finest lambs from his flock. He brought out of faith and admiration for God.
True worship is not confined to singing in church, or open praise (although these things are both good and we are told to do them in the Bible), but it is the acknowledgment of God and all his power and glory in the things we do. To do this, we must know God, we can not be ignorant of him (Acts 17:23). Worship is to glorify and exalt God; to show our loyalty and admiration to our Father.