What does "praise" look like? How does it differ from "worship"?

We are urged/called to/commanded to praise God (psalms 146:1 and others), but what is it and what does it look like?

Romans 12:1-2 states: I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.(ESV)

  • This question needs to be limited in scope. Answers will vary. between liturgical and non liturgical traditions. Then comes the matter of cessationism. Top it off with a discussion of veneration vs worship. Way too broad.
    – bradimus
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 15:47
  • Limiting it to a discussion of the Hebrew or Greek roots might give an idea of what it originally looked like.
    – bradimus
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 16:07

2 Answers 2


The Hebrew of Psalm 146:1 is הלל - hll - which gives rise to vocalizations like "Halleluiah". The Septuagint inserts the word αἰνέω (aineō) here, also found in:

And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people (Romans 15:11 KJV)

which in turn is quoting Psalm 116 (LXX; Psalm 117 in the Masoretic Text). I think here the word means pretty much what our English word "praise" means, as explained in another answer.

The word used in Romans 12:1 is λατρεία (latreia) and although translated as "worship" by the ESV and other modern editions, really means something more like "service". In the King James, Romans 12:1 is translated:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Other occasions in which this word arises are:

They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service (John 16:2 KJV)

Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises (Romans 9:4)

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary (Hebrews 9:1)

Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God (Hebrews 9:6)

If one is following Scripture, some confusion can arise, I think, in trying to understand the deeper meaning of English words in our translations, since the same English word might translate many different Greek (or Hebrew or Aramaic) words. "Worship" is one of these cases, I think. In the King James Version, for example, "worship" is used to translate 5 other unique Greek words (some verbs, some nouns), each of which means something slightly different:

προσκυνέω (proskyneō; appears 60 times in the NT)

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him (Matthew 2:2)

σέβω (sebō; 10 appearances in the NT)

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:7)

δόξα (doxa; 151 appearances in the NT)

But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee (Luke 14:10)

εὐσεβέω (eusebeō; 2 appearances in the NT)

For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you (Acts 17:23).

ἐθελοθρησκία (ethelothrēskia; 1 appearance in the NT)

Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh (Colossians 2:23).

To complicate matters further, ambiguities exist in the opposite direction: the same Greek word is translated with different English words. The ESV, for example, translates latreia (Romans 12:1) elsewhere as "service" (John 16:2) and "ritual duties" (Hebrews 9:6). Similarly, the ESV translates proskyneō generally as "worship" (e.g. Matthew 2:2), but also as "kneel before" (Matthew 8:2), "implore" (Matthew 18:26), and "kneel down in homage" (Mark 15:19).


I expect this question will be soon closed as primarily opinion based, but let's sneak in an answer.

Merriam-Webster defines "praise" as:

1) to express a favorable judgment of

2) to glorify (a god or saint) especially by the attribution of perfections

I like to think of praise in terms of a word I like to think is related: raise

1) to cause or help to rise to a standing position

Because it makes perfect sense to me what Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Cor 4:5)

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

When we praise God, we lift up His importance in our lives. It's no suprise that He will do the same for us.

Praise is often a spoken thing. For example, praise is often given in song. Hebrews 2:12

Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

Paul and Silas both sang and praised (Acts 16:25) leading us to believe praise occurs in prayer. It's disappointing that the only verse that easily makes this connection is from LDS Scripture. From D&C 136:28 we read:

If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

See also Psalm 72:15.

The two definitions of worship that are relevant to us are:

2) reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence

3) a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual

Worship is a much more complex word. It involves more than simply speaking. Also, where praise is the act of lifting another up, worship is the act of lowering oneself in humility before another. (Rev 19:4):

And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God....

Worship always involves praise, though praise doesn't always involve worship. Matthew 14:13.

Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

Not surprisingly, we can be the recipients of this kind of worship (fundamentally, praise) in regard to other people. Luke 14:10.

But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.

Worship describes the act of helping others understand, follow, and worship. This is reflected in a chastisement given by the Lord (Matt 15:9):

But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

And it describes service to the being we worship. Matthew 4:10.

Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Therefore, praise is something we (usually) say to raise another above ourselves and worship is something we (usually) do to humble (lower) ourselves before another.

An example: from our point of view, if two of us are standing on a stair, one praising the other would encourage the other to stand on the next higher stair. One worshipping another would willingly and selflessly step down one stair so the other would be a step higher.

  • How is raise the root of praise? It is related to the Latin for value or reward. Compare to price and prize. Raise has Germanic, not Latin origins.
    – bradimus
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 16:00
  • Yup. That's what I get for cranking this out this morning before appointments. I've changed the context.
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 18:19

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