This little word study will take you to a much higher place. These words we use regularly, especially in church contexts. We use them somewhat integrated without much thought as to their meaning and function. So let’s look at them individually and then as they relate to each other.
Thanksgiving, or perhaps the more common word gratitude is a very relational word. (used in the context where two individuals are involved) Gratitude is expressed when one becomes the beneficiary of the other. One has a need and the other fills it. The gratitude is expressed towards the other but the reason is because of what was received. In many ways the focus is on the gift and the conversation revolves around that gift. I recently received an almost new winter coat which came timely. The one who gave it to me no longer had a need for it. Of course I expressed my gratitude and the conversation soon focused on the coat I received. My coat from last year was no longer in my possession; The color of this coat suited me well; winter was around the corner and so on.
Praise is also a relational word. Whereas thanksgiving places its focus more on the gift, praise focuses more on the character of the giver. Praise is usually verbally expressed, through words of encouragement or acknowledgement of a job well done. It is an acknowledgment of an individual’s abilities and talent. Clapping or other physical expression can be a non-verbal way to express praise. When praise is directed toward Jesus, music is often accompanied. No matter in which way we express praise, it is directed towards an individual.
Now where does worship fit in all of this? Worship is also relational and it is often a continuation of praise. Worship is a devotion to an object. We worship that which means the most to us. We worship that which we hold in highest esteem. There is something amazing about worship that would be good to understand, namely that we can never truly worship more than one object at a time. It is against the nature of worship, as we already mentioned that we worship that one object that we esteem the highest. That says there can be only one object. I need hardly say at this time that ultimately the only object of our worship must be God. He Himself has communicated that in His word (1)
More is said about worship in the article entitled ‘The Nature of Worship’(2)
We can be grateful for the gifts or blessings we receive and praise the one whose character is excellent, but in the end we worship God only, from whom and in whom all things exist. (3)
(1) Exodus 20:3-5
(2) See article ‘The Nature of Worship’ available through this author
(3) Psalm 24:1