Expanding our Worship


We Christians sometimes place unnecessary limits on the ways we worship God. It is understandable that, by temperament or tradition, we would each prefer certain styles of worship. Sadly, however, we sometimes cut ourselves off from the wide variety of ways God can be praised.

Psalm 150, the final song in the psalter, helps to broaden our understanding of worship. The word “praise” appears thirteen times throughout the psalm, each time pushing us to stretch our idea of what is means to exalt the Lord.

Here are four ways the psalm urges us to expand our understanding of worship.

1) We can worship God everywhere.

Verse 1 calls us to worship God both “in his sanctuary” and “in his mighty heavens”. Both in the earthly temple and in celestial realms, God is worthy of praise. Commenting on this verse, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “In his church below and in his courts above hallelujahs should be continually presented.”

2) We should worship God for every reason.

Verse 2 invites us to worship God both for the things he does (“his acts of power”) and for who he is (“his surpassing greatness”). In other words, we are to give God glory both for the mundane and for the sublime. We can praise God for a hot bowl of oatmeal as well as for his unchanging sovereignty. We can rejoice in God’s immutable wisdom and in his gift of a new day. Both God’s being and God’s doing give us reason to praise his name.

3) We must worship God in every way.

Verses 3-5 include virtually every type of musical sound in the symphony of ways God can be praised. Here we read of:

  • The bold blast of a trumpet (v. 3a)
  • The gentle strumming of a harp (v. 3b)
  • The rhythmic energy of timbrels (v. 4a)
  • The solemn hum of a pipe (v. 4b)
  • The jolting noise of “clashing cymbals” (v. 5a)
  • The resonant ring of “resounding cymbals” (v. 5b)

Not only does the psalm call for different sounds, but also for different bodily motions. Observing this psalm, one commentator noted, “The breath is employed in blowing the trumpet; the fingers are used in striking the strings of … the harp; the whole hand is exerted in beating the timbrel; the feet move in the dance…”

What a workout! Every part of who we are is enlisted in the task of praising God. The psalmist invites worshipers to express the full range of human emotions as we gather with others to focus on God.

4) We need to worship God with everyone.

Verse 6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” The gracious Creator welcomes all his creatures into his presence that they might delight in his goodness. God’s invitation is not limited to the rich, to the strong, to the attractive, or even to the good. In God’s worship service, the only requirement for admission is that one have breath, meaning anyone may come. This loving embrace is seen clearly in the gospel of Christ in which all people are invited into God’s family through faith in Christ.

This points to why it is important to gather with other people to worship God, especially with people who differ from us.

After converting to the Christian faith, C.S. Lewis initially shunned the idea of going to church, preferring to seek God in the privacy of his own study. As a scholarly intellectual he assumed he could encounter God on his own among his books. Lewis eventually learned that by isolating himself from others in the body of Christ, especially from those outside his normal social circles, he was cutting himself off from a fuller experience of God. Describing how he came to this realization, he wrote:

I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots.”

What are ways your understanding of worship could expand? How might your understanding of God’s greatness grow if you exposed yourself to different styles and traditions of worship? However you might answer those questions, Psalm 150 invites you to give it a try.