ANSWER: What a good question! While these two words are closely related, there is a distinct difference. Let’s read Psalms 138:2 which says, “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” Worship and praise are both mentioned in this verse. Worship is used in reference to God’s holiness and praise is used in reference to God’s loving-kindness, or grace. We worship the Lord for who His is. We praise Him for what He does.
The best practical definition of worship I have read is this: “Worship is the honor and adoration which are rendered to God by reason of what He is in Himself, and what He is to those who render it.” This means that even if the Lord had not extended His love and grace to us, He still would be worthy of worship because He is God. We read in Psalms 29:2, “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” Psalms 99:5 says, “Exalt ye the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.” So, we see that because of who the Lord is, He is worthy of worship.
John 4:24 teaches us that, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” What a wonderful truth! God is Spirit, so he longs for spiritual worship. He has no desire for fleshly or carnal pleasures. He longs for true spiritual worship that is based on the truth of who He is. So often we conceive God to be the type of being we want Him to be. We desire to create God in our image. However, through prayerful time spent in God’s Word, we learn more about the Lord; about His glorious characteristics and nature. The more we know about our blessed Lord, the better equipped we are to worship Him in truth. Surely the babe in Christ can have His heart filled with pure worship for the Lord, but the depth of that worship will deepen as we grow in the knowledge of Him.
Praise is what we give to the Lord for His benefits towards us. In the New Testament, one word we have for praise in the Greek means ‘to applaud or commend’. Let’s consider a few verses that give us lessons and examples about praising the Lord. In Psalms 50:23 we have the words of the Lord saying, “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me…” The Lord is indeed glorified when we praise Him for what He has done for us. This shows us the value of a grateful heart. Psalms 150:2-6 says, “Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.” We are encouraged to have our hearts filled with awe and appreciation for the Lord’s mighty acts towards us. While praise is often audible, we must realize that true praise comes from the heart. The Lord Yahushua, who knows the hearts of man, sadly remarked in Matthew 15:8, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”
It is proper, at times, to praise men for their accomplishments as we read in 1 Corinthians 11:2, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” Worship belongs only to God! No other is worthy to be worshipped. The greatest man and the mightiest angel are unworthy of worship. In Revelation 22:9, the angel said to the Apostle John when he tried to worship him, “…See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.”