The essence of worship is in finding satisfaction in God. Both the Old and New Testaments clearly confirm the essence of worship to be a life centered in and focused on finding one’s greatest satisfaction in God alone, beyond any “thing” or any “one” else. It is a thoroughly personal endeavor.
While people may attempt to categorize worship as public or personal (corporate or private), all worship is in reality personal. Musicians may lead a congregation in corporate praise but, that which goes on in the heart–communication between God and the worshiper–can only be experienced personally. And every person’s worship experience is different. This is because worship is experienced in the inner heart.
The Psalmist reinforces this notion:
(The) one thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, to seek him in His temple.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.
Ultimately worship occurs when the core of a person recognizes their absolute need for God, repentantly and personally turns to God, reveres Him and cries out to Him, and looks to find their greatest satisfaction in Him. That is the essence of worship, personally.
As the essence of worship is realized, the worship experience is fully realized. The worshiper begins to enjoy a relationship with God that is cognitive and experiential. Scripture suggests that this happens because God initiates all things and in that, all that has to do with worship is initiated by Him:
History started at God’s initiation. “In the beginning God created . . .” (Genesis 1:1).
At His own initiation He created humankind to companion with Him. (Gen 1:26-28).
The moment Adam broke fellowship with Him, God initiated a redemptive program whereby humankind could return to a companioning worship walk with Him (Genesis 3:15).
And ever since, it is God who initiates and energizes our dynamic, personal relationship with humans. Throughout the Old and New Testament God initiates through prophets, priests, disciples, and preachers to provide:
His Law (Ex 20)
His written Word (Psalm 119, 2 Timothy 3:16)
All that we need for daily living and life (Mt. 6:11; Acts 17:28)
Our salvation (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 6:20; Eph 2:8-10)
Energy to live before Him daily (Philippians 2:13)
Worship is the substance of real encounters between God and human beings. This is where human beings respond back to God and in faith acknowledge Him. There are two simple points here concerning worship as “encounter.” First, worship phenomena are real encounters and, second, worship phenomena are relational encounters.
By stating that worship phenomena are real encounters, I mean they are as real as any human-to-human encounter. The encounters God has with people are not imaginary, fantasy, or hallucination. His encounters and the relationship that develops between Himself and human individuals are as substantive and viable as any other sort of relationship humans might have.
Interaction between God and humans is relational—it operates, at least in the human context, through the same relational resources that humans relate to other humans. God does provide the mysterious dimension but He has created human beings with the ability to relate to Himself.