The Hebrew words translated as “praise” or “bless” have a deeper meaning than is conveyed in English. They instruct, command or imply the worshiper is to take specific physical action.


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Biblical worship is expressed not only with our whole life (Romans 12:1),  but with our whole body. The Biblical model presents corporate praise has a whole group activity. It has nothing to do with entertainment or putting on a show to attract seekers. It is intended for everyone to participate, not spectate.

Actions speak louder than words. Your outward expression reveals your heart attitude. Sometimes we don’t feel like worshiping and we have to choose to praise.

Choosing to engage with God will change your attitude. God promises to reward those who choose to draw near to him (James 4:8) Literally, choosing to praise God is a transformative experience, it renews your mind.

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 12:2

This is part of the purpose of worship. We position our hearts so that God can change and conform us to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29)

Here are 10 significant Hebrew words for “praise” with the appropriate action and attitude.

1. Shabach (Ps 145:4) Shout praise. Expresses confidence in God’s ability.

2. Barach (Ps 95:6) Kneel, bless the Lord. Expresses humility.

3. Yadah (Ps 63:1) The extended hand. Expresses gratitude, thankfulness and surrender.

4, Towdah (Ps 50:23) The raised hand. Expresses adoration.

5. Taqa (Ps 47:1) Clap, applaud. Expresses joy and victory.

6. Hallal (Ps 148-150) Celebrate extravagantly. Root of the word “hallelujah” which means “praise (halla) to jah (God)”. Expresses joy, jubilation and celebration.

7. Tehillah Ps 33:1 Singing scripture to instruct and encourage.

8. Tephillah. (Ps 39:12) Prayer, often sung as intercession and petition.

9. Kara (2 Sam 6:14) Dance. “David danced before the Lord with all his might.” Expresses joy and celebration.

10. Zamar ( Ps 4 and 6, 7:17) Make music by striking the fingers on strings or parts of a musical instrument. When we play instrumentally to facilitate a holy atmosphere, it’s not just church cocktail music, it’s zamar.

The Wholehearted Challenge

I hope the meaning of these praise words inspires people to break free of their inhibitions and become more engaged worshipers.

Hands in your pockets or arms crossed is not the body language modeled in Biblical worship.

The joy of the Lord is our strength. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. May these actions and attitudes guide our communities to be as expressive in our praise as our Almighty, All-loving God deserves.

Shalom ya’ll.

Question: How expressive is worship in your context? Do you practice all 10 of these? Why or why not?

Check out my short Kindle Book, “Actions and Attitudes: Understanding 10 Hebrew Words for Worship.”

This post is a continuation of the Practical Theology of Worship series. Check out all the articles in this epic series here.