I have gradually begun to see both prayer and worship as the most expansive practices in the Christian life. They are not narrow, separate, disintegrated categories. They are not limited activities that can be sectioned off into certain parts of a full and balanced life. Rather, they overlap and include every spiritual discipline and activity, while also overlapping and including all of life. Prayer is simply relating with God. It is communicating and communing with the Sacred. Worship is surrendering and depending upon God. It is our natural, heartfelt response to God’s grandeur and goodness towards us.
I find it hard to identify any meaningful distinctions between prayer and worship. I think that all real prayer is also worship, and all real worship is also prayer—because all prayer also involves surrendering and depending upon God, and all worship also involves relating with God. Both are also signs of our need for God. Both are expressions of our desire for God. Both are acts of focusing our attention and intention towards God. Both are attempts to encounter God. So any distinctions between the two are inevitably more artificial and abstract than they are real.
We are taught to live in continual prayer and continual worship (1 Thess 5:16-18; Rom 12:1). Which is to say we are encouraged to always relate with God, depend on God, and surrender to God in everything we do—this, indeed, is the Christian way of life. So we can pray and worship in stillness or in action, in solitude or in community, in silence or with sounds, with liturgies or with spontaneity, with ancient rituals or with modern innovations. We can pray and worship while listening, speaking, sharing, or singing; while sitting, kneeling, walking, or dancing; while giving, receiving, supporting, or serving. The possibilities are practically endless.
It is crucial to remember that how we pray and worship should always serve the ultimate purpose of why we pray and worship, since there are many possible modes and methods. While there can certainly be many reasons and many occasions, becoming closer with God is the most essential purpose of all prayer and worship. We foster intimacy with God through praying and worshiping with gratitude, authenticity, openness, and love. These are indeed some of the ingredients that will enhance authentic prayer and worship. But regardless of what we do or how we do it, fostering intimacy with God is always the goal of our prayers and our worship.
Our life becomes a prayer inasmuch as we live in constant connection to God. Our life likewise becomes worship inasmuch as we live in constant surrender and dependence upon God. The Christian life, then, is meant to be a life of prayer and a life of worship.