When I ask people to differentiate between Thanksgiving, Praise & Worship, I get responses like ‘Praise and thanksgiving are fast songs and worship is the slow part’ or some say ‘I’m good with praise songs but not that good with worship’. These non-musical answers are driven by culture rather than the scripture. So let’s talk about it.
From a musician’s view-point, although tempo, i.e. the speed at which a passage of music is played/sung; is a key attribute of music, however there are other attributes that far better define a song. Say for example, you have 2 songs of same tempo, it doesn’t mean they’d have similar soul, texture, feel, emotion, scale, lyrics, purpose etc. So now we know tempo by itself is not enough. In our own scope, we could have 2 slow songs but different purpose. 2 slow songs where one is praise and the other is worship. Thanksgiving songs could even be slower!
So how should we define Thanksgiving, Praise & Worship beyond tempo? We use the lyrics. The message behind the tune. Thanksgiving is an expression of saying ‘thank you’ to someone who has done something for us. It is a form of appreciation. I can say ‘thank you for reading this article’ or ‘thank you for the gift’. In other words, an exchange or expectation of goodwill precedes thanksgiving. For example, ‘thank you Jesus for the salvation of my soul’ or I can even express thanksgiving on your behalf. For instance, I thank God for His mercies, protection and preservation over your life. I also thank God for that miracle you are about to experience in your life!
What is praise? Although sometimes intertwines with thanksgiving, praise is more of an expression of commendation or applaud. When a student finishes his/her degree with a distinction, we praise them. ‘You’ve done well!’ ‘Well-done!’ In our own scenario, I praise God for His wonderful works. The creation of this planet. I praise Him for His mighty deeds! Many times we find a connection between praise and thanksgiving.
Worship is an expression of reverence. It’s the deepest of the three. It is also a place of surrender. When we sing ‘Jehovah, you are the most high! You are the most-High GOD!’ we’re singing a worship song. In fact this example of a Nigerian popular chorus is often sung in fast danceable tempo, however the lyrics is an expression of God’s greatness. So Worship expresses the awesomeness of God. His Holiness. His Power. His Majesty…Not because of what He’s done for us, but for Who HE is! He is GOD all by Himself!
Practically, in our services we could have ONLY thanksgiving, praise or worship session throughout! Or we may have the three together! When you read Psalm 145, you’d notice the psalmist had a mix of all three expressions integrated within a psalm. You see God is interested in the three expressions, irrespective of the tempo in which they are articulated. You can have a session of worship expressed in both slow and fast tempos. I could also sing ‘Thank you, thank you Lord. Thank you Lord for everything you have done’ that’s a thanksgiving song in slow tempo! Or ‘Immortal God invisible God, Immortal God how great thou art!’ a fast song but worship by lyrics.
In conclusion, we are expected to give all forms of expression in line with the word of God. Although tempo can influence our worship experience; what matters to God is not the tempo. It’s the heart from which the song comes from.
Ref: Ps. 9:1, Ps. 145, Ps. 107:8-9, Jer. 30:19, Neh. 12:46, Ezra 3:11, Lk. 4:8, 1 Cor 1:4-5