Worship is a complex phenomenon that is difficult to capture within a definition. Worship has a meaning to honor or revere a supernatural being or power or to regard or approach a holy thing with veneration, to give adoration to it, with the appropriate acts, rites, or ceremonies. Mostly, it is understood as an act of reverence and honor shown to the Creator. Worship expresses and mediates the divine-human relationship. Worship has been described as a response of adoration evoked in one who has encountered the presence of the Creator. Worship has also been depicted as the grateful rejoicing of those who have experienced the Creator's action in their lives. The possibility of worship implies human subjects who want a relationship with the Creator and a Creator who fulfills that desire. It may be expressed in formal prayer (liturgical and nonliturgical, communal and private) or in the ordinary deeds of everyday human life that flow from an inner attitude of reverence and honor of the Creator.
Worship is ritualistic, which means that it follows a prescribed routine. Worship is never left to improvisation. Historically, religion has included ritual practiced by a society. The general history of religions shows that there is a constant tendency toward rigorous uniformity in worship that increases as the religion grows older. Although there is the possibility of a purely personal and internal religion with no ritual performance and no association with other persons, worship has been a part of all cultures that have a structured, ritualistic, public method of prayer and devotions. As such, while worship is most commonly thought of in terms of religious practice and as an act that promotes religious development, worship is also very much a part of nonreligious, yet spiritual traditions.
In worship, what originally were spontaneous acts becomes the model that must be followed in detail. The worshipping group is not free to tamper with the details of a rite that has such a sacred origin. Worship when it is a public ritual becomes liturgy or the officially sanctioned action of a community of believers.
Worship is not merely the recitation of words but also the performance of actions; and the symbol of the action is not as self-evident as the symbol of the word. Each new generation of believers tends to reclaim the main points of worship, action and word that connect the common believers to the higher power or Creator. Worship at times needs to be explained. The worship action, by definition, achieves contact with the Creator in some way, and only a symbolic action can achieve this. It is precisely through its symbolism that the action is effective, and therefore the symbolism must remain unaltered.
Ritual worship is social, performed in a group for a group. The general history of religions shows that the worshipping group commits the act of worship to one or several authorized members. An official representative is always acting as a servant for the larger worshipping or believing group members. The act of worship in certain faith traditions can be expanded to liturgy, prayer, meditation, and private devotions.
Identifying liturgical worship as a form of ritual action calls attention to the fact that it is a symbolic process. Worship is a dynamic symbolic activity in which space, objects, words, time, and relationship all play a significant role in shaping meaning.