BY STACEY S. PADRICK
Learn to express the pure joy of knowing God.
Throughout Scripture, we are commanded to praise God. “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (Ps. 150:6). “Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!”‘ (Ps. 66:2-3). Yet sometimes we find it easier to raise and clap our hands excitedly before a popular band than before the very Author of music and Creator of life.
We readily praise that which we esteem and enjoy–such as an entertaining musician. Likewise, when we experience His goodness and faithfulness, praise flows naturally from us. At other times, however, our praise may feel passionless or contrived. Is praise motivated, then, primarily by emotions that overcome us when we’re excited about what God is doing in our lives? How can we cultivate a life of praise in the everyday ups and downs? Let’s begin to answer those questions by considering why we praise God and how praise affects our relationship with Him.
Reasons for Praise
God is worthy of praise. We praise God because He is the Most High God who “stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth” (Is. 51:13). He is worthy and deserving of our praise! We praise Him because His is the “greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,” and He is exalted as “head over all” (1 Chron. 29:11). If legions of angels night and day sing praises to God, and the sun and moon are called to praise Him (Ps. 148:3), is He not worthy of our continual praise?
During Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the disciples began praising God joyfully and loudly for all the miracles they had seen. When the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke the disciples for such a display of praise, Jesus responded, “I tell you . . . if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Lk. 19:40).
Praise deepens intimacy with God. Praise not only draws us closer to God, but through our praise, He is drawn closer to us. He “inhabits the praises” of His people (Ps. 22:3, KTV). As we praise, we open ourselves wider to the Lord’s presence. When King Solomon dedicated the temple, the priests gathered together and lifted their voices, accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and lyres. As they prepared to offer sacrifices to the Lord, they began praising with abandon, singing and shouting, “He indeed is good for His loving-kindness is everlasting” (2 Chron. 5:13, NASB). A cloud of glory so filled the temple that the priests could not even stand to minister (v. 14).
The Lord delights in our praise! We are the temple of God (I Cor. 3:16), and as we worship Him, He takes delight and fills us with His glory.
Praising God blesses us. God desires us to follow His commands not only to bring Him glory, but to bring us blessings. Moses exhorted the Israelites to “walk in his ways, and to keep his commands . . . and the LORD your God will bless you” (Dt. 30:16).
Praising God fills us with a depth of joy and satisfaction no earthly pleasure can bring. David wrote:
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. –Ps. 63:2-5
Praising God blesses us by focusing our yes on His greatness. It transforms our perspective on life’s difficulties. The size of our seemingly monstrous problems diminishes in the light of His power.
When I served as a teacher in Asia, I struggled to adjust to the culture, people, language, and the lack of fellowship with other believers. Terrible headaches began plaguing me. Even after much
prayer, the pain persisted. One morning the lyrics of a praise song on a tape reminded me of the importance of praise. As I began actively praising God for His power and faithfulness, the spiritual oppression I had felt lifted, my anxiety quieted, and my headache subsided. I experienced the power that comes from exalting God as Most High, rather than dwelling on my problems.
Praise is a weapon in spiritual warfare. Praise is a powerful weapon to break down walls, open closed doors, and win battles as we fight to extend God’s kingdom into places and hearts that the enemy holds in bondage.
King Jehoshaphat set his heart on following God’s ways and destroying idolatry in Judah. But the threat of war from three hostile nations gripped him with fear. As he contemplated the powerful
advancing enemy and his own meager army, he gathered his people together to seek the Lord’s help. With the enemy drawing ever closer, Jehoshaphat prayed:
O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 2 Chron. 20:6
Jehoshaphat also recounted God’s faithfulness in past battles, claimed His promises, and humbly acknowledged total dependence upon God. He concluded: “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (v. 12).
King Jehoshaphat further demonstrated his confidence in the power of praise by appointing those who praised and sang to the Lord to go before the army (v. 21), ahead of Judah’s greatest warriors. The result? Look at verse 22. “As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Se* who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.”
The enemies began killing each other until all were dead, leaving the people of Judah with more valuable spoil than they could carry! That’s my kind of battle!
In the New Testament, we continue to see praise bring down strongholds. After being stripped, beaten with rods, and thrown into prison, Paul and Silas began to pray and sing hymns of praise to God (Acts 16:25). In response to their supplication and praise, God sent an earthquake that burst open the prison doors. Not only were Paul and Silas physically released, but the jailer and his entire household were spiritually released and baptized in the Lord Jesus (vv. 26-33).
Praise and Disappointment
What do we do when our hearts are not brimming with praise? Do we wait until we experience good feelings about God? Do we wait until we see answers to prayers? I find that especially in disappointment, I must choose to praise God even when I do not feel like it. Habakkuk wrote, “Though the fig tree does not bud . . . and the fields produce no food . . ., yet I will rejoice in the LORD” (Hab. 3:17-18). Circumstances did not produce wonderful feelings in him, yet he praised God anyway.
Since serving in Asia eight years ago, I have dreamt and prayed about leading student mission teams there. When the opportunity finally arose, unexpected health problems prevented me from going. After declining several more opportunities over five years, I finally felt that I was physically strong enough to go. With great excitement, I prayed and planned for eight months. I saw God answer many prayers for strength, financial support, visas, and tickets. Ten days before departing, another debilitating sickness forced me to cancel my trip. I ached with disappointment at this broken dream. Yet I recalled the words of the psalmist:
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. –Ps. 42:11
Even when God says no to a prayer request, we are still called to praise Him. After David fasted and prayed for seven days for the healing of his sick child, the child died. David “got up from the
ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped” (2 Sam. 12:20). Job responded to his devastating losses by saying, “The Lord and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21). Though my feelings were far from praise and my questions remained unanswered, I chose to praise Him and experienced deep assurance of His sovereignty and goodness. God deeply identifies with our pain and does not deny it or ask us to do so; still we are called to praise Him even in devastating disappointment.
Ways to Practice Praise
David wrote, “Seven times a day I praise you” (Ps. 119:164). How can we incorporate praise more regularly into our lives? _ Sing. “How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” (Ps. 147:1). Don’t wait until Sunday morning to exercise your vocal cords. Listen to worship tapes to help you sing and praise, even when you’re not “in the mood.” During your personal devotions, try singing a spontaneous song of praise from your heart to God. “Sing to the LORD a new song” (Ps. 149:1).
Meditate. Because praise is based upon God’s character, we always have something to praise Him about: His steadfast love, His faithfulness, His grace, His goodness, or attributes such as His
holiness, majesty, patience, and power. Let the wonder of His unchanging character sink deeply into your heart. Soon you will be overflowing with praise for Him. Meditate on a psalm, then try praying and singing it. St. Romuald said,
“Take every opportunity to sing the psalms in your heart to God.”
Use your body. Worship involves our whole being: mind, spirit, and body. Turn on some praise music and use your body–His temple–to physically express praise for God. As you feel led, lift up your hands in exultation (even if you are not so inclined during a church service), kneel or lay prostrate, bow your head or lift it up, sing, and even dance: “Praise him with tambourine and dancing” (Ps. 150:4). If you feel foolish, remember, “it is fitting for the upright to praise him” (Ps. 33:1). Let the praise of God so fill you that you cannot remain sitting.
Praise with others. Take time in a group prayer meeting to begin your praying with praise, asking each person to name a particular character trait for which he or she honors God. Or end your prayer time with praise for God’s infinite power. Spend time with people who like to talk about God’s goodness and greatness.
Created for Worship
We were created to worship God. In Eph 1:12, Paul says that we were created to live “for the praise of his glory.” We praise Him out of obedience and love. We praise as a battle cry in our fight against the principalities. And we praise Him simply for the joy of being in His presence. Our praise not only glorifies God but transforms and blesses us.
C. S. Lewis writes in Reflections on the Psalms:
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because praise does not merely express but completes the enjoyment. It is its appointed consummation. It is not simply to complement that lovers keep telling one another how beautiful they are. The delight itself is incomplete until it is expressed.
Praise flows out of a heart that delights in God, a heart that knows God, a heart that is familiar with His goodness and character. As we meditate upon God’s character, we cannot help but grow more deeply in love and adoration of our awesome God.
Praise will more naturally “always be on [our] lips” (Ps. 34:1).
As you practice lifting your heart in praise to God in the everyday details of life even when problems mount, disappointments come, and prayers seem unanswered–you may be surprised at what happens. Who knows, you might even find yourself buying a tambourine!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
STACEY S. PADRICK is a freelance writer in San Francisco, California. She also works part time in real estate investing. Stacey wrote this article because “the practice of praise is essential in our
relationship with the Lord. It helps us to focus on the pure joy of knowing God for who He is rather than on what He can do for us. When we practice praise, we realize that simply being in His presence is enough.”
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY DISCIPLESHIP JOURNAL, ISSUE 108, 1998, PAGES 88-92. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.