It is often the case that when prayer does not bring the desired result, praise leads through victory. There is a power in praise which prayer as such does not have. Of course, the distinction between the two is artificial. Prayer at its best is praise as is evident in the Psalms. “I will bless the Lord,” cries the psalmist, “at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1). “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” – so he charges his soul to fulfil its highest function. “As long as I live,” he says, “I will praise the Lord.” He calls upon the sun and the moon, all the stars of light, yea, all nature to join him in praising the Lord (Ps. 148). He is resolved that nothing, no personal loss, no catastrophy, no circumstance regardless of its nature shall deter him in this holy practice.
Now let us look into this matter and into the “why” of the power of praise, for prayer can never be the glad and immeasurably fruitful exercise that God intends that it should be unless it is shot through with praise. The reasons are simple enough.
First, praise puts prayer on the highest plane and purges it of unworthy elements. When one comes to God just for things, to ask for this and to ask for that, prayer is cheapened and God is insulted. It cannot be said
too often that God is infinitely greater than all His gifts. If I never asked for anything and had Him, I would still have all. There is still a bad taste in my mouth from a book (I was about to say read, but no; I was spared so repulsive an ordeal) I lightly perused by a then famous movie star on prayer entitled How to Use God. Though crass and vulgar, it had the virtue of being honest in its egotistical shamelessness. A million times no. Prayer is not the cunning art of using God, subjecting Him to ones selfish ends in an effort to get out of Him what you want. Before prayer can be real prayer in a truly Biblical sense, it must be worship, and that means praise. If God never gave us anything in answer to prayer, and we had Him, we would still be rich beyond measure for time and for eternity; our cup would still be running over and our joy unspeakable. We do not come to God, primarily, to ask for things. We come to worship One who is infinitely adorable, whom to know is to love and whom not even eternity will afford sufficient opportunity to praise. The fact of Calvary alone and the redemption that springs from it, is a blessing so immeasurably great that it sets to ringing all the joy bells of the heart and places one in the position of an indebtedness and gratitude so overwhelming that praise for all eternity is not sufficient.
The saints, using the term in its Biblical sense, all down the ages have realized that when prayer conceived as supplication for certain ends, fails, then praise succeeds. Let us look yet deeper into the reasons. When we offer praise in the face of circumstances quite contrary to our happiness, we takes sides with God, who, though He may not have ordered our circumstances by His sovereign will, has, at least, permitted them.
The natural bent is to grumble and find fault, and pray from a purely human viewpoint for better conditions. But all things do work together for good to them that love God, so nothing is quite so in order as praise. When the dross has been removed from the gold, the refiner will remove the fire.
“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee… when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned…. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour” (Isa. 43:2,3). Job learned
the lesson. It would seem as though the furnace was heated seven times more than usual. But Job came forth unscathed. What, unscathed? Nay, transformed, one who could pray for those so-called friends who had so tormented the patriarch with their veiled accusations. It was not when he prayed for himself with all his pestilential sores that he was healed; but it was when he prayed for those who had caused him such
mental anguish in the midst of his physical torments, that the Lord turned his affliction.
Job had to come completely out of himself. Job died and was resurrected. “Though he slay me yet will I trust him,” cried the patriarch. And the end was glory beyond Job’s fondest hopes. It was not prayer, as
ordinarily conceived, that did the trick. It was something which in its deepest essence was praise. “Though he slay me yet will I trust him” – what a sweet incense before God. This is the language of praise.
The great mystics of the Church all speak of “the dark night of the soul” where the Cross is applied to the last vestiges of the self-life and the soul is liberated from secret self-seeking even in spiritual things and learns to love God for Himself alone. Now this really should be a normal thing in the Christian life. To love God for His gifts is a heinous inversion of values. To love a young lady for the money her wealthy father may have in the bank would be treachery, not love. It cannot be said too often. We must love God not for gifts but for Himself alone. Somehow for our good and for His praise He must get us to the point of loving Him. The process is often a long, painful one. But the stripping must be done. With Paul we must be conformed to the Saviour’s death in the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10). Let it be clearly understood that there is nothing like praise to carry us through this “dark night of the soul” where Christ the Lord is loved not even for the heaven which He promises, but for Himself alone.
Then, too, nothing has such power to turn our seeming defeats into glorious victories, as praise does. It is when the going is unutterably hard that praise carries us through. We naturally would give way to
discouragement and fear and doubt. But the triumph of faith comes when we sing in spite of it all. Paul in prison at Philippi with his back bleeding from many stripes, his feet in the stocks and his cell being the innermost dungeon, sings through it be midnight. The result – an earthquake, prison doors open, the prison keeper himself crying out: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” A revival, souls saved, Europe
entered into triumphantly with the Gospel, Paul and Silas more than conquerors through Him who loved them these were the results.
We may not like to admit it but the highest expression of faith is not prayer in its ordinary sense of petition, but prayer in its sublimest expression of praise. Praise, especially when from a purely human viewpoint there is every reason for doubt and despair, is faith in full bloom. The prophet gives us a classical Biblical example in the final words of the closing chapter of the closing chapter of the Book of Habakkuk where we read: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my
strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (Hab. 3:17-19).
A missionary was passing through a great trial. He had prayed and prayed and prayed, and all to no avail. One day he entered a lonely mission station and found these words in great letters on the front wall: Have
you tried praise? He was thunderstruck. It was like the voice of God. He had not tried praise. He would do so at once. Getting down on his knees, he offered hearty praise to God for his great trial and arose refreshed. To his amazement he found not long afterward that all was well. His great problem was solved; the trial was over; his joy was unspeakable. Praise had led to victory.
When one looks deeply into the matter one discovers that praise is the most effective means of bringing one in line with the purposes of God. By nature we stand at the opposite pole. We love faultfinding and
criticism and murmuring. It is our pride that lies at the roots of our grumbling. Now nothing more effectively than praise divorces us from this fleshly way and swings us over into the life of the new creation in Christ in whom, as we read in Romans six, we died to sin and were made alive unto God. It clinches the matter. The “old man” is an inverterate and utterly incurable grumbler. The new creation in Christ finds the genius of its life in praises to God. It is forever singing and come what may, gives thanks.
A pastor who desired to have a spiritual awakening in his church called the folk together for a week of praise. Each evening they were to meet for but one thing, namely, praise. At first it was hard going. The
brethren did not understand. It was prayer of the old begging order. Now back of such praying there can be much whining, well masked, of course. The pastor would say: “No, brother, you do not understand. It is praise that I am asking for.” By Wednesday a slight change had come. Thursday saw more praises.
Friday yet more. By Sunday his folk were in a new frame. A new day had dawned. Sunday was a day such as the church had never seen. It was genuine revival. God’s glory filled the temple. Believers returned to their first love. Hearts were melted. The water of life clear as crystal which proceeds from the throne and from the Lamb began to invade the church. It was wonderful. Praise had done it.
“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Ps. 22:3).
(The above material was taken from Prayer’s Deeper Secrets.)
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