In Psalm 103:1, David calls himself to a deep expression of worship. “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”1 Praise is a part of worship that the Bible invites us to engage in continually. However, it’s easy to relegate it to a small part of our worship services, usually the singing. In the previous articles, we explored the contours of the why and how of worship. The purpose of this article is to help us live a life of continual praise.
Praise, though similar to thanksgiving, is rooted in who God is and what He does apart from the immediate gifts He has given us. God is so great, so good, and so amazing that He is inherently worthy of our adoration. But, when Psalm 103 commands us to “praise the Lord,” it brings up another question concerning why we should praise God.
Is it because God needs it? No, it is not that God needs our praises, but He knows that we need to praise Him! Humans are wired for praise, and it brings a certain kind of fulfillment. Some channel their praise to sports teams, actors, musicians, children, and so on, but this praise is ultimately hollow and leaves us unfulfilled. God has instructed us to praise Him not for some ego trip but for our own good. One of the beautiful aspects of God’s kingdom is that He makes arrangements to give back to us whatever we give to Him—with dividends! The more we praise Him, the more we experience His blessing and fulfillment.
Another amazing and beneficial characteristic of praise is that there is power in praise. When we stop trying to fight our battles and begin to praise the God who has said He will fight for us, God is free to release His power and provisions on our behalf. Praise will bring victory, power, deliverance, and blessing. When Israel was surrounded by the enemy, the first thing Jehoshaphat did was to get the choir to sing praises to God (2 Chron. 20). Praise was the conduit God used to defeat the enemy.
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS TO PRAISE?
There are many ways to praise the Lord, but the following list is a good place to start.
Pray through the names and characteristics of God. Old Testament praise centered on the names of God. “I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good” (Ps. 54:6). “Oh, magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together” (Ps. 34:3). The Hebrews praised God’s name because a person’s name was indicative of his or her character. In Exodus 15:26, the Lord said, “You can call me ‘Jehovah-Raphah’ because I am the Lord who heals you!” In Genesis 22, God revealed Himself as “Jehovah-Jireh” when He wanted to show that He would provide for His people. God once gave His name as “Jehovah-Shammah,” which means “the Lord is there” (Ezek. 48:35). God was revealing His omnipresence—He will never leave us or forsake us! When we pray to God, we can focus on the characteristics and names we find most relevant to us and beautiful about Him.
Sing about the glories of God. Throughout Scripture, singing is an integral part of praise. The psalmist invites us to “sing to the Lord a new song” (Ps. 96:1). Singing is prominent throughout Revelation (5:9; 14:3; 15:3), but singing isn’t the only music we can make to praise God. The book of Psalms speaks of many musical expressions of praise. Psalm 150:3-5 invites the listener to praise God with trumpets, harp, lyre, tymbrel, dancing, strings, pipe, and cymbal. Music is a powerful instrument for praising God.
Share with others what has been done by God. We can praise God by telling others what He has done for us. As we share what God has done, people start to notice. They are drawn to God and His beauty as He is uplifted through our praise. Psalm 66:5 depicts a praise invitation to the peoples of the earth: “Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!”
Consecrate yourself to God. We can praise Him not only in words but by consecrating all that we are and have to Him. Our whole lives can be, as Paul puts it in Romans 12:1, “a living sacrifice.” Each day we can dedicate our plans, family, work, art, studies, and our entire existence as praise to God.
WHEN SHOULD WE PRAISE?
When we fully realize the amazing nature of God, the question of when to praise starts to become clear. As the last point showed, our whole lives can be praise when we intentionally seek to honor God with all we are and all we do. However, if you are anything like me, you are starting to ask some practical questions: “What about the hard times? How can you praise when everything is going wrong?” Habakkuk gives us his remedy for times when everything is going wrong: “Though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17b, 18).
Although we, like Job, may be tempted in times like these to curse God and wish to die (Job 2:9), we can focus on the goodness of the God who saves us. In Jesus, we have a reason for hope that outshines all hardship. When we praise Him, sometimes our circumstances will be changed, but even when they are not, our perspective will as God gives us strength to live through our pain.
George was nearly blind and deaf, but he never missed a worship service. I once asked, “George, why do you come to church? You can’t hear or see anything.” He replied enthusiastically, “I don’t need to hear and see to praise the Lord, serve Him, and tell the whole universe that I am on God’s side. My heart is full of the things of God, and they spill over in praise, adoration, and thanksgiving.” We don’t need a tongue to praise the Lord, although it is helpful. What we need is a heart full of the things of God.
1 Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations come from the New International Version.
S. Joseph Kidder is a professor of church growth and leadership at the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.