First Principles Part Eight: Praise

PRAISE IS A MIGHTY weapon and the sign of a healthy Christian. In fact, it facilitates access to God, enlarging our perception of Him. He must always be our focus regardless of the circumstances. Merriam-Webster defines praise as 1 a : an expression of approval : commendation; b : worship; 2a : value, merit.(1) Paul wrote, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes. 5:16-18). Praise and worship signify a profoundly relational act in which believers (individually and corporately) convey reverence and adoration to God. It is meant to move our focus from self to God. Praise and worship should be faithful expressions of a pervasive and implicit orientation or worldview where all of life is offered up in honor to God. Paul tells us, “…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1).

Why Is it Important to Praise God?

Praise Lifts Our Spirit

Praising God lifts our spirits and allows us to soar as if on the wings of eagles. David wrote, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken” (Psa. 62:5-6). Praise is obviously a potent and restorative tool. Christ draws near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. When our spirit is wounded, we must turn to God in praise and worship, finding refuge and strength in Him. He understands our needs and weaknesses. Paul said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes. 5:16-18). I am not talking about praising and giving alms to God for evil and sickness and death; instead, I am saying remain joyful no matter what is happening because it is through Him that we shall overcome. Never become bitter over life’s circumstances. Instead, continue to praise the Lord. It is important to tell God that we believe His Word regardless of the situation.

Praise Helps Us Experience God’s Presence

God is ever-present, yet we do not always “feel” Him close to us. This has to do with our attentiveness to God rather than God’s unavailability. We work at experiencing His “aliveness” through praise and worship. The more familiar we are with Him, the greater impact He has on us. Our awareness of God must be grounded in admiration, honor, reverence, fear, affection, and understanding. When we don’t feel God’s presence is when we need to praise Him the most. To understand God fully, we need to recognize that His drawing near to creation stems from his being distinct from creation but not far removed. He relates to this world not because of a deficiency in Him; rather, God draws near out of the abundance of who He is. His transcendence distinguishes Him from the created order and puts things in their right perspective.

There is a difference between saying “God is everywhere,” and saying “God is here.” A.W. Tozer writes, “To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the program.”(2) [italics mine] While in the wilderness, David cried out to God, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands” (Psa. 63:1-4). We must constantly run after God regardless of the circumstances.

Praise Enlarges our Understanding of God

We cannot help our inclination to grope for meaning and purpose in life. But asking God why does not always yield an answer. He does not necessarily inform us of the reason for everything that happens. Indeed, His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Yet, He is not a complete mystery to us. We can know God—His will and attributes, the basis for His wrath, His plan for redemption and restoration—through studying the Word of God and seeking guidance and wisdom through the Holy Spirit. We can rest assured that His choices are never arbitrary, but are rooted in righteous judgment and unconditional love. When we choose to trust Him and praise Him in all circumstances, we enlarge our heart toward a deeper understanding.

Paul tells us to be filled with the Spirit of God, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with our heart (Gal. 5:18-19). He said to the church at Colossae, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). It is through praising God that we become a community of believers united in common understanding. We cannot enjoy complete salvation without first understanding the heart of the Father. God is God, and beside Him there is no other. We praise Him for what He did and we worship Him for who He is. The psalmist wrote, “For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm” (Psa. 47:7).

Praise Reveals Solutions We Cannot See

An offshoot of our constant search for reason in a situation is we often cannot see a way out. After all, “reason” and “wisdom” are not the same thing. Spirituality, which is another term for our ability to “see” God, is critical to peace. It grants us vision beyond mere human effort. Psalm 73:16-17 says, “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Praise changes relationships in ways we do not understand: it easily flows from the heart of one who has a relationship with God. Genuine praise is comprised of a rational and an emotional element. With our minds, we must understand who God is, as revealed in His Word. Jesus “…opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Matt. 24:45). Specifically, Jesus shared with the disciples the importance of His death and resurrection, the necessity of preaching Jesus to the Gentiles, and the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Moses wrote, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deut. 29:29). This helps us understand that we must “take it on faith” that God has His reasons for all that He allows, even if we cannot see them. God reveals more truth when we rightly worship and praise Him no matter the situation. The Bible contains countless examples of God sharing His will with us, but we cannot expect to be privy to His every thought or intention. We don’t get the privilege of receiving more truth until we respond rightly in faith to that with which God has already entrusted to us. I believe this is true because knowledge is not the goal; obedience is. In fact, God loves obedience more than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22).

Praise Helps Bring God’s Blessings to Heart

God is truly worthy of praise. Praise is faith being expressed toward Him. It is one of the languages of faith. It opens the door to God’s blessings, and it dissipates worry and fear. Praising and exalting Jesus keeps us stayed on Him. Isaiah wrote, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock” (Isa. 26:3-4). We praise God for His attributes—unconditional love, sovereignty, wisdom, power, greatness, goodness, compassion, faithfulness, holiness, His unchanging nature, and more. Singing praises unites our heart with our brain—the totality of our whole being, joining our mental, emotional, and physical self. Steve Siler writes, “I recently read a fascinating report stating that the heart rates of choir members actually come into sync when the are performing together… a wonderful metaphor for unity in the body of Christ.”(3)

Praise Enlists God’s Protection

We praise God in times of trouble, setting our eyes on the breakthrough. Praise from the heart brings God’s presence: a consuming fire that burns up the chaff. Praise and worship prepare the way of the Lord. Second Chronicles 20:22-23 says, “And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.”

Luke wrote, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened” (Acts 16:25-26). Not even imprisonment kept these mighty men of God from praising Him. The writer of Hebrews said, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb. 13:15). Praise does not come naturally to the human mind. Our feelings often stop us from praise and worship. But Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Praise Breaks The Chains of Bondage and Sets Captives Free

It is through praise that we can break down every stronghold. God is the one who saves us. David wrote, “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies” (Psa. 18:1-3). In Exodus 15, the Israelites sang to the LORD, saying, “…for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” (Exo. 15:1). They continued to praise Him, “Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power, your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy” (15:6). In this regard, we acknowledge with our lips that there is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.

Steven Barto, B.S. Psy., M.T.S.

References
(1) Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/praise
(2) A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1948), 9.
(3) Steve Siler, “The Significance of Praise and Worship,” The Care and Counsel Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 794.

Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture references contained herein are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

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