True praise: misunderstood and misused

C.S. Lewis, the famous Christian author, once wrote how amazed he was to discover that of all the prayers recorded in the Bible, 75% were prayers of praise. He admitted that it was much easier to make requests of God, ask forgiveness, or even offer thanks, but praise was something he rarely did. After his discovery he made the decision to change his prayers, because if God is truly worthy of praise, we His children should praise Him in every aspect of our lives.

Psalm 145:3 says, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unfathomable.” It’s unfathomable – our limited brains are incapable of grasping just how immense God’s greatness is, and just how worthy He is of praise. In Revelation 5, John the apostle saw ten thousand times ten thousand angels shouting and declaring in one voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” In Isaiah 6, the seraphim in God’s throne room cover their eyes and feet with their wings shouting out loudly, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, the earth is filled with His glory!” A great amount of praising and singing and shouting is going on in heaven constantly, every day. But what about us? Do we give Him praise only when things work out the way we like? Or do we praise Him in all things, even before we see the answer to our problems?

A guy with a grudge against God once told me, “God is so full of pride, why should I follow someone who orders people to praise Him?” His small vision imagined God as an ordinary, flawed man who needed to earn the favor of others. God doesn’t have to earn anything, prove anything, or even save us from the consequences of our sin. God created all things, and without Him we are nothing. But something powerful happens to us when we praise Him. God doesn’t require our praise to inflate His ego – first of all, God is incapable of the sin of pride (or any sin for that matter), and second of all, no amount of praise would be enough to repay Him for all He has done. He really, truly is worthy of all praise.

Psalm 22 says that God inhabits the praises of Israel, and that means if we lived in a constant state of praising God, it would cause Him to dwell in us. That’s His promise. Wherever God’s presence is, His light and life are there as well. True praise isn’t singing Christian music 24 hours a day or shouting hallelujah like a religious fanatic. Praise is not done for others to see, or to gratify our flesh (like what happens so frequently in churches today). It’s a personal expression of faith in God that can be seen in the attitudes we choose, what we say and do, and by directing our minds to constantly return to Him for nourishment throughout the day… every day. Choosing to show kindness to someone as a means of honoring God, even when our kindness is unlikely to be returned, is an act of praise. Rejecting the emotional pull of anger or pride and choosing thankfulness to God instead, is an act of praise as well. Determining that His promises will come true to such a degree that we act as if they’ve already been granted, is another act of praise. Praise is much more than a church ritual. It’s a way of living out our faith.

Paul and Silas knew the power of praise when they were shackled in the prison dungeon in Philippi. Instead of being filled with fear or anxiousness, they chose to consider their persecution as an honor to endure for their Lord, and in that filthy cell with hands and feet in chains and their backs bleeding, they sang songs of praise to God with all their hearts. God was inhabiting their praise, and in the middle of the night, their chains fell off, the doors swung open and a great fear fell upon their jailor. That night the jailor and his family were saved, and the church in Philippi was strengthened. Praising God is not repetitive songs or religious words or jumping up and down in an emotional state of excitement. It’s a time of bonding with Him and enjoying His presence as He dwells in us and sets us on fire for His glory.

…it happened, when the trumpet players and singers made one sound to praise and give thanks to the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and all the instruments of music and praised the Lord saying, “For He is good and His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud. And the priests were not able to stand in order to serve because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.   2 Chronicles 5:13-14, MEV

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