‘Praise and worship’ is a phrase we often use to refer to a time of singing in our meetings. Some people tend to call the fast numbers ‘praise’. Is this consistent with what the Bible says about ‘praise’?
What is praise?
While the dictionary defines ‘praise’ as ‘express warm approbation of, commend the merits of, extol the attributes of’, Hebrews 13:15 says praise is ‘the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.’ When we confess Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, we enter into fellowship with Him, come to know Him and experience His amazing work in our lives. Praise is the fruit that follows – the natural outcome of experiencing God and living in fellowship with Him.
When we praise God, we commend His countless attributes – His goodness, His greatness, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His omniscience, His love, His holiness, His faithfulness – and the ways in which He demonstrates these attributes in our lives, like Isaiah who says: ‘I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which He is to be praised” (63:7)
Praising God is no different from praising other people. The only difference is the object of our praise. After eating a particularly delicious meal or listening to unusually beautiful music or watching some extraordinary cricket, most people would express their appreciation through their words or actions. It is hard to sit quiet, listless and scowling when you have encountered something wonderful. Similarly, praising God is an expression of our enjoyment in Him.
What praise is not
Praise is not flattery.
There is a lot of teaching and even some song lyrics which suggest that when we praise God, He sends His blessings. But we cannot earn God’s blessings by the praise we give Him. God blesses whom He chooses.While safety from enemies (2 Sam.22:4), many fearing and trusting the Lord (Psa.40.3) and the display of God’s splendour (Isa.61:3) have followed praise, I am yet to find a single Bible reference where God promises that blessings will follow when we praise Him.
Our God deserves praise for who He is and what He has done, not because He will give us something when we praise Him. When we enjoy God and praise Him, the ultimate end is the glory of God and not our benefit.
Praise is not a function of how we feel.
No matter how we feel, we can experience God. If I am oppressed, God is able to release me from oppression (Psa.74:21). If I have sinned but repent, I can experience His forgiveness (Psa32:5). If I am feeling lousy because of some failure but look to our compassionate God, I can experience His comfort (2 Cor.1:3-4). If my soul is downcast and disturbed, I can still praise Him (Psa.42:5). If I am angry or hurt because of what someone said or did, I can hand over my pain to Him who said: ‘Vengeance is Mine. I will repay’ and find healing. If you are facing battle, you can praise God who trains and prepares you for war (Psa.144:1). Peter exhorts: ‘If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.’ (1 Pet.4:16). Jeremiah says: ‘Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for You are the One I praise.’ (Jer.17:14). Notice that Jeremiah does not wait to be healed or saved before He praises. He praises in the present.
Feeling terrible is no reason not to praise God. He is still available for fellowship and can take care of the unpleasant circumstances, feelings and thoughts. To praise someone, we need to get out of ourselves and start thinking about the praiseworthy attributes of that person. But that requires us to look away from the storm, the sin and whatever other matters are causing trouble and look to Him. When we do, He gives us the ‘garment of praise, instead of a spirit of despair’ (Isa.61:3).
Praise is not a function of people or distractions around us or good music.
The ambience helps, no doubt. But it cannot determine what comes from the heart. In Psalm 138.1, the Psalmist says ‘before the ‘gods’ I will sing your praise’. My Bible indicates that Psalm 34 was sung when David was pretending to be insane before King Abimelech. Certainly not pleasant circumstances, but still time to praise the Lord.
Praise is not limited to certain types of church music.
The songs we sing when we gather may be fast, slow, old or new, but they can become praise in our mouths if the lyrics praise God and we mean what we sing. Also,praise does not have to be limited to musical expression. You can speak, write or sing praise. You can praise a person to his face or tell others about the person. So, when you tell someone that God has washed your sins away, healed you or taught you something and tell them that He can do the same for them if they go to Him, you are praising God to that person. Youare saying: ‘I have tasted the Lord. He is good. Taste and see that the Lord is good.’
Delighting God with Praise
God is delighted in the praises of His people. Isn’t it incredible that the God who gives us breath and has the power to take it away, enjoys our praise? Isaiah 43:21 and Jeremiah 13:11 indicate that God’s people were formed by Him for Himself that they may proclaim His praise. Ephesians 1.11,12 also says: ‘In Him we were also chosen… that we… might be for the praise of His glory.’We were created and chosen for His praise. God seems to delight in our expressions of praise, because He loves us – like parents delight in the chuckles, expressions and actions of their children.
We can mouth the words, close our eyes, raise our hands and say ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Praise the Lord’ at all the appropriate times; but if our words are not meant, our songs are not praise. They are just empty words and musical notes.
For our praise to be meaningful, it is absolutely crucial that we know and experience God and His goodness. I may have heard from X that you sing well. But if I haven’t heard you sing, I may tell you or a third person that I have heard that you sing well. But I cannot truly praise your singing until I have experienced your singing.
Similarly, unless you experience – taste – God and His attributes, you cannot praise Him. Seek Him and experience Him every day. One result will be overflowing praise.
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