Praise. A simple word, really. In human context it evokes an image of the warm glow which spreads from our face to our toes when someone notices and appreciates our efforts.
Praise can spruce up one's sagging esteem more effectively than a shopping spree, a successful diet, or a met deadline. We love genuine praise and with good reason. It tells us we are loved. It says who we are is important and that we make a difference in this world, i t reassures us that our work or choices have value, not only in our estimation (a fragile appraisal at times), but also in the eyes of others. Praise validates that part of us which is productive, creative, lovely. It can surprise us into an awareness of self we hadn't seen, through the eyes of another's perception of our gifts, skills, and attributes.
Lately I have been pondering praise. I know how receiving praise affects me (I get the most delicious warm fuzziest), and I am aware that I have innumerable opportunities to bestow the gift of praise on others. It pains me to think how many joys I diverted by silence. But what I've been mulling over specifically has to do with God.
You see, we are called to praise Him. Over and over—urged, reminded, commanded, invited. Throughout Scripture it is demonstrated, modeled by countless fellow believers like David, Hannah, Mary, Paul, Noah, and Elizabeth. We are to praise God at all times, under all circumstances, with all our being. If that sounds like a tall order, bear in mind this life is, after all, a prep school for the one to come, in which we will each be specialists in praise.
Just a simple study on praise opens endless vistas of information. There are, by my count, 284 references to praise in the concordance. And the texts are found in 31 of the 66 books of the Bible. From sheer numbers alone, we can conclude this subject is one God cared deeply about teaching us.
Examples of praise include thanksgiving, psalms, confession, commendation, glory, and excellency.
Did you know there were so many kinds of praise? Or, for that matter, that there are so many reasons to praise? To bless or declare blessed, stretch out the hand, confess, glorify or sing.
In only a brief study on praise, one's mind is filled with reasons to praise God and a variety of ways to do so. Take a concordance for a moment and look up a few texts in one small section on praise. Read the words of each verse aloud and let them travel back into the recesses of your mind. Do they not touch a spark of wonder and elicit a new sense of direction for thanksgiving?
Take for example, a random text, Isaiah 63:7 (NIV), "I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel."
How that jogs one's memory of personal kindnesses and deeds God has shared! It stirs us to come to Him in thanksgiving for such memories. In a chain reaction, faith is energized by recognition of God's providence in the past. What tremendous benefits praise offers!
From the beginning of time, song has captured our deepest emotions and raised our highest expressions of worship. From the angel's adoration to the lisping notes of a toddler's first song, melody has played a role in offered praise to our Creator. Most of us love music. When we raise our voices in song around the house, in the shower, as we garden or fold the clothes, these notes offer our simple homage to Him who loves us.
I once was a house guest in the home of a woman who cooked, cleaned up after, and generally cared for as many as a dozen people at a time. Despite the ensuing stress of uneven schedules, an incessantly ringing phone, personality conflicts and huge work load, Lois often broke into song while kneading bread or scrubbing the bathroom. She hummed while washing dishes and whistled as she vacuumed. One day I asked her how she could be so cheerful under the circumstances. "I just think about Jesus and how much He loves me, and my singing keeps me focused on Him. It's my way of expressing love. It keeps me happy most of the time."
There are as many things to praise God for as there are people on this planet. We customarily thank Him for His protection, mercy, compassion, and the myriad provisions He makes for us. We are thankful for His death on the cross, and grateful He is our intercessor in Heaven. What else can we appreciate and revere Him for? How about for His sense of humor, awesome mind, attention to detail, unchangeableness, fairness, healing love, exquisite use of beauty, perfect timing.
Stretch your imagination.
There mustbe dozens of ideas you can add to this short list. We rarely contemplate broadening our praise list!
Now, let's be frank for a moment. Say this article on praise has come to your attention during a particularly tough time. Your husband is under serious flak from one of his churches for what is perceived as weak leadership. Your daughter is failing Algebra, has a crush on a boy four years older, and has shut you out emotionally. You just learned your mother has been hospitalized for CAT scans and a series of diagnostic procedures. Pressure at work has been building for weeks. Prayer is much like breakfast these days —experienced on the run, when you have it all. And in the midst of all this, you are reminded not to forget to praise God! For what? you might ask.
Good question. Did you ever feel like growling or wailing in the midst of your troubles when someone brightly said, "Your car was totalled? Praise the Lord! He must have a reason .. " Okay, maybe it was something far less traumatic, but you get the point. I remember thinking at the height of such a season in my life, "Hey, isn't it hypocritical to praise God under such circumstances? Thanks for allowing me to feel this pain? I praise You for complicating my life ... " What I felt toward God and His cheery servant was far removed from praise.
But herein lies the mystery, and dare I say, magic of praise.
For it is precisely in the process of praising our King that change begins. We are to exalt God; He deserves our adoration. We are to praise for it gradually changes our focus from our anxiety and stress to His majesty and loveliness. He invites us to join our voices to the unnumbered chorus, notbecause He needs our particular brand of praise to complete His symphony, but to unlock the gifts contained for us in such an act of worship. In the same way a crying child's sobs are turned to absorbed wonder as a parent opens a coat pocket to reveal something special, our frustrations and fears are forgotten in the captivating process of revering our Father.
Cynics may say mouthing words of praise will not restore one's mangled automobile. They would be right. Honoring God does not automatically heal the broken relationship, save a needed job, pay soaring medical bills, or help us figure out what to do next. On the other hand, the peace of mind enveloping one who turns from chaos to praise is priceless. One can afford to wait and see about the car.
Life is something special! Praise God!
Living is not merely letting time slip by. Real life and living is being in tune with the Creator and letting the love, peace and creative power of the Omnipotent throb in your soul. No one can find life entirely rich and satisfying until he can feel himself one with the Infinite. When we identify ourselves with Jesus Christ so that His will becomes our will and His work becomes our work, then His life will truly become our life and we can say with the apostle Paul, "For to me to live is Christ."