Cultivating a Heart of Celebration

Cultivating a Heart of Celebration

It is amazing what God can do when we present our requests to Him with praise and thanksgiving.

Mary Barrett works as an associate pastor at Stanborough Park Church in Watford, England. She is married to a pastor and has two grown-up daughters. Mary has authored 5 books, and when she gets time, she plans to write another one! Mary enjoys spending time with family and friends, walking, swimming, cross-stitching and gardening.


In the past, when we had a problem in our family, my initial response was to panic and pray. My husband’s response has always been to praise and pray! However, I thought he was taking things just a little too far when he wanted to thank God for the bully at school who was intimidating our eldest daughter, Rima.

Rima has always been small for her age. Kathy, the girl who was bullying Rima, was big, tough, and rough. She had such a reputation that everyone was frightened of her. No one wanted to mess with Kathy. And this was the girl my husband wanted me to thank God for? To be honest, I wanted to forget about the praising and jump straight to the praying bit. However, deep in my heart, I knew the time had come for my prayers to change. I needed to praise as much as I petitioned. So that’s what we did. Jonathan and I thanked God for the bully who was causing Rima such anguish and praised God that He could do something about it.

It was not easy. Most days Rima went to school crying and came home crying. And every day, Jonathan and I would fall to our knees, depending on God to remedy the situation. But we were not prepared for the way in which God responded to our praise. A few days later, Rima came home full of smiles. The problem had been solved.

Kathy had been showing a photograph to the class; the picture was of her cousin Jodie and her Aunt Sarah. As Rima looked at the picture, she cried out, “But that is my cousin and my aunt, too!” We found out that Rima and Kathy are cousins. My husband’s sister and Kathy’s uncle are Jodie’s parents. (The amazing part of this story is that my husband is a pastor, and we had only recently moved to a tiny village in England where his sister’s ex-partner lived.)

After that, Rima never had a problem at school, since Kathy didn’t beat up on family. No one else gave Rima a hard time either, because the school bully was now Rima’s bodyguard against other bullies.

That was the first experi­ence I had with what can happen when we praise God, release a situation into His hands, and depend to­tally upon Him to work. It is amazing what God can do when we present our requests to Him with praise and thanks­giving.


In the Old Testament, the word praise (as defined in Vine’s Expository Dictionary) is described as “glory, praise, song of praise­worthy deeds.” In the New Testament, the diction­ary says praise is “primarily a tale, a narration.” Praise, therefore, means to talk or sing about the greatness of God.

Praise means talking to God about what excites us about Him. It means opening our hearts and telling God what we like, love, adore, and admire about Him. It is telling God that we feel good about Him and value and appreciate Him.

Praise is those special moments in our lives when we take our eyes off ourselves and completely and ut­terly give devotion and honor to God. It is opening our hearts, bending our knees, bowing our heads, or raising our hands when we acknowledge His greatness, gra­ciousness, and goodness. True praise is when we yearn to focus on the attributes of God in our conversations with Him, rather than focusing on what we want from Him.

Praise is a powerful experience where we can feel the most incredible joy throbbing inside us and at the same time feel the most incredible ease. It is a time when our relationship with God can be as it was intended­ when the created worship the Creator.


Praise allows us to experience God’s presence in our lives. Psalm 22:3 declares, “Yet You are holy, O You are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” God inhabits the praises of Israel. In other words, God literally lives among those who praise Him! That is an incredible thought, isn’t it? When we approach God with words of heartfelt praise, we are entering into the very presence of God and inviting Him to enter our world. And when God enters into our world, Satan, who cannot tolerate God’s presence, exits.


One of the great things about praising God is that in His graciousness and generosity, God blesses us when we praise Him. Let’s look at how praising God can make an impact in different areas of our lives.

1.   Praise keeps our relationship with God vibrant. Psalm 50:23 says, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 130 tells us, “If we keep the Lord ever before us, allowing our hearts to go out in thanksgiving and praise to Him, we shall have continual freshness in our religious life. Our prayers will take the form of a conversation with God, as we would talk with our friends. He will speak His myster­ies to us personally. Often there will come to us a sweet joyful sense of the presence of Jesus.”

I love that quote. When we make an effort to praise God, our relationship with God will be fresh and vibrant. We will find that we will have more and more to praise Him for. That makes our relationship with God exciting; it will not be routine or predictable, but it will be all that we long for it to be.

2.   Praise limits what Satan can do in our lives. Psalm 8:2 tells us, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” If Satan is bombard­ing your life, the best thing you can do is praise God­ and keep on praising Him until Satan flees and you see a change in your circumstances. By praising God, you are declaring in a powerful way that you trust God no matter what. Praise is the strongest weapon you can use to fight the spiritual battle against the devil.

When you are going through a tough time, don’t keep focusing on what Satan is doing in your life by telling everyone about it. Instead, talk about what you believe God can do for you. Praise God that He is the One who ultimately calls the shots, that He has the greatest pow­er over your life, and that no one or nothing can stand up against Him. Be determined to praise God, read His Word, and believe in Him no matter what. God, who has 1,000 ways of dealing with just one of your problems, will provide you with the perfect solution.

3. Praise makes a dif­ference in our attitudes. In Psalm 138:2, we read, “I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.”

Doesn’t this scripture just make you want to shout “Praise the Lord”? This pow­erful verse reminds us that God is exalted above anything we will go through—that He is more powerful than any disappointment, any struggle, or anything that Satan is using to keep you from trusting God.

Recently something happened to one of our daughters, and I remember feeling disheartened because she was hurting spiritually and emotionally. For several mornings I awoke with an overwhelming sense of sad­ness. I wanted to make right that which was wrong, but I wasn’t sure what to do. One morning, I decided to let God deal with the problem. So I praised Him! I praised God that He is a God of justice, that He will never let my daughter down, that He is able to turn a bad experi­ence into something good. After I praised God, not only did I feel better, I also wanted to forgive those who had caused my daughter’s pain. Praising God changes our attitudes.

4. Praise frees us from worry. In Philippians 4:19, we read, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns...a sense of God’s whole­ness...will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” (The Message Bible).

Satan uses worry to bind us so that we cannot ful­ly experience the goodness of God. Praise releases us from that. Praise God that He is able to supply everything you need and more! Praise God that He is everything you need! But beware: your praise needs to be sincere. Praise is not a tool to get what we want from God. Our hearts genuinely and honestly need to be praising Him.

Don’t let your worries get you down. Years after Thomas Edison’s death, his desk was opened, and a card was found among his papers. It read, “When down in the mouth, remember Jonah; he came out all right.” Whatever your worries, keep praising God and you will come out all right, too!

5. Praise makes us more Christlike. Romans 8:29 tells us that God desires that we should be like His Son; indeed, that should be the first thing we long for in our lives. We were created to become like Christ. But often our primary goal is power, prosperity, or popularity. Praise makes us pay attention to what is important: God and all that He represents. As we praise, we change. Listen to this: “One of the things that I have noticed happening in my life is that when I worship God for one of His attri­butes, I see that attribute released into my life.”1

If you would like to improve some area of your life, praise God in that area. As you do so, you will change. Whatever you worship God for will be cultivated in your life.


Philippians 4:4 urges us to “Rejoice [delight, gladden yourselves in Him] in the Lord always. Again I say, Rejoice” (Amplified Bible).

A family had two primary school-aged children. One of the lads was always grumpy and complaining—a real pessimist. The other was always bright and cheerful and could never see anything wrong with anything—a real optimist. The par­ents were a bit worried about how the boys would cope in life. One day the father decided to purchase every popular toy he could find, and then he gave them to his grumpy, pessimistic son. The father also had a truckload of manure delivered to the shed for the optimist son. That afternoon, the parents found the pessimistic boy sitting in his room sobbing because he was afraid he would break the toys if he played with them. When the parents went out to the shed, they saw the optimistic boy having a great time burrowing around in the pile of manure. “What are you doing?” the dad asked. The son responded, “Oh, Dad, I just know there’s a horse in here somewhere!”

What would happen in our lives if we had the same kind of dedication and determination to praise God in everything? Make a decision to rejoice in the Lord al­ways. Remember that whatever you are going through, God can use your struggles to fulfill the plans He has for your life. Rejoice in that! Rejoice in Him—His love, care, and compassion toward you and His ability to bring good from the problems that plague your life.

When Job went through that awful time of darkness, he was determined to keep praising God. He praised God for being good, loving, and all-powerful; for noticing every detail of his life; for being in control; for having a plan for his life; and for the fact that God would save him. Praise didn’t make Job’s ordeal end immediately, but it did help him to keep focusing on God.


1. Pause and praise. “Seven times a day and all day long do I praise You because of Your righteous decrees” (Ps. 119:164). Praise God from the moment you get out of bed, and then look for moments throughout the day to focus on God.

2. Scripture cards or praise cards. Have a few praise books or scripture cards scattered around your house. Whenever you get a chance, glance at the cards and use them to praise God. Try keeping a jar of Scrab­ble tiles handy; throughout the day, pick up a letter and praise God for one of His attributes that begins with that letter. Aim to empty the jar by the end of the day.

3. Praise and petition. Matthew 8:2 and 9:18 are just two Bible passages that describe how people worshipped or praised God. At times it is good for us to bow on our knees or prostrate ourselves before God.

4. God’s names. Make a list of God’s many names and focus on them. Each name tells us about a different aspect of His character; select the name that matches the peti­tion you are going to make.

5. As you read your Bible, look for things for which you can offer praise. Praise God with scripture. Stop every time you come to a verse or passage for which you can praise God. It makes Bible reading come alive, and it is a great way to adore God. 


If you ever struggle to praise God, remember Ellen G. White’s counsel: “Shall all our devotional exercises con­sist in asking and receiving? Shall we be always thinking of our wants and never of the benefits we receive? Shall we be recipients of His mercies and never express our gratitude to God, never praise Him for what He has done for us? We do not pray any too much, but we are too sparing of giving thanks. If the loving-kindness of God called forth more thanksgiving and praise, we would have far more power in prayer. We would abound more and more in the love of God and have more bestowed to praise Him for. You who complain that God does not hear your prayers, change your present order and mingle praise with your petitions. When you consider His good­ness and mercies you will find that He will consider your wants. Pray, pray earnestly and without ceasing, but do not forget to praise.”2 


1Joyce Meyers, The Battle Belongs to the Lord, 70.

2 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, 5:317.

Mary Barrett works as an associate pastor at Stanborough Park Church in Watford, England. She is married to a pastor and has two grown-up daughters. Mary has authored 5 books, and when she gets time, she plans to write another one! Mary enjoys spending time with family and friends, walking, swimming, cross-stitching and gardening.