Teaching Children the Joy of Praising God
"Praise" might not be an everyday word in your vocabulary. But we do it all the time. When was the last time you were excited about something and had to tell everyone about it? You were praising.
According to Dictionary.com, to "praise" means to "express approval or admiration…the offering of grateful homage in words or song, as an act of worship…" Praising something means telling everyone about how fantastic someone or something is.
One of the Hebrew words for praise is hālal. It is the word that gives us our English word "Hallelujah" and means to "boast about" or "celebrate."
Praise is celebrating WHO God is and WHAT He does. It means filling our minds with His greatness, love, power, and compassion. Praise is also a choice we make to celebrate God's goodness when life is at its worst.
Many people find it difficult to praise God. Often we don't understand what it means to praise God or we're not sure how we can praise God in difficult circumstances. Yet adoring God is a skill that all of us can learn. In fact, it can become so natural to us that praise will be our immediate response to both blessings AND trials.
Children, too, can learn to praise God in every circumstance. They can develop habits of thankfulness and gratitude in the face of difficulty that will help them face the challenges of life with grace and resilience.
Here are some things I have found helpful in teaching children the joy of praising God:
Praise for God flows best when we understand who He is and that we are precious to Him. Stories about the love and majesty of God are an effective way to help children (and adults) catch this sense of awe of God.
There are many good storybooks that tell Bible and modern-day stories that reveal God's goodness. Check out the selection at the Adventist Book Center.
Here's a story I sometimes tell to help children understand what it means to praise God:
“Let’s imagine what it will be like when we first go to heaven. When Jesus comes to this earth to take us home, everything will have been dark, ugly, and terrible here because Satan will have been in charge. But Jesus will take all of His children with Him to heaven.
He’ll pick us up from the earth and take us on the cloud with Him and the angels. You’ll get to see your angel. Won’t that be fun? Your very own big, bright, strong angel who has saved your life so many times. I think that meeting my angel will give me that same cozy, safe feeling I have when someone who loves me gives me a big bear hug.
Then after seven days, we’ll get to heaven. Imagine what it will look like:There will be huge walls made of gemstones. The Holy City will look like a sparkly rainbow. There are twelve gates and each on is a gigantic, iridescent pearl.
We’ll all stand in a giant square in front of the gate and Jesus will give us our crowns. But we’ll know we don’t deserve them anymore than a puppy deserves an ice cream cone after he tears up your favorite stuffed animal and pees on your bed and races through the house with muddy paws.
We’ll throw our crowns down at Jesus feet and worship Him. He will reach down and pick you up with strong but gentle and loving hands. You’ll know He loves you. You want to tell Him how much you love Him and how thankful you are that He loves you. The way you feel - that’s praise!”
2) I love You God, because…
Ask the children to help you finish the sentence: "I love you God, because…" You can have the kids fill out these cards to help them remember why they love our Heavenly Father.
3) Jumping Praise
Sometimes I ask the children to jump up every time they praise God. I call out a praise, such as, "Praise God for my daddy!" And they respond by jumping up and yelling, "Praise God for my daddy!"
This can get very noisy, but the kids love it and it's a lot of fun.
4) Balloon Praise
This activity works well if you have a group of children you are teaching. Split the children into teams of two and give each child a balloon. If you have kids that are old enough to write, have them write their praises on the balloons before they start the game. Then have the children bounce the balloons back and forth to each other while calling out things they love about God. Again, this can get noisy, but it will get the kids engaged and excited about praising God.
I also like to give the kids a small bag of balloons to take home afterward that will remind them of the joy of praising God. These cards can be printed and put into the baggies as an explanation for parents and a reminder for the kids.
5) Praise Bag Craft
Give each child a small paper bag to make into a "Praise Bag." They can decorate their bag with markers, glitter, stickers, and colorful paper. Have the children take the bag home and fill it with things that show what they love about God. Ideas of things to include:
- Pictures of family members to remind them to praise God for their family.
- Flowers or leaves to remind them to praise God for nature.
- A small pet toy to remind them to thank God for their pets.
- Bible promises about praising God.
- Their bag of balloons and this card.
6) Everyday Praise
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Praising God for the good things isn't too hard. Train the children to say "Praise the Lord" or to stop and pray a short prayer of thankfulness for every large and small blessing. It's never too early to develop the habit of gratefulness and praise in our daily lives.
Yet learning to praise God in the midst of trouble is much harder. We find it hard to look beyond our difficulties and trust God's goodness. Yet choosing gratitude is one of the most transformative habits possible. God uses it to rewire our habits of thought and build resilience in us.
Children's worries may seem inconsequential to us, but they are important opportunities for learning. When math is hard, or social anxiety is too much to handle, ask God for wisdom to know how to help the child trust God and learn to praise Him in the difficulty. Then help the child give their worries to God in prayer and thank Him for answering their request.
I have found that sometimes I need to give my children the words to say to help them express their trust and gratitude. This is a simple chart I made for our daughter when she was struggling with negativity about her math and music practice. We repeated the Scriptures and the affirmation before each math lesson or piano practice session. She got to add a smiley face for each session that she finished without complaining. Modify the chart with this editable version to use with your own child.
7) Learn to Praise God Yourself
I believe that praise is more something that is caught than taught. If you want to teach children the joy of praising God, then you must learn to live a life of gratitude and praise yourself. The following suggestions have helped many to develop the habit of praise and thankfulness:
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude for God's goodness and for the blessings of other people.
- Learn to say "Praise the Lord" aloud in every circumstance.
- Keep a gratitude journal where you regularly record the things for which you are grateful.
- Read and pray the Psalms to learn the language of praise.
- If possible, surround yourself with people who live a life of praise.
- Listen to praise music.
Take time to prayerfully read the following articles if you really want to cultivate a spirit of praise in your life:
- Seize the Power of Praise
- Benefits of Praising God
- Praise God in All Circumstances
- Blessings to Praise God For