How Can We Practice Praise in a Way That Will Change Our Lives?
By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
I’m really enjoying spending time with God in praise and worship. But I know there’s more! Can you give me some direction?
Psalm 150 may be just what you need! Let’s read it together:
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
Psalm 150 is the last psalm recorded in King David’s book of songs. I believe God made that decision for a very important reason—Psalm 150 is a final lesson on how to praise and worship Him.
I nicknamed Psalm 150 the “journalism” psalm of praise. Every journalist knows that there are six questions that must be answered in successful reporting. They are:
As we incorporate these six questions into our praise and worship—through Psalm 150 and many others—we will bless the heart of God. In turn, He will bless our hearts as well!
Who? The Lord
First, our praise must always be focused upon the Lord. He is the reason for our existence, our Creator and Savior, the One who leads us and loves us. He is the only One worthy of praise.
Along those lines, the prophet Isaiah wrote in 42:8; “I will not share my glory.” God demands that we save our praise for Him alone.
That means the personality of any praise leader must be de-emphasized, no matter how gifted the singer or speaker. Theologian and preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote: “We can’t at the same time show how clever we are and how great God is.”
Great talent and charisma may be helpful elsewhere, but it can be a great detriment in worship. If people are mesmerized by the leader, focusing on God is minimized.
When I prepare to worship God, it helps me to spend some time in prayer first, praising Him for who He is and thanking Him for what He has done in my life. I have to deliberately set my mind on Him.
What? The Adoration of God
Praise, in its essence, is the adoration of God.
Worship is simply telling God and others how wonderful He is. It is sharing what He’s like, what He’s done for us, and what He will do in the future.
Praise is such a natural function in the universe that when the Pharisees told Jesus to tell His disciples and followers to stop praising Him, Jesus said that if they stopped, the very stones would take up the slack and begin to praise Him (Luke 19:37-40).
Let me give you three parameters that will help define what praise is:
1. We Praise God When We Recite His Works and Call Attention to His Almighty Power
One of the best reasons for studying the Old Testament is so that we can recite in praise what we learn and experience about Him (Psalm 77).
God gave David such a revelation of the importance and power of praise on earth that the king of Israel set aside and dedicated an army of 4,000 Levites whose sole occupation was to praise the Lord. They did nothing else (2 Chronicles 23:5).
Let me show you a wonderful way to praise God when you get up in the morning. I’ve practiced recognizing who He is and what He’s done every day for many years—He is worthy of our first and very best praise!
Lord, I want to praise You for a few moments. You are the God who always was, who will always be, and who exists as three persons in one. And on day one, you stepped out on the edge of nothingness and scattered the stars throughout the universe. You’re the God who created the world and You’re the God who made man. You’re the God who reigns!
You are the God who began our redemption in the garden. You brought Israel out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, guarded Israel by the pillar of fire, and brought water out of the rock. You provided manna from heaven, and You’re the God who protected His people with angels, and You keep marching through history!
You are the God who raised Jesus from the dead, and I know and trust that You are big and strong enough to handle all of my problems. I’m so grateful that You chose to love me!
2. Praise Is Reciting God’s Characteristics
A constant recitation of the characteristics of God in the midst of trouble brings great peace (Exodus 34:4-7).
Consider David. When a problem arose, he found relief through praise.
When David was fleeing from Absalom, or Saul, or the Philistines, or whomever, he often reached a point where he sat under a bush and began to pour out to God all of his difficulties.
Invariably, he stopped in midsentence and began to recite the attributes of God: “God, You are just, kind, loving, all-seeing, and all-knowing. And You hold me securely in the palm of Your right hand …” and on and on he would go, talking about the attributes of God’s character.
After a while, although there had been no change in circumstances, David would begin to say, “This is terrific God! I’m so excited about You and how You’re going to solve all my problems!”
Reciting the attributes of God was a tremendous sustenance to David. We must pattern our thinking to be like David’s, that so that praise of the character of God is part of our everyday living! In deliberate adoration of our God, we will always find strength.
3. Praise Is Not Only Reciting God’s Powerful Works; Praise Is Recalling God’s Attributes and Thanking Him for Both
Praise rises naturally out of a thankful heart.
Ten lepers were healed by Jesus. He told them to go to Jerusalem to get their healing verified. While they were running, their leprosy was healed. Nine kept on running, but one of them stopped and turned around. He knelt before Jesus and thanked him for the healing. He then fell on his knees and worshiped him (Luke 17:11-19).
Take time to recognize God’s provision in our life and thank Him. A heart filled with gratitude is a peaceful, confident one, ready to walk in His will.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Ig0rZh
Where? In Heaven and on Earth
Praise is the highest occupation of the Angels. Heaven is one grand chorus of praise. Cherubim and Seraphim increasingly adore him (Revelation 4:6-11; 5:9-14; 19:4-6).
I love to imagine what heaven will be like! Picture the largest stadium you’ve ever been in … then multiply it by a thousand, with people of all ages and all races stretching out as far as you can see. Everyone has their hands lifted up as they bow their knees in joyful worship. The singing! Oh, the singing! The harmonies will weave together in unfathomable, never-ending beauty.
I can hardly wait!
Now don’t miss this: the exercise which occupies the full time of angels in heaven and in which heavenly citizens will engage for eternity is surely not a waste of time for those of us still on the earth (1 Chronicles 16:23-25; Revelation 4:6-11; 5:9-14; 19:4-6).
God calls us to praise Him here and now, on the earth from today until the day Jesus returns to take us into glory. Whether you sing favorite worship songs in the car (I always do!) or belt out beloved hymns on Sunday morning or hum your own melody as you read God’s Word, we know that “God inhabits the praise of His people” (Psalm 22:3).
Praise is one of our most important vocations on earth.
As long as we have breath, we can engage in praising the Lord. It’s that simple.
In the Old Testament, God commanded the people of Israel to “Stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening” (1 Chronicles 23:29-30).
David sang, “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1).
Praise starts quietly in our hearts here and moves seamlessly on into eternity.
How? In Various and Sundry Ways!
Expressing our praise goes a long way towards enhancing our worship.
The Bible is replete with a multitude of physical ways we can enhance our praise:
Soul and Spirit (Luke 1:46-47)
Lips (Psalm 119:171)
Mouth (Psalm 145:21)
Handclaps (Psalm 47:1)
Kneeling (Psalm 95:6)
Bowing Down (Psalm 138:2)
Shouting for Joy (Psalm 35:27)
Singing (Psalm 47:6)
Playing String Instruments (Psalm 33:2)
Dancing (2 Samuel 6:14)
God must certainly enjoy the full dimensions of praise when a whole host of Christians gather together to worship Him. Some are weeping, others singing, many standing, many kneeling, some hands are raised, shouts are heard, and whisperings seem like trumpets.
One man is praising in sign language. He makes no noise, and no one can hear him. God says, “I can hear him! I accept your praise!”
In other words, not everyone is doing the same thing. There is great freedom in worship.
It’s obvious that God enjoys our praise when He sees our body language.
In Hebrew, the same word is used for “kneeling” and “worship.”
If we say to a Jewish person, “Let’s worship,” he or she would immediately hit the floor. Kneeling and bowing are exclusively reserved for that which we worship.
It’s thrilling to realize how much we use our hands in worship. Our hands are an inevitable part of any response pattern. Our hands give us away. As no other part of our bodies, they are an extension of our personalities.
When we are embarrassed, we don’t know what to do with our hands. We don’t know whether to stuff them in our pockets or hide them behind their backs.
An angry person points at his adversary with his pointer finger, while all the time his other four fingers are pointing back at himself.
A guilty person hides her hands.
A worried person wrings his hands together as if to suck some hope out of them.
A terrified person clenches her hands in fear.
A puzzled person holds his hands with the palms up in wonder and dismay.
A worshiping person raises his or her hands in surrender to God, physically recognizing Him as Lord and giving Him praise.
Why? Because God Enjoys Praise and Blesses Those Who Praise Him
First, God is blessed through our praise.
So often we hear Christians say, “I came to church, and I didn’t get much out of it today.”
However, to a large degree, we are not in church to get something out of it. We are there to be certain that God gets something out of it! We are there to praise and worship Him.
King David sang, “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me. Bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1). I know of no greater thought to enter the mind than this: “I can and will bless the Lord.” I will worship Him!
Second, God promises to pour out a blessing upon all those who praise him.
Third, we are getting ready to meet Christ, and our human vocabulary is woefully inadequate. So, God is teaching us the language of heaven … joyful, celebratory, grateful praise.
Well, Dietrich, I hope that what I shared will enhance your praise.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Kieferpix
Brie Barrier Wetherbee is a writer, speaker, and fundraising consultant who’s raised more than one billion dollars for non-profit ministries around the globe. She’s written more than thirty books and thousands of articles on topics ranging from biblical exposition to effective fundraising. As a pastor’s child and chronic illness warrior, Brie also brings a wealth of experience and hard-earned wisdom to families in ministry and those facing tough health challenges. She and her family reside in Denton, Texas.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his 35-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Editor's Note: This Ask Roger article features insights from Roger's daughter, Brie Barrier Wetherbee, a sought-after Bible teacher and conference speaker, author, analyst, and Christian theologian.
Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at [email protected].