I really don’t remember the word “praise” being used in the church I grew up in, and their definition of worship had an extremely narrow view that I won’t even attempt to describe here because I would immediately lose two-thirds of my audience! We definitely spoke about thankfulness and thanksgiving, but seemed to stop intentionally short of praise. I’ve realized in the years since that there seems to almost be an embarrassment around the idea of praise. Especially around praise that goes beyond polite listening to a physicality of standing or lifting hands.
However, as God was preparing me at the age of 38 years to leave the church I spent my entire life in, one of the first concepts he made me aware of was the need to praise him. I was reading a book where the Christian author spoke of the importance of praising God with our lips.
One of the verses that really stood out to me was Romans 4:20 in the amplified version that described how Abraham behaved in his time of waiting for the promise of God to him to be fulfilled.
Romans 4:20 Amplified
“No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God.”
I was deeply impressed at that stage of my life that it was needful for me to begin to praise God with my lips and not just in my heart. It felt uncomfortable initially to begin to introduce praise into my speech, but I was convicted of the necessity of this act in my life. The more I praised God, the more I could sense his pleasure at my praise. I remember one time praising him out loud in my car and it felt as if he was hugging me in response. It was so powerful a sensation and such a surprise that I can remember the section of road I was driving.
Over the next several years I began to learn more about praise and the importance and necessity of it in our lives. Looking back, I am fully persuaded that the praise on my lips helped me get out of many difficult situations I was in.
The kingdom of God is sometimes referred to as the Upside Down Kingdom, because it works in a way that seems contrary to our human logic. We give and yet receive. We pray for those who hurt us and somehow we are healed when we release the job of vengeance to the Lord. And we praise when we are yet in sorrow, and God turns our situations around. The concept of lamentations is that of praises given when there seems no evidence for praise.
(17) Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,
(18) yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.
There is a protection that God is able to provide when we praise him. On more than one occasion the scripture records how God would send out the Israeli troops with people praising in advance of the sword-wielding troops. Sometimes he removed their “weapons” altogether – such as the record of Gideon and his small band of warriors. There is a power to our praise that confuses and confounds the enemy of our souls.
One of my favorite movie scenes is the culminating battle in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film. The dark and ominous villain, shrouded in black with dark circles around his eyes dripping black down his cheeks, is closing in on our heroes and everything seems lost. Then the heroes use humor in the face of their doom and it leads to the undoing of the powerful enemy. I love that because I feel like there is a lot of truth to that idea. It reminds me of the concept of a sacrifice of praise.
When in the midst of terrible circumstances, we turn away from sorrow, self-pity and depression, our praise opens an avenue for the Lord God of Angel-Armies to move and rescue us. It is not by our might or power, but by the genius of the Holy Spirit that God flips the enemy’s plans on its head. When we rejoice before we feel the joy, before we see the victory, then we are offering what is referred to as a sacrifice of praise, and it opens a door for God to move powerfully on our behalf! I heard one pastor describe it as praise embarrasses the enemy to the point that Satan will excuse himself from the presence of praise.
Praise is such an enormous topic, I feel intimidated to even try to speak on the power and purpose of it! But I do get really excited about the subject, because I know it means so much to our God, and it is such an easily accessible tool that we can use to defeat the enemy in our lives.
There are more than a hundred uses of the word praise JUST in the Psalms! Here are some that clearly indicate that praise is to be done outside of our heart – to be done OUT LOUD! Even IN FRONT OF PEOPLE – what? – Yes!
Psalm 22:22 ISV
I will declare your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation, I will praise you…
Wow, even to our “brothers,” i.e. to me brothers isn’t just biological family, but our spiritual family, those who know the Lord – I’m still supposed to declare his name to them! And to praise him in that setting.
Psalm 22:25 ISV
My praise in the great congregation is because of you; I will pay my vows before those who fear you.
Praise is referred to as a way of paying our vows – how beautiful and significant.
Psalm 22:7 Common English Bible
proclaiming out loud my thanks, declaring all your wonderful deeds.
We speak it out loud. I don’t know why it can seem so hard to praise God out loud – I do struggle lots of times with wanting to praise him in my mind, and not with my mouth even in the privacy of my own home. And I have to work on this and remind myself there is a power in praising out loud.
Psalm 30:12 ISV
so that I may sing praise to you and not remain silent. Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever!
This verse again makes a point that praise is not only to be inside our hearts – we are NOT to remain silent. Our words are weapons – let’s make them weapons against Satan!
Psalm 34:1 ISV
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will be in my mouth continuously.
Psalm 35:28 ISV
My tongue will declare your righteousness and praise you all day long.
My tongue will declare your righteousness. I don’t mean we can’t ALSO praise him silently, but it’s important to speak it out loud – even just for ourselves! I am persuaded that there is a power that vibrates the very air waves and atmosphere as we take praise out of the inside of our hearts and pour it into the air around us. I don’t know that you’re necessarily going to find a scientific study to substantiate this, but if you have not already experienced it, you will find that we change the environment around us by the words we speak. I have heard many times that there are studies that indicate we believe our own voice above all else – so it nothing else, speaking out praise helps persuade us to have a grateful attitude!!
When I praise God it takes my eyes off of my situation and places them on the majesty, beauty and supremacy of an omnipotent God. I currently live in Albuquerque, New Mexico which is nestled against the Sandia Mountains. Although I see the mountains every single day, when I travel further east in the city so that I am closer to the magnitude of the mountains, I feel a physical response in my chest – emotion swells in my heart in response to the vastness of these mountains as I move closer to them.
Last week my friend drove me right up into the base of the mountains, and I was so moved by the enormity of the mountains that in that moment were to me a representation of the enormity of my God and the enormity of his surpassing power to do good for me.
I do feel aware of God in my every day life, constantly and regularly, but sometimes I need to position myself in a different way before him. I see the mountains in Albuquerque every day, but when I change my position and my proximity to the mountains, I am reminded of their magnitude that I can begin to take for granted in my daily life when I see them in the background rather than the foreground. In a similar manner, praise can position our hearts to place Father God into the foreground of our thoughts and our considerations. Praise can positively affect our attitude and our circumstances. I encourage you to praise the Lord with your lips.