Continuing my apparently occasional series on praying that began with the buffet I reach the more well-known subject of ‘praise’. I have to confess that in more naive times I wondered why we should praise God: not because he is not praiseworthy but for two other reasons. Reason the first – if he is GOD, what difference will my praise make? Reason the second – God doesn’t need his ego massaging, he knows he’s God.
Now both of those show a significant misunderstanding of what praise prayers (or prayses – yet another new word from the wonderful world of Nick’s brain) are about. I don’t think they are as much for God’s benefit as for mine. Praise prayers don’t do anything for God other than perhaps make him blush (if you don’t mind the anthropomorphism) and make him chuffed that I am talking with him. But for me they expand my understanding and experience of God, they give me an increased sense of who he is (albeit limited by the finite nature of language and human comprehension).
Prayses are enhanced by things such as imagination, experience – mine and what others have shared, encounter, emotion, insight and much more beside.
Let’s have a look at one of the psalms and you will see what I mean (I hope) as I annotate it with some observations:
A psalm of praise. Of David.
1 I will exalt you, my God the King; [David has experienced God’s sovereignty]
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever. [David has grasped the eternal nature of God and that in relationship with him he will be able to praise for ever]
3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom. [we can never fully understand God – he is greater than we are]
4 One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts. [we are blessed by the praises and experiences of previous generations and build on their praise with our own.]
5 They speak of the glorious splendour of your majesty –
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.[b] [reflecting on the experiences of others leads David to think of what God does in his own experience and understanding]
6 They tell of the power of your awesome works –
and I will proclaim your great deeds. [being reminded of what God has done in the past leads David to praise too]
7 They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness. [the experience of others is to celebrate and sing joyfully and David can join in]
8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love. [David has experienced this for himself as well as having the stories of others to remind him]
9 The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made. [a reminder of how God views all of creation]
10 All your works praise you, Lord; [Creation points to God]
your faithful people extol you. [those in a relationship with God want to shout about it]
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts [those in a relationship with God not only want to shout about it they also want to tell others]
and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations. [another reminder of the eternal nature of God]
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.[c] [David’s experience and the stories he has remembered remind him that he can trust God]
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down. [God is on the side of the weak and downtrodden]
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing. [the entire ecological system of this planet is dependent on God]
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does. [God is good]
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth. [God is close]
19 He fulfils the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them. [God’s desire is to save]
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy. [evil cannot survive in his pure presence]
21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever. [the choir of creation speaks of God’s greatness and I will join in]
David’s experience and understanding of God was expanded as he praised and, I dare to suggest, so might ours have been as we reflected on the psalm ourselves.
So when or if you feel like praysing, remember it does you good! And maybe linger on the praysing before starting on the asking… you may find that the answer is already there
Be blessed, be a blessing