Benjamin C. Maxson, Director, General Conference Stewardship Ministries
Summary: Many do not understand what praising God is about. Understanding how to praise God allows us to appreciate His power, wisdom, and His awesome love for us.
What is praise? It was group prayer time. The leader invited the group to spend time in praise and adoration. Each person prayed, most of them focusing on thanking God for different blessings. As I listened, I heard many wonderful things, but very little in the way of praise and adoration. This same situation is often repeated. We do well with thanksgiving, but it seems we are not sure of how to praise or adore God.
So what is praise? Webster defines praise as “an expression of approval or admiration” A secondary definition is “the extolling of a deity, ruler, or hero” So why is it so difficult? What do we need to do to learn to praise?
There are several factors which make praise difficult. The first is that we are simply not accustomed to praise. We have few models from which to learn. Second is the fact that praise requires that we set self aside and think of God first. We cannot be thinking of self and praise God at the same time. Third, in order to praise, we need to change the rhythm of life. We must take time to focus on God and His attributes. Simply put, praise does not come naturally for most of us. We have to learn to praise.
Praising God has the power to change our lives. Praise takes the mind off self and helps us identify God and His reality. It transforms the perspective from which we approach life and places us in the context of who God is. Praise helps us recognize God and His ability to impact our lives. It reminds us that He loves us and is deeply involved in the details of our daily living.
I focus my mind on Him. I find there are several steps I take that help me praise God. The first is to focus my mind on Him. Especially when learning to praise, I find it helpful to spend a few moments contemplating God and His character. Second, I focus on a particular act or characteristic of God. Then I simply tell Him what I think of Him and recognize Him for that act or characteristic. Comparing God or one of His attributes to something or someone else helps me recognize His greatness or transcendence. Finally, I seek to move the praise from words to action. This goes far beyond a physical posture or movement. Instead, I seek to place my life in the context of praise—to make my life an act of worship and acknowledgment of who God is.
This type of praise is not easy. Nor does it come automatically. It demands a surrender of self that is described by the apostle Paul as a “living sacrifice” a “spiritual act of worship” (Rm 12:1). It is something I am learning to do, and it is well worth the effort.
The Psalms are full of calls to praise God. They are helpful in teaching us how to praise. And they give us a number of topics for praise. The following are the praise categories I find helpful:
1. Praise God for who He is. God is Creator. He is Redeemer and Lord. The names of God are valuable in this kind of praise. Sometimes I find it beneficial to focus an entire prayer of praise on the different names of God. As I pray, I acknowledge His identity as revealed in His many names.
2. Praise God for His character. Every aspect of God’s character is worthy of praise. His love, His goodness, His majesty, His integrity, His greatness, His faithfulness, and all the rest of His attributes are helpful in praising Him.
3. Praise God for what He does. This includes what He has done in the past, what He is doing now, and what He has promised to do in the future. This type of praise can flow over into thanksgiving, but at times I find it helpful to simply praise God for what He does, and leave the thanksgiving to another part of my prayer, or another time.
There is no single “right” way to praise God. It can be done individually or in a group. And there are a number of ways that I have tried and found meaningful. A praise prayer is the first one which comes to mind. This means making praise the focus and content of an entire prayer. Singing praise is also very powerful. There is something about music which lends itself to praise. Journaling praise is a unique way of focusing the mind on praise. Simply write your praise to God in your spiritual journal. A “praise walk” in which we take a walk and focus our minds totally on praising God is another way of making praise meaningful. We can even dedicate an entire day to praising God and seek to focus our mind on praise throughout the day.
Practicing the praising of God. Let’s practice what we have explored together and just pause for a moment to praise God:
“We praise you our God, for you are King of kings and Lord of lords. You are God, and we choose to recognize and adore you. Before we were born, you loved us. Your love awakens us to a new life, and we accept you as Lord. We praise you for you are the Creator of all things. You shaped us with your hands and you speak your love to our hearts.
“We praise you, Oh, God, for you have redeemed us. You became one with us. You were made sin for us. And in your redemption we find life. We worship you for you have made it possible for sinners to find life and hope. You have given us eternal life, and that assurance transforms our past, present, and future. You are worthy of praise, and we acknowledge your compassion and mercy.
“We praise you our God, for you have called us to partnership with you. You have placed us on your throne with you (Eph 2:6), and we accept your calling. You transform our days with your presence. You consent to walk with us and in doing so, you lift us to a new life. We worship you with our hearts. We praise you with our lips. And we choose to serve you with our lives. Accept our sacrifice of praise.
“Let all that we are praise you, our King and Lord. Let our lives live to glorify your name. Let us give you honor and praise, for you are worthy. You are the God of the ages, and the Lord of our days. Let us praise you forever and ever”