It seems fitting that the largest book of the Bible, Psalms—which literally means “praise,” would end with a chapter all about praise. In fact, the word “praise” is mentioned 13 times in these short 6 verses! Obviously, God considers praise to be an essential aspect of the Christian life.
As we dig into different aspects of prayer and learn to go deeper into a more intimate, vibrant prayer life, we must start with a focus on praise. If you’ve ever heard of the ACTS prayer model, the A stands for Adoration. (Then Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication) Have you ever wondered where to start when you sit down to pray? It’s simple—start with praise and you will be on the right foot. You can’t go wrong.
One reason praise is so crucial in our prayer life is because it shifts our focus.
We have so much on our minds day to day and we are prone to discouragement, doubt, worry, overwhelm and anxiety. God has given us an antidote for all of those things—it’s praise! When we think about God, remember what He’s done for us, consider His majesty and greatness (all parts of praise), our thinking changes. It reminds me of the old hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
Psalm 150 is a command to praise. And from what I gather, the Psalmist (and God!) doesn’t have an exception clause here for when to praise. I don’t see, “Praise the Lord in the good times!” or “Praise the Lord when life is grand!” Verse one just says, “Praise the Lord!” Good times, bad times, hard times, difficult times, top of the mountain times… no matter what or when, PRAISE the Lord!
This doesn’t come naturally for most of us. But it reveals a special aspect of our theology as Christians. Ultimately, no matter what is happening around or in or to us, do I still believe that God is good? Do I believe He is enough? Do I believe He is worthy of praise NO MATTER what I’m currently experiencing?
If we truly think about it, His offer of salvation for us is enough. The fact that He created and designed this world and each one of us makes Him enough. He alone is enough. Circumstances matter to Him, but they don’t discount or change Who He is. And they don’t give us a hall pass to not praise Him. Job is our example in this. He lost e-ver-y-thing. And yet he proclaimed, “Yet though He slay me, still I will praise Him.” (Job 13:15) Wow.
Let’s take a look at Psalm 150 and see what insights it gives us about making praise an integral and special part of our prayer life.
Verse 1a is the COMMAND to pray—“Praise the Lord!” Praise in this context is a verb. It requires intentional action. It’s not passive. And if you look up its literal meaning in the Hebrew, we see a word that means “to shine” – like a flashlight. Or it can also be translated “make a show, boast.” It even has an aspect of it that indicates, “make a fool of.”
When I consider praise in this light, I see an intentional, whole body, hold nothing back type of expression. And honestly, if I’m thinking about Who God is and what He has done, I should be responding in all out worship and praise!
Verse 1b indicates WHERE we should pray—“Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse.” According to this passage, we have permission to all-out praise God in the sanctuary (church with other believers) and in nature. These are two locations that spur me on to praise and worship. When I’m surrounded by other brothers and sisters in Christ, one of my favorite things to engage in is corporate worship! This passage is challenging me to become more intentional in my whole-person expression of praise while I’m in the sanctuary.
The other location we are to praise is in His “mighty expanse.” Each morning, I’ve been consistently stepping outside to watch some of the sunrise and get morning sun on my eyeballs. (Some days here in Indiana, I mainly see clouds and rain, but supposedly that’s still beneficial for my circadian rhythm. Haha!) As I stand and look over the horizon, as I gaze at birds flying across the sky, as I consider that God is seated on His throne and over it ALL, I’m compelled to burst out in praise prayer. Something about nature informs our praise. If you are feeling stuck in your prayer life or praise is not coming naturally to you, step outside. Take a walk or sit in front of a body of waters or majestic mountains. I imagine you’ll find it a little easier in those moments to praise the Lord.
Verse 2 tells us WHAT we are to praise Him for—“Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.” Wondering about what to praise God for? Praise Him for what He has done for you and praise Him simply for Who He is. That should keep us busy for a while.
Verses 3-5 give us the HOW-TO when it comes to praise. Get ready and buckle your seat belts—the Psalmist wants us to make some noise as we praise! These verses use words such as “trumpet, sound, harp, dancing, stringed instruments, loud cymbals, resounding cymbals.” Yes, there’s a place for quiet, reflective praise. But we all need some moments to just let it all out in unbridled, unhindered, pure praise for our incredible God!
Finally, this chapter ends in verse 6 with a repeat of the exhortation—“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” Basically we could interpret this verse, “If you’re still breathing, you should still be praising.”
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