As we worshiped together the congregation was asked:
What is your favorite Psalm?
That’s hard for me. Psalm 23? Psalm 139? Psalms 32 and 51 (they go together)?
But as I thought of the various Psalms that have impacted my life, my mind kept coming back to one simple phrase, characteristic of what are known as the Hillel Psalms. Psalm 150 is typical of this group of Psalms, opening with Praise the LORD! (Praise Yahweh!). The Psalm continues with a command to praise in every sentence.
Praise seems to be crucial.
Disciples of Jesus need to know that praise is a key component of both individual and corporate worship.
But what exactly is it?
Praise (Hebrew: “halal”) is defined as boasting—even raving—about someone, to celebrate that person.
Praise is NOT saying “Praise the Lord!” any more than saying “Let’s have lunch” means you have already eaten. We need to take the next step and literally brag about God to others around us–or to ourselves. As we do that, we take our minds off all the concerns weighing us down and onto God.
Think that through. Instead of focusing on COVID and all the economic, social and emotional impact of the disease, instead of focusing on an increasingly tense political situation, instead of focusing on the specific economic or social problems we are experiencing—instead of focusing on any of these negative and painful things—we focus on God, who He is, and what He has done.
Some have asked why God needs our praise (He does command it frequently). But He doesn’t need it. C.S. Lewis once said God doesn’t need our praise any more than he (Lewis) needs his dog’s approval of his writing.
So, why does He command us to praise Him? Because we need to focus on Him rather than the problems of the world around us! We need to focus on His goodness, His faithfulness, His forgiveness, His power, His promise that He will never leave us, and His promise of eternal life with Him for those who are willing to simply have faith in Him.
We aren’t particularly good at praise. Maybe that’s why we think we can just say “Praise the Lord” and it’s done. We need to get better. If you want to improve your praise, start by making a list of God’s positive attributes. Then make a list of the things He has been for you (faithful, loving, etc.). Finally, make a list of the ways He has used you in others’ lives.
Then, say those things out loud. Tell someone else. Teach them to your kids.
Praise the LORD!