On praising God...
I attended a Christian university and later a Protestant seminary. But I never had a course on how to pray or how to be happy in the Lord. I’ve never read a book about this, and don’t recall hearing a sermon about it either. But it occurred to me many years ago, that if I was not happy in Him when I began my day, the rest of the day rarely got any better. I have come to realize that although He is my source of salvation, He is also the spring from which a joyful heart erupts——He makes me happy. And I don’t mean to be frivolous about this. I mean by “happy” that I have a sense that He is in control, has His eye upon me and that He is going to bless me. I can smile and be at ease.
When I return home from being gone just an hour or two, our two little dachshunds are demonstrably happy. In fact, they’re ecstatic! I bring them no treats or gifts, but my return is celebrated because I am their source of security, food, shelter, well-being—-and they know it. They are happy when I am there and when I return even happier. Are you happy to be with Him each morning as you seek Him, the King of Kings? Are you ecstatic to be in His presence? Sometimes we take the greatest things in life for granted.
When I was in college I used to simply make myself pray. And soon enough those morning prayers become repetitive, lifeless recitations of things I felt I should pray about; I did not leave feeling fulfilled or happy at all—-just that I had done my duty as a young Christian. But then I learned to read the Bible before I prayed , and I asked Him for illumination. I have for over 40 years now read three chapters a day in the Bible and then read a chapter in a daily devotional book….then prayed. And what a difference it has made. By reading His Word first, allowing Him to speak to me directly through the pages of the Bible, my talks with Him have changed. By meditating on what He said in His Word, my heart became comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed.
So I have learned to ask Him to open my eyes as I read, give me understanding because I don’t “get it” very often. And I ask Him for the ability to understand the Bible not understanding for the sake of preaching, teaching or helping others, but for my own nourishment and growth. By doing this I have found myself at times confronted with sin, reminded of my indifference to others, my own laziness; but more often it’s profoundly inspired me to begin the the day far happier than when I first woke up. He places a melody in my heart that I keep throughout the day.
And so, for the next few weeks I want to talk about both our private time of devotion to God and the time we come together here for worship. What should we be doing and what should we dispense with? But first, again, let me say that reading His Word is essential. Begin your day praying for God to open your eyses, and then read. That’s the first step.
What brings us together on Sunday morning is love for each other; that’s good, but the first and foremost reason must be because we love God. We attend mass or worship to praise Him and honor Him. This morning I want to talk today about that first step of praising God in our private worship in our homes, because after we’ve read and meditated upon the Bible, it’s one of the four things each one of us should do but every morning—as wells as at worship on Sundays. We were wired to praise and adore Him. Do you? Every morning do you begin your day worshipping God? If you don’t, you’re worse off for it. It does not diminish God in anyway if you fail to adore Him. He does not shine any less magnificently and He is no less marvelous or less all-powerful when we deny Him what is due to Him—-it is we who diminished and dulled each day we fail to adore Him.
It’s been said that “praise opens the gates of Heaven and the doors of blessings. Praise dissipates worry and dilutes concern and fear. Praise tarnishes sadness and magnifies goodness. Praise is one of the languages of faith. Praise capitalizes on the One who truly matters. It focuses on the Lord! Praise is the answer. Praise is always the solution. Praise brings us so much closer to God. Praise is key! We can’t walk with God without walking in praise. We can’t walk in love without walking in praise. We can’t experience God without experiencing praise.” (Eliah B)
We were created by God for worship—-it’s as much of our nature to worship something as the desire to be loved and to find someone to love. You do worship, whether it be in a church, or with God privately, or to some other entity. “When Man ceases to worship God he does not worship nothing but worships everything.” (Chesterton). You’ve known people like that. Their passion is for everything but the right thing. They’ve not tasted the best, so their fill their plate with spiritual, ethereal junk food—-but not the food that sustains and builds. We need to worship Him like we need to breath air.
My motivation to praise and worship Him daily is simple: it’s good for me! In fact, it’s essential for my emotional, mental, and spiritual stability. Like Isaiah, I can praise God and say:
“Praise the LORD. Call on his name. Make his deeds known among the nations. Make them remember that his name is highly honored. Make music to praise the Lord. He has done wonderful things. Let this be known throughout the earth. Shout loudly, and sing with joy, people of Zion! The Holy One of Israel is great. He is among you.” Isaiah 12:3-6
My praise to God helps me, it makes me happy, it gives back to God what is due Him, and is also a testimony and witness to others! Others might wonder about how you can get any joy or ecstasy out of adoring an invisible God that many deny even exists, but they cannot deny the peace that surrounds you because of that praise and worship. And I would add, as a church, there’s a difference between merely hearing the Word of God, and rejoicing with it. Singing a hymn to a tune you’re not particularly fond of, in an octave you cannot reach, with words that come from Shakespeare, is not the same as “praise”. And I mean no insult to the old hymns or tunes we have had for hundreds of years, but praise is not the same as singing a hymn. Praise lifts you up and allows you to forget who is listening or if the sound coming from your mouth is even pleasing to yourself! You’re giving it to God and you find yourself shouting to the Lord…you discover that you want to raise your arms or clap your hands….the Holy Spirit fills you up where you feel that you are about to burst wide open in unfettered expressions of adoration! Praise is not a measured, calculated event, it is an occurrence of holy voices and imaginations being raised to Him that is Holy.
“Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his mercy endures forever. Oh ‘Rescue us, O God our Savior. Gather us and save us from the nations so that we may give thanks to your holy name and make your praise our glory.’ Thanks be to the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting.” 1 Chronicles 16:34-36
Paul put it this way in terms of praise and adoration: “Let Christ’s word with all its wisdom and richness live in you. Use psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to teach and instruct yourselves about God’s kindness. Sing to God in your hearts. Everything you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:16-17
Do you ever just break out in song of praise Him?! That’s what Saint Francis was known for. He would burst out in joyful tunes to God——and the most common time he did this was when things seemed hopeless. He praised God when he was oppressed and low, because he knew that praising God would lift him out of the doldrums! You cannot be in the presence of God or intently adoring Him and be deflated. He is the compressed reservoir of spiritual peace and joy—if you find that you’re spiritual tire is flat, He can not only restore your tire pressure, He can turn cause your tire into a balloon! Don’t be deflated, be elated!
There’s an acronym for this, it’s “APE”… adoration, praise and exaltation. You will find that when you come to God, early in the morning, to adore God, is that quite naturally, in fact almost uncontrollably, what follows is praise. You find that if your mind is set on adoring Him, that soon enough you’re praising Him with lifted hands and a heart full of hope and expectations. And finally you experience exaltation—- but this does not mean that God’s exalted—-you’ve done that in your adoration and praise—-but God exalts you! He lifts you up and places you on a high plateau and you are experiencing a state of supreme joy and a happy spirit! All because you got the order and priority right! It’s all about God——and He shows you that if you focus upon Him, He, the creator of every atom in this universe, is quite capable of pouring happiness, security and a sense of peace and joy that nothing else could ever deliver.
Years ago I knew an older pastor that was one of the most miserable men I have ever met—and his wife was no different. Negative, unhappy, disgusted with their health and the lack of respect the felt they received, they brought everyone else down when we had a meeting and they were present. He told me that he prayed for hours each morning to be healed and feel better, but he just got worse. It puzzled me how a man could be one his knees hours and hours each day praying and still be as unkind and negative this man was till the day he died. I am not here to judge him or his wife, but either the man was not praying to the same God I know and pray to, or his prayers had nothing to do with praise. “Praise is the key to the door to joy, peace, love and faith. We praise the Lord daily because we need to get close to Him daily… God inhabits our praises. He is right there with you in your moment of praise… He dispenses joy, peace, love and faith during praise. He shows Himself in all His glory. Praise keeps you in His presence and it sends away negativity including fear and worry. You can’t be in God’s presence and not experience peace.” (Eliah B)
As mentioned earlier, we are going to worship either God, or something/everything else. Why adore and worship at all? Because it gives us delight to “praise what we enjoy, because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that two people in love keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.” (C.S. Lewis). We need to come together for many reasons, but the first reason is to adore Him in our songs, the recitation of Psalsm, the reading f His Word, through our imaginations as we listen to the homily or sermon, and as we sing songs that truly praise Him and cause our hearts to swell. We are not complete without praise—-both here and during our daily routines.
Friends, praise and adore Him….and see what follows in your day.