This past Sunday, Auston and our Praise Team did a wonderful job of presenting the seven Hebrew words used in the Old Testament to describe Praise.
Each word had a different connotation, a special take on what it meant to praise and give God glory. If you missed the service, I would highly recommend that you take advantage of going back and watching it in its entirety (https://vimeo.com/695425786).
There were several take aways that I left with, but one in particular was an idea that has kept popping up in my mind over and over: If there are all these different ways of praising God, how often do I praise Him?
I mean I listen to Christian Radio at least half the time I'm in the car. I read my Bible every day. I spend time talking to God, interceding for others, seeking His will for my life...But I have to ask myself, "How much praise do I bring Him."
I'll start with the one you think would be the most obvious. When I have praise and worship, music blaring in the car, of course I'm praising Him, right? I'm afraid sometimes the answer for me is no, let me explain. Just because I'm singing along doesn't necessarily mean it's praise. I mean when I have 90's country blaring in the car I can get swept up singing at the top of my lungs and I really don't think anyone would say me singing along with Garth or Hank Williams, Jr is an act of praise.
If I'm honest, sometimes when it's Christian music I may be singing along, but its because it's a catchy song, good lyrics, a snappy tune. The thing that's missing in it being an act of worship is the heart aspect. Am I just singing, or am I intentionally singing to the Lord? Where's my mind in the midst of the song? Am I mindlessly singing a song I know as my mind ponders what I need from the grocery store, where I need to get the kids next, etc. or am I thinking about the words, what they mean, how they relate to my life and my relationship with God? Is God my focus or is He incidental because I'm trapped in the car with nothing better to do?
Caveat: Don't get me wrong. Listening to WBFJ, Air1, Joy FM, K-Love or Christian radio in general typically is a far better input than listening to secular music. I've just been challenged to think about if every time the dial is tuned in is it an act of praise? If you, like me, can answer no, maybe we try to be a little more intentional to make it an act of praise more often!
I remember many, many years ago taking Old Testament literature in college. It was taught by a little old Baptist minister who may or may not have been Methuselah's Uncle. He took a special interest in me and challenged me in my walk.
He was one of the first people to ever introduce me to the idea that, outside of what he called an emergency prayer- "God, help!", every prayer should have an element of praise. I remember him talking about how most people look at prayer as rubbing the genie's bottle. We have a tendency to make prayer all about what I need, what my friends need without bringing anything for God.
"There's nothing wrong with asking God for what you need.", he said, "But if we can think hard enough about what we need from Him to pray and ask, don't you think we could spare a moment to tell Him how thankful, how grateful, how wonderful we think He is too." I can remember the old man winking at me, the wink was like an exclamation mark at the end of his sentence.
The idea has stuck with me. When I catch myself in seasons of prayer where its mostly about me, I think God brings that old man's words back to my mind. I take time not just to say words about how good God is, but to remember how good He is. It helps me to have a sense of awe, to understand I am before the King, and to remember all the times He has seen me through already! It transforms prayer from a me centered time, to a time focused where it should be, on the Creator of the Universe. Then my prayer can truly be praise, .
The last idea I will throw out is reading scripture. #1 and most obvious is that you first have to read scripture for it to be able to be praise. We live in a culture of Christians who sustain themselves with nothing more than pre-chewed food. I'll let the preacher chew on the meat and regurgitate it for me, he's supposed to be the expert anyway.
The problem with that is that even the most well-meaning, God fearing, dedicated pastor is human. Whether we want to or not, we interject a little bit of ourselves into the teaching. Believe it or not we can get things wrong. Good preaching is great, but it's the responsibility of each person to study God's Word.
Once we've established that we have to read it, then how can it be an act of praise? That comes when we ask God to teach us, to apply His word to our lives. You can read the Bible and just learn, just memorize, just see the past. But when we read it with eyes that ask God to show us ourselves in His story, (who am I like, what ways do I need to change, how can you use me) then we open the door to praise. A heart that is taught and molded by God's word is a thankful and praising heart.
In the same way that this week's Worship Service challenged us to be actively engaged with God in Praise, perhaps this week's article will challenge you to interject more praise into your daily life as well. I know that in writing it, I've been challenged to be more intentional myself.