“Make a joyful noise (praise) unto the Lord, all ye lands; Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise” (Ps. 100:1; 4, KJV).
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4, NIV).
As Christians, we know that we are supposed to “Praise God”, it’s literally in our DNA to praise Him (see Psalm 146). If you’re a regular church goer, that phrase is probably in your top 3 Christian quotes. In fact, I have heard the words “Praise God” after so many random statements, it has almost become something we take for granted, as if praise is something to be taken lightly. However, praise is fundamentally important to our daily lives: the power of praise can restore our faith, turn around a dismal situation, and can bring us joy in the worst circumstances.
So what does it mean to “Praise God”? My handy dandy Bible says that praise means to “worship, commend or give honor to” (NLT). Simply put, we are to give God our worship, honor Him, commend Him, thank Him, I could go on but I think you get the picture. And it is easy to praise God when everything is going our way, but what happens in the face a sudden illness, injury, or death of a loved one? How about a devastating loss of a relationship or a job? Can we still praise God when we are brokenhearted? Angry? Afraid? Hurting? Rejected? The Bible shows us that we can praise in all circumstances; let’s look at a few examples, and I have an experience of my own to share.
Praise Him When Everyone is Against You
Peter and the Apostles were jailed and beaten for preaching the gospel at the start of the early church (Acts 5:17-41); yet after being flogged, they praised God for being worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. Can you imagine what would have happen if instead of praising God these early church leaders had gone away embarrassed and remorseful? They might have decided they would stop sharing the good news about Jesus, and I bet many of us wouldn’t be where we are today. Thank God they praised, instead of giving up, and continued on their mission! So many times in our modern day world, we might feel like life has handed us a beating, and praising God in the midst of the circumstances might be the last thing we want to do, but we must! Your praise in the middle of a trial will remind you that no matter who is against you, God is with you, and you can make it through.
Praise Him When Your Future is Uncertain
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a young unmarried woman when an angel visited her and told her she would bear the son of God. Can you imagine how terrifying this might have been for a young woman during that time in history to be found pregnant before her marriage had been finalized? Yet instead of fear, Mary sang a song of praise a few days after receiving the news from the angel (Luke 1). Can you imagine how the atmosphere would shift if we praised God when received news that could be unsettling or scary, instead of settling into our own fears about the future? Praising God might not take away the fear of the future, but it directs the focus back to who we should be trusting in the first place. Take a moment and read Mary’s song of praise (Luke 1:46-55) and be encouraged by her faith.
Praise Him When You’re in a Battle
My favorite example of the power of praise, probably because it involves a choir (Hallelujah!) but definitely because of the magnitude of the victory, is from 2 Chronicles. An army was marching towards Judah (Jerusalem), and King Jehoshaphat was terrified. You see, this wasn’t just a small army, this was a vast army made up of several nations and the Israelites didn’t stand a chance of defeating them on their own. King Jehoshaphat gathered everyone together and they prayed for guidance and deliverance, and one of the men began to prophesy that the victory would be given to them without even having to fight! I have to be honest, I don’t know if I would have had the courage, or the faith, to head out into the battlefield that morning, knowing what was coming at me; but that’s exactly what the men did. And King Jehoshaphat sent the singers out ahead of the army, singing praises to God…instead of fighting, they PRAISED GOD! The scripture says “at the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves” (2 Chron. 20:22, NLT). Praising God confuses the enemy’s attacks, and the battle won that day is the promise that if we will only stop and praise God, He can and will handle the rest.
Praise Him When You’ve Lost Everything
One of my favorite worship songs, Blessed Be Your Name, is based on Job 1:21. Job, a man highly favored by God and one of the richest and honored men in his land, suffered the worst possible circumstances. He lost all his children – all 10 of them – and his wealth soon after. The Bible says that Job’s response was to worship: “…‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised’” (Job 1:21, NIV). I cannot even begin to imagine how I would have handled the tremendous loss Job experienced, but I have some idea of what he might have felt. I will never forget hearing the doctor say “I can’t find the heartbeat”. What was to have been a routine prenatal check-up turned out to be one of the worst days of my life. It has been almost eleven years since I had a miscarriage, and I don’t remember much from that season, but I remember that Job’s words echoed in my head, and that song, Blessed Be Your Name, became my praise in the middle of my sorrow. Job’s example is there to remind us that we can praise God even in the worst possible situation because He is still good, He is still love, and He is still God. Whatever the season of loss, allow your heart to open up to the healing power of your heavenly father, and praise Him through it all.
Praise Him When You’re In Pain
I consider myself blessed to have been given many opportunities to praise God during a struggle…sometimes I wish I wasn’t so blessed, lol! But I wanted to share this with you because it happened during a season in which I was struggling through a lot and it is only by God’s grace that we made it through. My daughter had recently been diagnosed with autism, and I was struggling with how to deal with the diagnosis and get her the services she needed; I had four small foster children I was responsible for, plus two relatives, living with me; and I had just started working as the worship leader at my church. As I was trying to figure out how to balance and juggle all the changes and uncertainty we were facing, an outbreak of eczema attacked my entire body. I was leading worship every Sunday, and my face and hands were cracked, swollen, enflamed, and itchy. My hands were so damaged it was easier to wear bandages to cover all the cuts – I jokingly called it a mummy look, but I wasn’t laughing on the inside, I was suffering. There were times while I was singing the skin on my face would split and crack open and I could feel it “weeping” – if you know anyone with eczema, you know this is not pretty. And every Sunday I was on display, the ugliest I had ever felt in my life, with areas of my body infected and feverish and oozing. I hated that I couldn’t hide away, I was embarrassed by something I had no control over, and I was in pain from the literally never ending attack going on inside my skin.
Every week I would go home after singing four services, and I would cry out to God (sometimes I would do this in my car between services) and I would pray for healing. This went on for several months, and I wanted to quit leading worship; truth be told I wanted to quit everything! But I don’t just read the stories in my Bible, I follow their lead, because I know the God who sent His son through a young unmarried woman, who delivered an entire nation (again and again), who sent an earthquake to break chains and set prisoners free, who sent His Son to die and then rise again to conquer death for me, was still worthy of my praise. So no matter how I felt, I faithfully served, and I praised, daily, with all of my heart, because I knew that one day it was going to be ok, that I would be healed. I was able to praise God through this storm because I knew that there was no weapon that the enemy could put up against me that would win. Sure, he was fighting an impressive battle, damaging my self esteem, and causing me pain and discomfort; but in continuing to praise I was being restored, I was being strengthened, and I was taking ground for the kingdom. Despite everything I was going through, God was still using me, this literal mess of a woman, to sing and speak His promises and hope over a body of people who needed Him just as much as I did.
Eventually I was healed, thank God, but that trial taught me an invaluable lesson. It had been so easy for me to get up in front of the congregation and lead every Sunday from a position of strength, but in that season of weakness, I really had to rely on God, not me, because I could not do it on my own. All I could do was praise and trust that He was working it out, as He always does.
That season changed the way I led my team and the congregation. It made me more sensitive to the pain that others were going through, it was as if I could see the weight on their shoulders, because I had been carrying one too. It made me give more, so that I could lift up my brothers and sisters. Praising through the pain brought me closer to Jesus and to the people I was ministering to, and I wouldn’t change that experience for the world.
What to do When Praising God is HARD
So these are all good stories of what others have done, but what can you do when you are at that point of giving in, when you cannot go another step, when it hurts to breathe, you can’t speak it out, and you cannot focus enough to even try to think of what to say?
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas had been severely beaten and jailed for preaching the gospel and healing a slave girl. It was cold, dark, and they were in shackles in a Roman jail. What did they do? They sang! “But about midnight when Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God…suddenly there was a great earthquake…the doors were opened…and everyone’s chains were unfastened” (Acts 16:25-26, AMP). As in other stories shared, singing praises unleashes the power of God in any situation, and God literally set them free while they were singing! Some of my favorite go to songs include: Ever Be (Bethel Music), Again I Say Rejoice & If Not For Your Grace (Israel Houghton & New Breed), So Will I (100 Billion X) & Even When It Hurts (Praise Song) [Hillsong UNITED], and Great Are You Lord (All Sons & Daughters).
2. Talk to God (Pray).
King David had more trials than most, and likely spent more time hiding in caves than any other king in history. Yet, in every circumstance, David prayed and praised, and the Psalms are beautifully written reminders that we can go to God with our complaints, fears, frustrations, grief, and confessions, as well as praises and adoration. He wants a real relationship, not one based on just what’s good in your life, and He’s God, He can handle whatever you have to say and He will still love you.
3. Gather Together.
It is hard to go through life alone, especially when it gets tough. Yet, many people decide to isolate when they should be reaching out to others for encouragement, prayer, and strength. In Acts 1-2, we learn the leaders of the early church were gathered together, in an upper room of the place they were staying, and as they were praising God the Holy Spirit fell on all of them. There is power in the praise of God’s people! Don’t allow the enemy to isolate you – go to church, join a small group, do whatever you need to to get with a body of believers and praise God, together.
4. Read your Bible.
I admit, when things get hard, the last thing I want to do is read my Bible, but as soon as I do the power of the words overwhelm me and reminds me just how big God is and how beautiful and amazing this life we have been given is. When you can’t find your own words of praise, read Psalm 145 aloud; it is a beautiful declaration of praise written by David and its words ring as true today as they did over 2,000 years ago.
5. Change Your Focus.
It is hard to praise God when other things have taken the place in your heart that only He should have. Anything in your life that’s getting in the way of your relationship with God, that you’ve put your trust in instead of Him, and/or occupies your time and attention needs to be addressed immediately. Ask God to help you order your priorities, beginning with Him.
Guilt and shame from living a life that is not honoring God will keep us at a distance from God. Is there any sin that needs to be addressed through repentance and prayer? We have learned time and again that God hears and forgives our sins, and He is waiting to forgive you again. For all He has done to wash away our sins, He certainly deserves to be praised!
7. Praise Anyway!
I’ve written a list of praise declarations that you can say everyday (download it here). Pick one to focus on, read the verse that inspired it and apply it to your life; better yet print it out and say them all! Create your own list of reasons to praise God and keep it with you to remind you to praise when things get hard.
This list is far from complete, but these are some of the ways that I have found to get my heart focused on God. Maybe you are going through a trial right now. I encourage you to draw closer to God, to praise Him through the pain, and trust Him to handle the rest. Until next time, lift up a shout of praise to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!