Read an Excerpt
An Invitation to Praise
If you’re just beginning to praise and worship, you’re on the threshold of a great adventure. You’ll find that your gracious, mighty, and majestic God is delightful beyond imagining. You’ll discover what a high privilege it is to praise Him! And whether you’re a beginner or someone who has long understood the benefits of praise, you’ll find that the more you glorify the Lord, the more He will refresh you and deepen your experience of Him.
Woven into this book you’ll find truths about God that affirm A. W. Tozer’s words: “The man who has God as his treasure has all things in one, and he has it purely, legitimately, and forever.”
OUR GOAL: A LIFESTYLE OF PRAISE
The days of praise in this book have been designed to help you praise and give thanks both in your times of blessing and in your times of trial. These praise pages will expand your praise life and help you develop the practice of “giving thanks always for all things” (Ephesians 5:20, NKJV). They will help you cultivate a lifestyle of praise.
But before you begin, let’s take a look at what praise is and why it’s so important–why it’s more than a pleasant pastime.
In the Bible, praise is closely linked with worship and thanksgiving. Through all three we honor and enjoy God. It helps me to think of worship as a beautiful crown adorned with two brilliant jewels. One jewel is praise; the other, thanksgiving.
Worship is our greatest privilege, the highest thing we can do.
In genuine spiritual worship, we bow before the Most High God, the most merciful and reliable and winsome of all beings, and we crown Him as Lord of all that we are. We consent to His gracious, transforming work; we agree that He can work in us so that we’ll be willing and able to do His will. In other words, we choose to let Him be God in our lives.
Worship includes yielding to God as our Lord and Master. We see this in Romans 12:1, where God asks us to offer Him our bodies, our lives, our entire person. This, He says, is true worship.
Praise includes adoring God and admiring Him for who He is and what He does.
Praise can be quiet and meditative. But it can also be celebrating and exulting in the Lord’s majesty and splendor, His sovereignty, His limitless power, and His bountiful love–which we do not in the least deserve. In praise we extol our wonderful God; we exalt and magnify Him.
Praise includes speaking highly of God to other people as well as directly to Him.
Thanksgiving is appreciating God and letting Him know how grateful weare for His mighty works and the blessings He bestows on us.
In thanksgiving we express gratitude to the Lord for His love and goodness to us and to others, for His constant acts of care, and for His gifts, including the spiritual blessings He has lavished upon us.
So mounted in the crown of worship–the basic act of offering God our lives, of honoring Him as God–are the jewels of praise and thanksgiving, jewels that radiate the glory of God, to His delight and ours.
All three of these–worship, praise, and thanksgiving–overlap as we glorify and enjoy God. Sometimes we do this in speaking, sometimes in singing, sometimes in silent reverence.
It’s fine if we blend worship, praise, and thanksgiving any way we like. God isn’t in the least concerned if we say “Thank You” when “I praise You” or “I worship You” might be more appropriate. And it doesn’t matter whether our words are stumbling or eloquent. God looks on the heart; He’s searching for people who simply want to honor Him.
HOW CAN WE PRAISE GOD AND BE THANKFUL IN EVERY SITUATION?
A life of praise may appeal to you. But what does it involve? You may be puzzled about what it means to praise continually and give thanks always, in every situation. Won’t this lead to denying your true feelings? Does it mean that when you stub your toe or hit your thumb with a hammer, your spontaneous response must be “Thank You, Lord”? Isn’t it dishonest to give thanks if you don’t feel thankful? Several things have helped settle these questions for me.
It’s Based on More Than Feelings
One is that the Bible doesn’t command us to feel thankful in every situation. It doesn’t command us to manufacture positive feelings. Instead, it commands us to give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As Dr. John G. Mitchell, cofounder of Multnomah School of the Bible, put it: “To give thanks when you don’t feel like it is not hypocrisy; it’s obedience.”
This does not mean you should deny your negative thoughts and feelings and attitudes, sweeping them under some inner emotional rug. It doesn’t mean you should repress them into some deep cavern where, again and again, they can sneak back into your thoughts, press you into unwise choices, and filter past your defenses to pollute the emotional atmosphere around you.
Notice that David and the other psalmists were honest about their feelings, facing them and telling God about them. They knew how to pour out their heart before Him (Psalm 62:8). Often they praised God first and then expressed their disturbed emotions, their perplexities, even their complaints. After this they went on to praise God again, despite their struggles. They did not deny their feelings or simply ignore them. Nor did they wallow in them until they’d all but drowned. And it doesn’t seem that they postponed their praise until they had worked through their emotions and felt better. Instead, they mingled an honest pouring-out of their feelings with sincere, God-honoring praise.
Take, for example, Psalm 42. The psalmist composed this song in a time of exile and oppression, when he felt deeply disturbed and downcast. People were saying, “Where is your God–why doesn’t He do something for you if He’s the true and living God?” The psalmist told God how troubled his heart was. But even as he did so, he honored God, speaking of Him as “the living God…my God…the God of my life…God my rock…the help of my countenance.” His every reference to God showed his desire to exalt and glorify Him. And he assured his soul that the time would come when he could once again join the festal worship in the house of God and praise the Lord for deliverance. Psalm 43, written in a similar situation, likewise honors God in very special ways: “O God…the God of my strength…God my exceeding joy…my God.”
What happens when we follow the example of the psalmists–when we express our impressions and feelings yet choose to keep praising in spite of how things seem to us? I find that sooner or later (often sooner) the Lord releases me from being a slave to my distressing emotions. He unties the tight knots within me and settles my feelings, though He may not answer my questions about how He’s handling my affairs. And when at times praise does not quickly bring inner freedom and joy, I can say, “Lord, I can’t praise You in the same way I did last week (or last year). I can’t seem to respond to You with the same sense of delight and celebration. But I do choose to lift You high, praising You for what You are and what You mean to me.”
Life–and praise–isn’t always a feast of pure, simple gladness. Don’t you find that in many situations you can experience both pleasant and unpleasant emotions? Like Paul, you can be “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). You can groan and suffer in this fallen world, yet you can learn to rejoice. You can learn to triumph in your hope, in your tribulations and the good things they produce in your life, and above all, in God Himself (Romans 8:22—23; 5:2, 3, 11).
You Have Supernatural Help!
Another help in our worship (perhaps the major one) is the Holy Spirit, that wonderful Gift sent by our risen Lord to indwell us and empower us. The Lord has not set before us the ideal of a life filled with praise and then left us alone to achieve it. How could we, on our own, reach such a high goal–with the downward pull of our old fleshly patterns of living; with the pain of our trials, large or small; with our tendency to depend on ourselves and get distracted from the Lord and do our own thing? But we have the Holy Spirit! Just think of what this means!
He is within you as a fountain of water, springing up to fill you with fresh life–life that is eternal, life that is full. Through Him, time after time, you can know the refreshment that comes from the presence of the Lord. Through the Spirit you can understand the Scriptures and experience the marvelous things God has freely given you in Christ. Through Him you are linked in vital oneness with the Father and the Son and have all you need for life and godliness. You have all you need to inspire praise: comfort, encouragement, inexpressible joy, overflowing hope, strength in your innermost being, and power to love and serve.
You also have power to praise and give thanks: “Ever be filled with the Spirit…continue giving thanks for everything” (Ephesians 5:18, 20, Williams). You don’t have to beg the Holy Spirit to fill you; He is eager to do so. You don’t have to earn His fullness, proving you are worthy of it. You have only to let the Spirit fill you…to consent to live under His gracious influence and control. He then performs His amazing ministries in you. Among them: He inspires, reminds, and enables you to worship and praise and give thanks.
PRAISE NEEDS CULTIVATING
If God invites us to praise Him, if praise so enriches our experience of Him, and if we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, why do we so easily neglect it? Why aren’t we at all times attracted to praise as bees are to pollen? I have worshiped the Lord for many years; I know how delightful praise is and how much it stimulates my faith. So why do I ever get so busy, even in my quiet time, that I bypass the delightful opportunity to extol and adore my wonderful Lord? Why do I, time and again, get so busy and absorbed with the pressures of daily life that I forget all about praise? And why do I at times feel reluctant to praise in the midst of everyday trials: when I hear news that makes me anxious about someone I love or when I face a major disappointment or when I’m angry or under a lot of pressure?
Could it be that one of Satan’s major strategies is to divert us from praise? After all, he knows that God delights in our praise, and that doesn’t exactly make him happy. He also detests the rich benefits praise brings to us and others. Or is it simply that our flesh prevails over our spirits, dampening our desire to glorify God? Might it be some of both?
Whatever the reason, we need to pray about a lifestyle of praise, as Horatio Bonar did a century ago:
Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God,
In every part with praise,
That my whole being may proclaim
Thy being and Thy ways.
Not for the lip of praise alone,
Nor e’en the praising heart
I ask, but for a life made up
Of praise in every part.
Or as the songwriter Robert Robinson prayed:
Come, Thou Fount of ev’ry blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
In spite of all that God has provided, including the Holy Spirit’s presence and power, we don’t automatically praise and give thanks. Nor will you find praise all of a sudden springing up in full bloom as soon as you start praying about it. Praise flourishes as you weed and water and fertilize your spiritual garden in which it grows. It becomes more constant as you nurture your soul on God’s Word and walk in His ways, depending upon the Holy Spirit. It gets richer and more spontaneous as you grow in your knowledge of how worthy the Lord is to receive honor and glory and praise.
But even then praise does not automatically flow from your life day after day, hour after hour. You must choose to cultivate the habit of praise, taking steps that will enrich your praise life.
As you use the daily praises in this book, you’ll find that praising God is an exciting adventure that yields rich dividends. The praise readings will help you make sense out of the hard realities of life. And–best of all–they’ll deepen your experience of how vastly wonderful God is…how loving…how able to satisfy your heart and meet your deepest needs.
From the Hardcover edition.