The True Meaning of Praise
In the past few weeks, we’ve talked about how King David related to God through his own lamenting and repenting. How he outpoured everything at God’s feet, holding nothing back because he was confident in who God is and who he was in Him.
If you’ve been with me the past month, you’ll remember that what made David a man after God’s own heart wasn’t his absence of sin or his ability to get it ‘right’ every single time. What made David a man after God’s own heart was how he related to God, and through his example, we’ve been learning how to live wholeheartedly before our Savior.
If you’d like, you can catch up on the series by reading Part One and Part Two here!
Today, I want to take a look at Psalm 145 and observe how King David related to God through the act of praise.
When you read that word, ‘praise,’ what comes to your mind? How would you define this word?
Now that you have your own personal definition let’s look at the literal meaning of the word ‘praise.’
To praise is the expression of respect and gratitude as an act of worship; devotion, thanks, glory, honor, adoration.
What words stood out to you the most in that definition, friend?
For me, my eyes immediately gravitated toward the words worship, devotion, respect, and gratitude.
How David Praised God in Psalm 145
Now let’s walk through Psalm 145 together and observe how David praised God and the type of impact his praises had.
David’s praise was confident, intimate, and engaged.
“I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” (v. 1-3)
Did you notice how David addressed God? David acknowledged God as being everything to him, addressing Him as God, King, and Lord. This reveals that David had intimate knowledge of who God is. Because he knew God’s heart so well, David was able to confidently and boldly approach God with his praises. David declared out loud that the Lord is great and that he will praise His name forever and ever. David allowed himself to come to God in worship and praise, not one bit intimidated by how he sounded or how he looked. He was totally engaged: mind, body, and soul. God longs for us to be this way when we praise Him — engaged, focused only on Him as we empty ourselves before Him to be filled again with His presence.
David’s praises urge us to look back.
“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” (v. 4-7)
Sometimes, to move forward, we must first look back. In this portion of the passage, David uses his praises to remind himself and his people of God’s mighty acts. He reflects on how God has worked in the past to remember His faithfulness and look forward to the future. Just as David did, we too can use our praises to encourage our own hearts and the hearts of others by reminding ourselves of all the many ways He has moved in our lives beforehand. When we can look back, we gain gems of God’s faithfulness to hold onto when we face trials and seasons of suffering. Looking back gives us wonder as we meditate on His past works in our lives.
David’s praises point to God’s character.
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. All your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.” (v. 8-17)
Notice the different characteristics of God that David lists: gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, rich in love, good, mighty, everlasting, trustworthy, faithful, satisfying, and righteous. When we choose to praise God, we are reminded of who He is. We can replace the lies, doubts, and fear with the truth of Who we belong to. Praising God grounds us in truth, and when we remember what is true, we are drawn back into the loving arms of God. The world and its lies can be loud, friend, and it is important now more than ever to remember who He is.
David’s praises remind us of who we are in God.
“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name forever and ever.” (v. 18-21)
How intimately David ends his prayer of praise by reminding us of how God cares so deeply for us. This, friend, is the truth of who we are in Him: heard, provided for, protected, seen, fought after. Praising God can be a way to uncover His heart. By praising Him for who He is to us personally and how He intimately cares for us, we are drawn deeper into a relationship with Him.
Praise as Worship & Sacrifice
To live wholeheartedly before God, as David did, we must live with complete sincerity and commitment to the One true King.
Praising God is an act of worship, and it’s a huge part of living a life completely devoted to Him.
In her book, Soul Feast, Marjorie Thompson describes worship as a life source:
“Worship ushers us into the presence of the living God and demands the attention, receptivity, and response of our whole being. It asks us to disengage from the nose-length focus of daily life and see below the surface to life’s source. We can then receive the realities of the world from a deeper and clearer perspective.”
What if we viewed our praises as a door that leads to worship, which then opens us up to the ultimate source of life and refreshment for our souls?
Sometimes, offering praise can feel like a sacrifice, especially when we walk through seasons of suffering and deep pain. But I believe, friend, that when we choose to offer our praises to God in those difficult seasons, we gain a peace that surpasses all understanding and joy not dependent upon our circumstances.
Even if our praises are tear-soaked and ragged, we can remain confident that they are blessing the Lord and, in turn, blessing us.
Psalm 126:5-6 is proof of this,
“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”
According to an article written by Kimberly McGee, sheaves of grain were revered in the Bible and ancient cultures. The bundles of sheaves were greatly valued for the hard work that went into growing, harvesting, and drying out these beneficial crops.
According to Psalm 126, when we weep and pour out our sorrow-filled praises to God, we are doing the hard work of growing in faith. When things grow, they have to eventually be harvested, just like those sheaves of grain. We reap with joy the fruit that has grown from the sorrow of our tear-stained praises.
My Own Ways of Praising God
There are many different ways to lift our praises to God, and I wanted to share a few of my own praise methods with you today.
According to an article written by Ann Voskamp, keeping a gratitude list or journal can impact you in a very positive way.
“But when thanks to God becomes a habit — so joy in God becomes your life.
And with this habit of keeping a gratitude list, you:
- Have a relative absence of stress and depression. (Woods et al., 2008)
- Make progress towards important personal goals (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)
- Report higher levels of determination and energy (Emmons and McCullough, 2003)
- Feel closer in their relationships and desire to build stronger relationships (Algoe and Haidt, 2009)
- Increase your happiness by 25% — (Who wouldn’t want a quarter more happiness!) (McCullough et al., 2002).”
Gratitude journaling is a really great way to notice all of the ways God is moving in your life throughout each day. I personally enjoy Jazmin N. Frank’s ‘Journey into Joy’ guided gratitude journal. Every night before bed, I list three things that I want to thank God for each day. Jazmin provides a block space for each day of each month for you to list out your praises and thanks to God, along with some reflection questions and a memory verse with some guided questions. You can check it out here!
In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron puts significant emphasis on paying attention to the details of our lives,
“The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.”
I’ve been trying each day to intentionally look for the blessings of God. In doing so, I’ve discovered a sense of wonderment that I haven’t experienced since I was a child. When we look for wonder, we usually find it, friend! In and over all things, God is everywhere, and He leaves numerous blessings and gifts to uncover each day as He waits for us to praise Him for them. At the end of each day, I go over in my mind all of the ways in which I saw God move in that day, and then I praise Him in silent prayer, giving thanks for His continual blessings. This year, I’ve been using Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing guided journal to record and reflect on God’s movement in my life. Check it out here! It’s been such a blessing to look back over my life in these different seasons of 2021 and remember how He’s been faithful.
This may seem like an obvious one, but when was the last time you lifted your hands in praise and worship to God? It’s always my favorite part of church because it’s that sacred space right before the teaching begins when it’s just the Lord and me. I close my eyes, lift my hands, and engage my whole being in praising His Name. Even when I can’t be in church, I turn on my worship playlist and praise Him in song right there in my living room before the rest of my house is awake. If you need a worship playlist to get you started, you can check out mine on Spotify.
Write your own Psalm of Praise.
Just as I encouraged you to write your own Psalm of lament in Part One of this series, you can write your own Psalm of praise! You can model it after Psalm 145 or take a look at Psalm 100, Psalm 103, or Psalm 138.
We Praise God With Our Lives
Not only can we worship God in song, but we can worship Him by the way we live our lives. How we love others, how we show grace, how we conduct ourselves in the face of adversity and trial. The purest form of worship, in my opinion, is a life and heart totally surrendered to God.
Praising God is a sacred spiritual practice that ushers us into the presence of Jesus and teaches us how to take our focus off of ourselves and put it onto our great, big God.
I pray that as you learn to remember to pause and praise, you would remember that God is delighting in you as much as you are delighting in Him.