The point of praise

  • Question 102 – from RT, USA

    What does praise do? Why do we praise?

    Praise, in terms of singing about or to God, is one aspect of Christian worship. Technically, all of a Christian’s life is regarded as being a place where the believer worships God. However, there are certain times when Christians gather together to express corporately their thankfulness to God using praise songs or hymns. God can also be praised in private devotional times.

    There are two main reasons why Christians praise God. The first is that it is a purposeful activity for human beings to do, according to numerous Biblical sources. In fact, it would seem from the Biblical story of the Exodus that the main reason God wanted the Israelites freed from Egyptian tyranny was so that they could worship God freely (see Exodus chapter 7, verse 16). The second reason owes more to psychology and explains why worship/praise is common in virtually every religion. This is the sense that religious rites provide the participant with an understanding of the transcendent – that which is beyond normal experience. This sense of something higher naturally evokes praise.

    In Christian terms, praise therefore brings the believer closer to God. It is a divinely sanctioned act, which God wants believers to do. Theologically, it can be argued that a reciprocal action takes place. As the believer delights in God, so God delights in the creation, as believers draw near to God, so also God draws near to them.

    It is also believed that through praise God ministers to the needs of people, whether through supernatural ‘gifts of the Spirit’, or through direct revelation (prophecy). The action of praise and the atmosphere it creates also serves as a witness of the reality of God to unbelievers, usually resulting in conversion (1 Corinthians chapter 14, verses 24-25). In some Biblical accounts praise also caused the ‘enemies of the Lord’ to flee (e.g. 2 Chronicles chapter 20, verse 21-22). In churches with a tendency towards ‘spiritual warfare’, praise is seen as a key weapon against demonic influence, following on from the Old Testament idea of praise employed as a weapon.

    However, it is generally considered that praise must be genuine in order for any of these things to occur. A key phrase can be found in John chapter 4, verse 23 when Jesus describes true worshippers as doing so “in spirit and in truth”. In the original Greek text, it would seem that Jesus is emphasising ‘spirit’ as a place a person is in (compared to being in Jerusalem or on the holy mountain of Samaria referenced earlier in the passage – John chapter 4, verse 20). ‘Truth’ also refers to a quality of worship – with that worship being a genuine response to God. Praise is also dependent on personal holiness (see e.g. Matthew chapter 5, verse 8), and is exercised in humility (Matthew chapter 6, verse 6).

    Praise, then, is both a response to God and a means of apprehending God. It is usual for praise to be the first response of a person who suddenly becomes aware of the transcendent reality of God and serves a continuing vital function in the life of the church.

    Thanks for your question RT.

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