As I work through my journal on a yearly basis, the consistent challenge I find is praise. We could substitute the word “worship” if we’d be so inclined. I suppose we could have a discussion on if praise is worship and vice/versa or if there is a distinction between praise and worship. I see them as synonymous with both have multifaceted applications of the same end, and that is the acknowledgement that God is above all and must be supreme in my affections and actions.
Dr. Bruce Leafblad put it like this, “Worship is communion with God in which believers by grace center their mind’s attention and heart’s affection on the Lord humbly glorifying God in response to his revelation of himself.”
One of my favorite hymns calls out to God to “tune my heart to sing thy praise.”
That line captures the end of praise, and that is the continual tuning of our hearts to praise God more and better.
So, why is it so difficult?
We attempt to disciple folks to pray in 5 large categories and also teach new Christians to pray in 5 large categories: Praise – Thanksgiving – Confession – Others – Self
We should start with praise for a multitude of reasons. I’ll give you a couple. The first is praise is at the heart of what is happening in God’s work of redemption. Next, praise before thanks and confession places the primacy of the gospel practically at the front. We have to acknowledge that Jesus is enough for us to actually come and worship even if we have sinned recently by starting with praise, and praise confesses in its action that we are leaning into the cross of Jesus for our access at that moment.
What I note in myself is that praise is easy to turn into thanksgiving without actually giving praise to God. Why is that?
I believe that the difficulty we experience in praise is due to the shadow of the curse of sin that sits over our existence even though our hearts have been transformed by the gospel.
What I mean is that we still live in a real body that has the stain of the curse bound up in our “flesh”, and our transformed hearts are in a constant state of conflict with our flesh over what/who gets primary affection and attention.
Thanksgiving is easier than praise because I can find the most minute thing to give thanks for, but to actually be able to verbalize affection for God amidst even the most and best circumstances not to mention the worst of circumstances runs completely counter to the curse of sin.
Sin robbed God of glory, praise, adoration, worship because it transferred the target of human affection from God to us with Satan being our mediator, our cause with us as the end.
This is why it is so easy to praise ourselves and get so fired up if we don’t get the recognition we believe we deserve and yet gloss over not being able to verbalize adoration for God.
But when we get honest about verbalizing affection for God, we have to admit that finding words and thoughts and phrases becomes a challenge to the point of just defaulting to giving thanks for stuff, circumstances, etc.
Hear me, that is not evil. It’s part of the spiritual conflict of daily life. But thanksgiving is not praise.
I found myself in that quandary this morning, and at the same time….here I go…giving thanks for my bible reading plan.
I was having a difficult time worshiping, giving praise to God, and not just giving thanks. So, I looked down at the Psalm for the day, and boom! The Spirit gave help.
Psalms 57 (CSB) 1 Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me,
for I take refuge in you.
I will seek refuge in the shadow of your wings
until danger passes.
2 I call to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
3 He reaches down from heaven and saves me,
challenging the one who tramples me. Selah
God sends his faithful love and truth.
4 I am surrounded by lions;
I lie down among devouring lions—
people whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
5 God, be exalted above the heavens;
let your glory be over the whole earth.
6 They prepared a net for my steps;
I was despondent.
They dug a pit ahead of me,
but they fell into it! Selah
7 My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident.
I will sing; I will sing praises.
8 Wake up, my soul!
Wake up, harp and lyre!
I will wake up the dawn.
9 I will praise you, Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10 For your faithful love is as high as the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches the clouds.
11 God, be exalted above the heavens;
let your glory be over the whole earth.
There is was. It’s in the Manual. David, by the Spirit, modeling praise for me. David in the midst of circumstances reflects back to God his saving and rescuing activity… “I will seek refuge in the shadow of your wings”… “I will call to God Most High”… “He reaches down from heaven and saves me.”
David is simply acknowledging God’s place as primary in this particular circumstance, and he says it! That’s Praise. That’s Worship.
It’s that glorious communion with God in which we, his people, center our mind’s attention and heart’s affection on the Lord and his activity, then we humbly and yet robustly glorify God by simply stating back to him what he has been gracious to show us of himself as we walk with him by faith.
This is difficult, and it is only cultivated in Scripture and in actual practice daily.
So, make sure you are on some bible reading plan that gets you into a Psalm a day, and if not, add the Psalms to what you are doing. You will learn worship from the Psalms so that when you come to worship daily, the grinding fight against the grain of your flesh will get a little easier in your active rebellion against the dark kingdom through worship.
Praise is difficult, but it is a winnable fight with daily practice.
Worship the Lord today!
Worship has been on my mind a lot recently, too, especially getting beyond the usual definition of “worship” as an activity and how to make worship permeate our entire lives as an individual or as a Body.