What a marvelously Christ-centered anthem this is! It is worshipful from beginning to end. As I listened to it there were two things that popped into my mind. One of these was a question: How rich is our praise vocabulary? In other words, when we want to praise Him, how far beyond “praise the Lord” do we go?
A couple of months ago, in an endeavor to encourage someone, I told her that I appreciated and admired her. Her response was to ask me what it was I appreciated and admired about her. I don’t think she was fishing for compliments; she just was surprised that I saw things in her that were admirable and wondered what those things could possibly be. So I responded by giving her a list of things I appreciated about her which helped her see herself from my perspective.
Similarly, while it is quite scripturally correct to say simply, “Praise the Lord,” or its Hebrew equivalent, “Hallelujah,” if we don’t go much beyond that our praise is stunted. There is nothing stunted in the praises in this anthem, and it is a good model for us if we want to grow our lexicon of praise.
Praise is a language all of its own, and as such it behooves us to study it and practice it, just like we would any other foreign language. Otherwise we find ourselves in a similar situation as I did when we lived overseas. I have studied French, German, Spanish, and Italian, and while I could get by enough in these languages to obtain the things I needed at the market, or carry on simple conversations, I couldn’t express ideas of real depth. In fact, I called my level of German “Kinderdeutsch,” or “children’s German. If we aren’t intentional about developing our language of praise, it will be as limited as my German.
There are many tools we can use to grow in our ability to praise God. Song lyrics are an excellent example of pre-fab praising, as are the Psalms. There are other wonderful passages of scripture where sermons or prayers are praise-filled which we can use as examples. There are also many books on the subject. One I’m using right now is 31 Days of Praise, by Ruth Myers.
Let me encourage you to get a journal that is just for praises, where you can jot down passages and lyrics that stimulate you to praise, then regularly read these collections out loud. This is just like you would do if you were learning a foreign language and went to the lab to practice out loud.
A discipline I began last year is to have the first words out of my mouth each day be praises to the Lord. Before I ask Him for anything, before I speak to anyone else, I want to begin my day in a Godward direction. However, when I began this practice, it revealed to me that I needed to broaden my lexicon of praise so I wouldn’t get in such a rut of rote expressions.
I’ll admit that, just like any language we learn, sometimes it feels a bit stilted. It’s like when we have one of those tourist language books that shows us how to ask where the train station is, or how to order gelato (an essential, for certain!). But, over time such expression become so much a part of us they begin to feel natural.
The second thing that occurred to me as I listened to the anthem is that such praises are excellent ways to remind ourselves about who God really is. There is definitely ad two-tiered element to praise. While it is fitting that we praise God, as we are doing so (particularly out loud), we are benefitting ourselves by reminding ourselves that He is greater than any problem we face. Praise changes our perspective. People who praise, eyes fixed on Him, will find peace and joy in the most dire of situations.
Consider your own ability to praise, and seek the Lord, asking Him to enrich this area of your worship. Give yourself to it diligently for 40 days or so, and then see if it does not significantly change your outlook and joy.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries