Last week, I wrote of a time when I was facing a spiritual and emotional crisis. After taking a long hiatus from attending the praise and worship at church, I finally returned, choosing to trust God and walk through the darkness despite my continuing doubts. Even though I am by nature reserved and was trying to deal with my own internal struggles, I lifted my hands and began to praise God out loud. It was not long before the crowd disappeared, and it was just God and me. While I was worshipping Him, He began to minister healing, love and forgiveness to my broken heart. It was like the hymn by William Gaither:
He touched me, Oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole.
And then the joy came in waves. I was crying, shouting, and before I knew it was running. It was just me and Jesus. But actually it wasn’t. When I moved into a new level of worshipping God, others began to experienced breakthroughs as well. Many were rejoicing, weeping, and running right along with me. So what’s the hype about praise? Is it just an emotional charge? Does it really take all that?
As I mentioned earlier, I was emerging from a very dark place in my spiritual life. I was in a place of immense doubt and confusion. I learned from that experience that you get through a crisis of faith by faith. Worship is an act of faith because you acknowledge His Lordship over your life and the circumstances of your life. He is still God whether you sense his presence or not, He is God whether or not you have doubts, He is God no matter the outcome of your personal situation. The psalmist declares, “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3). When you magnify God, you place Him in the proper perspective, and everything else including you is subordinate.
Whenever you praise God you invoke His presence. “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabits the praises of Israel” Psalms 22:3. Inhabit means to “to live in.” And who is this God who lives in your praise? He is Elohim–The God of creation. He is the one who gives life and breath to all things (Acts 17:25). Can you imagine the God of the universe moving into your situation? God is El-Shaddai—He is the God who is more than enough. Can anything be too hard for Him? Is there a battle that you are losing with sin, your children, your work, your marriage? Imagine what can happen if Jehovah Nissi–the Lord of the Armies moves in and wages war on your behalf? What do you lack if God, who is Jehovah Jireh–The Lord who provides–takes up residence? What happens to sickness when Jehovah Rapha–The Lord your healer– makes your praise His dwelling place? If your mind is troubled, what would happen if Jehovah Shalom–The God Who is Peace– abides with you. God is as near to you as your praise. How much do you need Him? And when you have Him, what do you need?
So what’s the hype about praise? There is no hype. We are created to praise God. Praise is simply telling Him who He is. He is wise, He is Good, He is merciful, He is righteous, He is holy, He is faithful. After reading Psalm 150, I am convinced that praise is something that engages more than your mind. It is a physical act. Jesus said that if we don’t praise him the rocks would cry out (Matthew 21:6). The scriptural directive is “Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD” (Psalm 150:6). The truth about praise and worship is we aren’t doing God any favors; we are to instructed to give Him the Glory He is due (Psalm 29:2). In other words, praise is what we owe Him. All glory is His (Revelations 19:1). Most importantly, praise should be a normal part of our devotional life, and our expressions in public should mirror what we do in private.
And what happened to me? After that glorious experience, something in my life changed forever. I now enjoy a freedom in my private time with the Lord that is very precious. Have I had dark moments since then? Too many to count. Demonstrative worship is not a panacea nor does it replace bible study, prayer, and all the other spiritual disciplines. But I have found nothing that ushers me into his presence more effectively than when I worship Him. Am I searching for a “feeling” when I enter into praise and worship? Now, that is a very loaded question that I will have to address in the next post.