The word 'praise' appears nearly 300 times in the Bible, mostly urging or inviting us to praise God. It's also written into the liturgies of our historic churches. I remember attending services where the minister announced, "Praise ye the Lord" and the congregation's ragged monotone response came, "The Lord's name be praised!" You could be forgiven for thinking it was the milkman being welcomed. On the other extreme we have been in meetings where the response came in the form of a spontaneous personal outburst of cheering and tumultuous applause, for an awesome and loving God.
But what about praise in our personal walk with God?
I've often held back through a fear of pretending, because I wanted my praise to be an honest heart response. But sometimes I just speak out what I know to be true. Sometimes I've felt my love didn't amount to much, but offered God what I saw as my puny capacity to love. After all I was only giving back to Him what He had given me. We are instructed to praise God in all things. But when my wife was carted off to hospital with a broken leg and arm and goodness knows what else, I didn't thank God for what was happening because that just wouldn't have been honest. But I did thank Him in faith - and desperation - that He was with us in the situation and would see us through. And He did, in an amazing way!
Once, during a lunch break at work, I met with a colleague in a small room, just to share and pray. We didn't know how to start, but made seemingly childlike offerings. Almost immediately we experienced a great warmth spreading through us. So much so, that we felt we ought to open the window to cool things off, until we realised what was happening. We just knew He was with us and what followed was a precious time of sharing.
Praise changes things. When we acknowledge God, express our appreciation, make a heart response to His love, things happen in the spiritual realm. We enter into a realisation of His presence, all enemy opposition is demolished, Father God is warmed, we are encouraged, our faith is built up and power is released. Perhaps we should do it more often?
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." Psalm 100:4-5 New International Version
"Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in." Psalm 24:7 New International Version