2 Common Ways We Praise God

Gary Chapman
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In the Old Testament, the word for praise stems from the word halal, which is associated with making a noise. In fact, Psalm 100 begins with this command: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands” (KJV). The Hebrew title for the book of Psalms is Sefer Tehillim, meaning “Book of Praises.”

Inner joy, which comes from making the God connection, is expressed in praise. Praise, therefore, is a mark of the people of God, and the whole of the Bible is punctuated with outbursts of praise. Conversely, nonbelievers are noted by their refusal to praise God.1

Verbal Praise

Praise to God may be expressed with or without music, in private, or in corporate worship with others. Verbal praise is a way of affirming our belief that God is holy, just, all-powerful, merciful, and loving. He is not only our Creator; He is also our Redeemer. He has made possible the love connection and, for that, we praise Him.

The realization that we are God’s children now and forever should motivate us to praise Him. And if someone’s primary love language is words of affirmation, it will be easy to express verbal praise to God. But again, it is easy to fall into the use of standard words and phrases, expressed at regular times and places. If this happens, even our praise, which starts out as authentic, can become mere ritual. Thus, we enhance our love relationship with God when we think creatively about places and ways to express praise to Him.

One of the best ways to add dimension to your musical affirmations to God is to join others in expressing praise during corporate worship.

For example, stand in front of a window looking out on the beauty of God’s creation and read aloud Psalm 19. Add your own words of praise as you go along. You may find yourself using terms of praise you have never used before.

Or get a Bible dictionary and look up the word God. As you read the article describing God’s various characteristics, express your own words of praise for who He is.

Praise Through Music

The singing of praises was central in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The offering of praise is often associated with music. The book of Psalms, hymns, and praise choruses all can help stimulate your creativity as you look for words with which to praise God.

You need not be able to sing well in order to use these tools of praise. Pick up a hymnbook and sing one of the old hymns to God. Don’t worry about staying on key. It does not matter to God whether or not you’re a musician. (Remember that Psalm 100:1 said only to make a joyful noise unto the Lord!) After each stanza you sing, express your own words of praise to God.

One of the best ways to add dimension to your musical affirmations to God is to join others in expressing praise during corporate worship. Allow your heart to express itself to God through the words of the songs.

Much discussion has taken place about the increased popularity of so-called praise and worship music as opposed to the traditional hymns of the church. Is one musical form better than the other? Perhaps a lesson from history would provide some helpful perspective.

In 1692 Isaac Watts was an eighteen-year-old boy who refused to sing during the church services. One Sunday his father rebuked him for not singing. Isaac answered that the music was not worth singing because the psalms did not rhyme and were wooden and awkward in form and phrase. “Those hymns were good enough for your grandfather and father,” said the senior Watts, “and they will have to be good enough for you.”

But Isaac was insistent: “They will never do for me, Father, regardless of what you and your father thought of them.”

“If you don’t like the hymns we sing, then write better ones,” his father said.

“I have written better ones, Father, and if you will relax and listen, I will read one to you.” Isaac told his father he had been reflecting on the song of the angels in Revelation 5:6–10 and had rewritten it, giving it rhyme and rhythm:

Behold the glories of the Lamb
Amidst His Father’s throne;
Prepare new honors for His name
And songs before unknown.

His astonished father took Isaac’s composition to the church. The congregation loved it so much that Isaac was asked to bring another the next Sunday, and the next, and the next, for more than 222 consecutive weeks.[1] Today Isaac Watts is considered the father of modern hymnody.

More than three hundred years later, the young Isaac Wattses of our day are writing praise and worship music. The music expresses the rhythm and rhyme of their hearts. Those of us who have been accustomed to the hymns of Isaac Watts would do well to follow the example of Isaac’s father and let the youth of our generation lead us into some fresh expressions of praise. In so doing, we may allow them to bless the church for the next three hundred years.

The dialects of praise are many because praise is not a matter of form; it is a matter of the heart. I suggest that you continue to use the dialects you have found meaningful in the past and then enhance your praise of God by trying new forms. Perhaps it is the desire to keep one’s praise alive and heartfelt that explains why many young people who have been raised with informal, free-flowing styles of worship are now finding themselves attracted to more liturgical worship. The reading of liturgies, which may have become ritual to someone who has repeated them for thirty years, can be like fresh water to a young person who has never heard them.

My plea is that believers will cease from criticizing styles and forms that are not familiar to them. Instead, let us seek to keep our own praise genuine by searching for ways new to us, but known and understood by the God whom we seek to praise.

[1] Robert J. Morgan, From This Verse: 365 Inspiring Stories about the Power of God’s Word (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 362.

For Further Reading:

God Speaks Your Love Language

by Gary Chapman

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