Thursday, March 11, 2010

Praise That Won't Sit Still

A while back I grew weary of my limited praise vocabulary. I seem to have a rather limitless vocabulary for petition, but not for adoration and thanksgiving. I found I was leaning too heavily on cliché’s as I attempted to offer God the worship He’s due; clearly He’s due more than a few stock phrases.

So I decided to look for words in Scripture that I could use as my own. I did not want to get in trouble for plagiarism, but I figured that if I could really make these words my own it would be okay.

In particular, I was looking for words of praise in the second person so that “I” could praise “You.” Here is one passage I found, wrote down on a 3x5 card, and tried to memorize for the purpose of praise:

“You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.” (Nehemiah 9:6)

Another passage I didn’t plagiarize was from the Psalms. Not surprising, right? It’s the book of prayers and praise, after all… but it led me to realize something quite interesting about biblical praise.

Well, first of all, here’s the passage:

“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!” (Psalm 84:10-12)

And here’s what I realized: The praise recorded in the psalms rarely sits still. Did you realize, for example, that in the passage above the psalmist first speaks to God…then to himself…then to everyone else…and then to God again!

To God: “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”
To himself: “I would rather be a doorkeeper…”
To everyone: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield…”
To God: “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!”

This is what I have found repeatedly. The praise recorded in the psalms keeps moving in all different directions. (Take a fresh look at the familiar Psalms 3, 23, or 118 for example.)

So here’s what I gather from all this:

1. Praise is inescapably corporate, and we should be ever mindful of the larger body of believers even as we worship God “privately.” Remember, Jesus taught us to pray to “Our Father.”

2. We need to speak to ourselves even as we speak to God. We need steady, conscious reminders of God’s truth and promises while we worship.

3. The reverse is also true: we need ongoing infusions of worship as we learn God’s truth and promises. If you study too long without prayer and praise, you’re probably not learning as much as you think.

4. This explains why I’m not so good at following prayer patterns like “ACTS” (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). These are good training wheels but eventually we need something more like “ACATASAA.” And for those who believe in lament, “LACATASLAA.”

Those are just initial thoughts. I’d be interested in yours… especially since I realize I’m not alone in this!


Jeff said...

Ken - the goodness level of this post is high. I especially like the first two paragraphs. (the rest is good too, but you state a common problem very well in the beginning.) Would you mind if I referenced you in my sermon this week?

Ken said...

Of course not, glad you benefited in some way.