Friday, August 2, 2013

Living at a New Level in Praise

Earlier this week, we shared some things about prayer.  Those came from the heart, responding to someone’s need to understand God’s thoughts on prayer.  In that context, it was as complete as it needed to be.  But there’s more.  We often hear the phrase “prayer and praise”.  But are the two separate or are they both part of the same thing?

I did some research, trying to find out as much as I could on the subject of praise.  And, as varied as the forms of praise can be, it all proved to be very simple.  So simple that we already know it in our hearts.  Let’s start with why God would want praise.

The aspect of praise that really amazed me most was that God requested it.  Certainly a God who is omni everything worth desiring and praising isn’t going to be so insecure that He really needs our praise.  Everything we appreciate, here on earth, is but a pale reflection of who and what God is.  So, if the need for praise isn’t for God, why does He require it?  Could it be for our sakes?

Remember that we said a major reason for prayer was so that we could see what held importance in our hearts.  I believe praise has a similar, but slightly different, place in our spiritual life.  God knows who He is, how awesome He is, and what He is.  But we’re still seeing “through a glass darkly”.  Our experience of God is on a strictly spiritual level.  And that’s not going to be working at 100% till we get to heaven.  Most of us don’t see God, can’t physically feel Him, and don’t hear His voice with our ears.  So, we need a little help.

There’s a psychological truth that the more we communicate something, the more we experience it.  The more we praise God and think on the various aspects of His nature, what He does for us, how great He truly is, etc., the more we get to experience that reality.  Consider that Adam was created from mud or dust.  And his sin dragged us all back down there, with our experience matching that reality.  We aren’t going to see much of God with dust in our spiritual and physical eyes.  God gave us praise to lift us above the dirt and gain a taste of what’s to come in eternity.

The more we praise, the more we comprehend, on a spiritual level, what and who God is.  The more we experience God, the greater we realize our blessings.  And our spirits are lifted closer and closer to heaven.  As we experience more of God, we also realize that there’s much more still to be experienced.  While we are in awe of what God shows us now, we are amazed and in wonder at what we haven’t experienced.  That childlike faith that God desires because it benefits our spiritual well being.

When we look at praise throughout the Bible, we see conversation with God, prayer, singing, raising hands, David dancing before the Lord.  If we look at it closely, even sacrifice is a form of praise, including Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac.  The variety of ways to praise makes it clear that our God is not a “one size fits all” God.  His request for praise, His love for us, his edicts are all intended to bring each of us closer to Him.  The closer we grow to Him, the more joy we experience.  And all of that is as personal as the individual differences each of us has.

I intentionally didn’t use any verses in this post for a reason.  I’m going to ask you to do something.  Start thinking about everything you know about God.  Not verses I might give you, not your interpretation of verses you might know, but just God.  As we do that, we can’t help but begin to praise Him.

Next, as you’re praising God, start looking up verses about who He is, what He’s done, about His nature.  Let the verses speak to you in themselves and from their context.  We’re not talking about plucking verses out of the air, but real study, too.  Let them be personal to you and prove God and the necessity for praise.  We’re not looking for subjective emotionalism with no anchor in reality.  Understand that, by meditation on God and His Word, the full reality of God and the emotion will come.  But it will have a foundation in heavenly Truth.

We suggested, last time, that prayer gives us insight into our heart and our relationship to God.  In the midst of praise is the best time for prayer.  Praise changes our heart in the direction of God.  So, it changes how we’re going to pray.  Praise draws our thinking more in line with God’s.  And our prayers and praise reflect that.

There’s one last think I want you to do.  Give thanks to God.  Thanks is often treated as separate from praise, but it’s really just another aspect of it.  One that’s as necessary as the rest of what we’re suggesting.  Praise, intermingled with the Word, including prayer, capped by thanks.  That becomes an unending cycle of joy.  And it can be interspersed throughout our normal daily routine, giving us entrances into heavenly experiences throughout the day, making our joy fuller than it might otherwise be.  What are you doing today that your joy might be full because your praise is giving you a greater experience of God?

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