The Blessing of Prayerful Praise
“Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
— Isaiah 56:7
My family loves to sing. I grew up on Long Island, New York with my parents, siblings, and maternal grandmother. When I was young my parents shared with me that I sang and hummed even as a baby. As a toddler, I honed my new found skills by learning numerous commercial jingles. So as you might imagine, my parents made me the resident entertainment. Each time someone visited our home, they placed me front and center to sing a favorite jingle. This love of singing, I was told, was passed down from my grandmother. “Granny” as we lovingly called her, lived with us until her death at 99 years of age. Every morning, after she read her Bible, Granny would sing a hymn or hum a tune for the rest of the day. So it wasn’t until I got older that I began to notice that the tunes she sang were not always vibrant, melodious hymns but many times raspy and deliberate prayers. In my mind, I can still hear the songs of my grandmother blessing our house with prayerful tunes of praise.
Prayer A Form of Praise
Prayer is a form of praise that develops from a deep understanding of God’s Word.
The Holman Bible Dictionary states that the modes of praise are many. However, it includes seven modes of praise to God. The seven practices for praise to God are as follows:
Offering a Sacrifice: In ancient times the priest would offer a lamb (Ex. 29:38). But today Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins (Jn. 1:29). We offer ourselves as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God which is our spiritual worship (Rom. 12:1).
Physical Movement: The Israelites were expressive in praise to God. They would stand, bow, prostrate themselves, dance, clap, kneel, and lift their hands (Nehemiah 8:5-6). David danced before the Lord (2 Sam. 6:14) and told us to clap our hands in praise (Ps.47:1). You can apply these praise movements based on the congregation that you serve. Not everyone has to respond in the same exact way for our praise movements to be acceptable. Any physical movement within these prescribed parameters is all God requires from us for proper praise.
Silence & Meditation: Since our world is filled with fast-paced hustle and bustle, we must build in times of silence in our worship and our world. The word Selah is most frequently used in the Book of Psalm and three times in Habakkuk. Selah is a musical notation that means to pause and think calmly on what has just been expressed.
Testimony: Our salvation stories should be used as a means to extol God’s goodness, express our faith, build community and promote compassion for others (Ps. 105:1-2).
Prayer: Prayer provides us with constant communication with God. David says, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense” (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8). Prayer is a conduit to the halls of heaven and a pathway into God’s presence.
A Holy Life: God continues to admonish us to be holy. Why? Because He is holy (Lev. 19:2; 1 Thes. 4:7). Praise allows us to reflect the character of our Creator. The apostle Peter states, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood a Holy Nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Music: Music is the sublime language God created to perpetuate His praise.
Music both vocal and instrumental pleases God. Music has God-ordained prophetic power. In 1 Chronicles 23:5, David says that the Levites should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals.
In order for these forms of praise to penetrate our hearts, we need to study our Bibles. When we anchor our lives to God’s Word our songs become prayers and our prayers become our songs. Through a deep relationship with Jesus Christ, we make melodies with our lives that are acceptable sacrifices to God (Ps. 40:3). Author Ron Owens in his book Return to Worship; A God Centered Approach writes, “Fundamental to offering God acceptable worship is having a correct view of who He is. If our view of God is anything other than His Self-revelation through His Word, then the god we worship is one of our own making, one fashioned to suit what we want God to be.”1
For our praise to be acceptable, the Word of God can’t just be in our lyrics. The Word of God must be reflected in our lives. When our praise pleases God, our songs penetrate beyond the worship service, into the soul. God nestled a hymnal that can be used as a handbook in His Holy Word. The Book of Psalm contains one of the greatest collections of songs, prayers, and poetry that spans one thousand years. Yet many of us don’t use the Bible as our primary guide for praise.
My husband does not like to follow instructions. If you really want to be honest, most men don’t. For the longest time, my husband refused to use his car navigation system. He had it, but he just wouldn’t use it. He was so bad that he would put on the navigation system and still drive his own way. That’s how some of us are with God’s Word. We have it but we just won’t use it. Some of us read God’s Word, but we just won’t follow the instructions. We rather go our own way.
Mark Futato, author of the Book Interpreting the Psalms tells us, “Many psalms were originally human words to God in prayer and praise. But once included in the canonical book, this text became God’s word to humans to teach us how to pray and praise.”2 Praise that penetrates is powered by prayer.
Edward Curtis, in his book Ancient Psalms and Modern Worship explains, “Laments outnumber every other kind of psalm in the Psalter; almost a third of the psalms belong to this category. Laments have their origin in situations of distress from which the psalmists cried out to God for help and deliverance. They reflect a wide assortment of troubles—political pressure, physical illness, loneliness, oppression, and a variety of spiritual needs. Interestingly, every lament includes an element of praise.” With so many difficult situations taking place in our world today we need to understand the power of laments that can unite us in a prayerful praise.
The Purpose of Prayerful Praise
Prayer helps praise through our pain.
Psalm 22:3 begins, “My God My God why have you forsaken me?” But by the time we get to third verse David exclaims, “But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.”
Prayer gives us God’s perspective.
We see the people who need salvation through the Savior’s eyes. Without prayer, our songs lack proper perspective.
Prayer gives us God’s power.
We must unite our praise and prayer in order to have power. We need power in our praise to attract people to Jesus Christ.
We should sing our praise in a posture of prayer. Prayer and praise are both public and private; personal and congregational. For example, if you are an avid sports fan, you probably watch most of the games at home. You know all the players, all the stats, and every game won or lost. Then when you have the opportunity to go to the arena this is not your first time experiencing the excitement and the thrill of victory or defeat. You’ve been a fan of your team at home. So your public exuberance is just an expression of your private devotion.
We experience something very similar with prayer and praise. Your public expression of praise should be an overflow of your private experience in prayer and praise to God. You should come into the sanctuary already filled up with praise not needing to fill up. We should pray and study God’s Word as the core of our worship. No matter the circumstance, triumph or tragedy, we make intimacy with God through prayer the centerpiece of our praise. When we unite prayer with praise the house of God will be blessed.
The Blessings of Prayerful Praise
Prayer is the covenant that transforms your character
Prayer is the current that can be expressed in your chorus.
Prayer is the divine conversation
that will draw your community
Praying God’s Word endows our songs with the power of salvation. Music powered by God’s Word unites in the Household of Prayer to create pleasing, purposeful, praise. God’s purpose is that our lives will become the lyrics Christ uses to seek and save the lost.
1 Ron Owens, Return to Worship: A God Centered Approach. p. 7-8.
2 Cheryl Wilson-Bridges, Deeper Praise: Music, Majesty or Mayhem. p. 47