In Psalm 22:3, the psalmist tells us ”God inhabits the praise of his people. “ Now granted, this verse is specifically referring to the people of Israel. II Chronicles 5:13-15 explain how, when the people of Israel began praising the Lord, God came down and met with His people, and His glory filled His house. I believe God comes near when we actively praise Him.
This concept of God inhabiting praise is behind why many churches have praise and worship bands, or sing praise songs. The term “Praise” is defined as an expression of one’s gratitude and respect towards a deity… especially through song.
Now is the season of Thanksgiving, so I thought this devotional thought timely. During Thanksgiving, many of us take time to ponder the ”good” things in our lives, those things we are especially thankful for, such as: our families, friends, health, career, home, etc. Many families even go around the room sharing thoughts of gratitude. Most of us can easily talk about how we are thankful for our blessings. Blessings – that favor or those gifts bestowed by God that bring us happiness. And research shows that taking time to remember and reflect on our blessings is beneficial and healthy, not to mention wise. However, I would like to suggest that praise goes a bit deeper than just being thankful for blessings.
Acts 16 finds Paul and Silas on a missionary journey, walking through Philippi. While walking through the streets, a slave girl starts following them around announcing loudly that ”these men are the servants of the most high God, which show us the way of salvation” (v.17). Now, Scripture tells us that this young slave girl was demon possessed and was a fortune teller. After following Paul and Silas for many days, Paul commands the demon to leave the girl, and she is set free from her demonic possession. A good thing, right? Well, her owners did not think so. After all, the girl’s fortune telling skills were how they made their income. Angry, the owners grabbed Paul and Silas, dragged them to the authorities, then accused the men of telling people to break the law. The authorities had Paul and Silas beaten and cast into prison, commanding the jailer to keep the men safe. So, the jailer took extra precautions, locking the two in the innermost cell and further locking their feet in stocks, just to be sure they did not get away.
Paul and Silas had been through a lot that day. They were surely in pain from the beatings, uncomfortable with their feet in stocks, and their freedom was now gone… not an ideal day to say the least. However, midnight found these two men praying and singing praises to God. Just like in II Chronicles, God came and met with these men in the midst of their praise. And, in this particular instance, God did something extraordinary. He caused all the doors in the prison to open up and loosed all the prisoners’ bonds, including the stocks holding Paul and Silas’ feet. Amazing things happen when God shows up, and praise seems to have a way of bringing God near.
So, in this Thanksgiving season, sure, take time to be thankful for the many blessings God has bestowed on your life, and for the favor He has graciously shown you. But let’s not stop there… what about also taking some time to reflect on the hard times you’ve been through, those difficulties in your life… and as you reflect on the hard times, ask God to give you grace to praise Him for (or in spite) of those difficulties. It probably won’t be easy, but at least give it a try.
Then, let’s try to take this praise exercise a step further. As you praise God for the difficulties, take a moment to notice how the God of all Creation comes and meets with you in the middle of your praise. And, observe how practicing praise changes your perspective, and even how it begins to change you. May God fill your heart with praise this Thanksgiving season!