One of the signature elements of local church gatherings has been, since its inception, singing songs of praise. Although the style of the music has changed, from the days of pipe organs to electric guitars and synthesizers, the act of congregational singing has remained a central aspect of the Christian Church. Even across denominational lines, you could walk into a Catholic church, an Anglican church, a Pentecostal church or a house church and you could experience an atmosphere of praise expressed through song. Why is praise so central to the the Christian experience? I would like to propose that it is because praise is the most basic human response to the reality of God’s existence.
Think about it like this, if there is a God who made all creation and all humanity because of a deep and genuine love for us, than is He not worthy of our praise? To think otherwise would be complete foolishness! Even in our treatment of one another, we are accustom to praising one another for a job well done. We praise our spouse when they selflessly do things around the house or prioritize the interests, desires and well being of the family. We praise employees when they go above and beyond what they have been asked to do. We praise leaders and influential people when they utilize their positions and resources to make a positive impact in our world or contribute to a social cause. We praise our significant other when they capture our attention through their mere physical appearance! The first reference to “praise” in the Bible, is in fact, a reference to the beauty of Abraham’s wife, Sarah (Genesis 12:14-15).
If we are willing to praise those whom God has created for their accomplishments or success or beauty, how much more should we long to praise God Himself? Every time we see a tree He has created, we should praise Him! Every time we experience the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, we should praise Him! But what about when we see war or experience heart-break, depression, sickness or loss? Most people, even if they would not call themselves believers or followers of Jesus, may be inclined to praise God (whomever they think He might be) for the good things while then believing they must curse that same God for all the bad in our world.
In response, let me point to a story in the book of Acts. Paul and Silas are travelling to Macedonia to tell people about Jesus and the good news of His death and resurrection. Although some people were receptive to their words, some were not. Some were so upset that they beat Paul and Silas with rods and convinced a local jailer to put them in prison. You can imagine how you might feel, if after doing what you believed God had wanted you to do, you ended up physically assaulted and imprisoned. The prevailing thought on your mind might likely not be utter joy and delight. Yet what did Paul and Silas do upon being thrown in this prison? The Scriptures record that, “about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25). Even in the midst of unpleasant and miserable circumstances, these followers of Jesus continued to praise their God as if they were in the comfort of their home or the serenity of a church gathering. The Scriptures go on to explain that just after their time of prayer and praise, there was an earthquake that broke open their prison doors (Acts 16:26). Paul and Silas did not praise God in order to be set free (we must not treat praise like a transactional experience, in which we do something for God so that He may do something in return for us). However, when we give God the praise He is due, He has a tendency to show up and do wonderful things! Praise the Name of the Lord!