Why do we praise God?
To a lot of people, ‘praise’ and ‘worship’ mean the same thing. In reality, though, they are not the same thing. So, while I will address both why we praise and why we worship, this article is on the issue of praise.
I guess we should start from what it means to praise.
– to express approval or admiration of; commend; extol;
– to offer grateful homage to (God or a deity), as in words or song.
We praise people for things they do, their abilities, their person (character, behaviour, looks), etc. We praise them directly (“You’re such a kind person!”) or indirectly, to a third party (“She’s such a kind person!”). Why? Simply because we truly admire something about them and can’t help talking about it. We don’t have any ulterior motive and if we did, it would gravitate towards flattery, not praise.
Why should we praise God?
1. He is worthy of praise, being God and perfect in every way
Praise the Lord, all nations on earth.
Praise the Lord’s glory and power;
praise the glory of the Lord’s name.
Bring an offering and come to him.
Worship the Lord because he is holy.
(1 Chronicles 16:28-29 NCV)
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”
(Revelation 4:11 NIV)
2. For the things He has done
This is different from thanking Him for what He has done. This is giving Him the glory for what He has done.
Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!) I will praise and give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart in the council of the upright and in the congregation.
(Psalm 111:1 AMPC)
This translation differentiates between thanksgiving and praise, and the rest of the chapter speaks about the many wonderful works of God for which He is to be praised and thanked.
For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name, for your name is good.
(Psalm 52:9 NIV)
3. For who He is
Is there any truth to the idea that we should praise God so that He can do something we desire of Him?
I find that proponents of this ideology base it on two incidents in the Old Testament, which I will make reference to and seek to offer some clarification on.
1. The wall of Jericho
This was an impossible situation, as it were, for the Israelites. How were they to get beyond those massive walls to defeat Jericho? The first thing worthy of note is that God assured them that it was a done deal:
Then the Lord said to Joshua,
“See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.
(Joshua 6:2 NIV)
The Lord then gave Joshua instructions on what to do: For six days, march around the wall of Jericho once in silence. On the seventh day, march around it seven times, six times in silence and then after the seventh time, give a loud shout. As they obeyed, the walls came down as they shouted. There was no praise involved, more of a battle shout, I would say. The key was obedience to God’s instructions to get the results He had promised.
2. The battle against Moab and Ammon (2 Chronicles 20:15-22)
Again, God told them that this was a done deal. They wouldn’t even need to fight:
You shall not need to fight in this battle; take your positions, stand still, and see the deliverance of the Lord [Who is] with you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Fear not nor be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.
(verse 17, AMPC)
After God made this pronouncement, Jehoshaphat and the people’s reaction was to praise and worship Him because they believed Him. So the next day, Jehoshaphat did something that further showed the confidence he and the people had in God’s word to them:
When he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers to sing to the Lord and praise Him in their holy [priestly] garments as they went out before the army, saying, Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever! And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir who had come against Judah, and they were [self-] slaughtered
(verses 21 – 22, AMPC)
Their motive was not to ‘make God’ give them victory. He had already said He would. They simply gave Him praise because they had confidence in Him and in His words. Their praise did not make Him do what He did not intend to do. He had already intended to destroy the enemies without involving the Israelite army.
I stumbled on a verse that some might also misconstrue to justify what I see as ‘conditional praise’:
I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
(2 Samuel 22:4)
These words were part of a song of praise by David after God had saved him from Saul and other enemies. He wasn’t saying that when he praises God, he shall be saved from his enemies. The phrase “who is worthy to be praised” was a adjectival phrase describing the Lord that He was speaking of. The salvation was a result of his calling on the Lord. In other words, “I will call on the Lord….: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.”
We pray to ask Him to intervene in our affairs and meet our needs, but we praise Him because He is worthy of praise. God is infinitely worthy of praise and should be praised for just this reason. As a parent, I know when my child is sincerely complimenting me or acting loving versus when she wants something from me and is just trying to ‘butter me up’. I can assure you that I don’t appreciate the insincere praise. Why would God who even sees the heart and knows exactly what our motives are?
Now we know, let us praise always God because He’s worthy, for what He has done and because of who He is.