I’ve recently realised that praising God is easier than I thought.
I’d chastised myself for years for not praising God enough. My prayers often start with requests, quickly add some thanks, and then return to requests, and I find it very difficult to include praise. It seems forced.
People say your prayers should consist of Adoration (praise), Confession, Thanks, and Supplication (requests), in that order. I started to believe that prayers really had to be that formulaic. I know they meant it as a helpful guide to ensure that we don’t pray self-centred prayers, but I am human and as such I like to tick boxes. I want to ensure that I’m doing all that I need to do to please God, and if praying-by-numbers is the right way, then that’s what I’ll do.
But I don’t. I can’t. I can’t please God by doing religious things.
He’s not a fan of that kind of thing:
I realised that my attempts at praying the ‘right’ way were pretty pathetic, resulting in guilt when I didn’t include all ‘necessary’ parts, and a feeling of uneasiness when I worked hard to make sure I got it right. Uneasiness because I felt that talking to God in order to tick some boxes wasn’t quite what He had in mind.
But slowly God has been teaching me more about prayer – not that it’s all perfect now, but it’s improving.
I find myself chatting to my Father and Brother naturally without feeling that I can’t say what I want to say until I do all necessary Adoring. I can allow myself to go to sleep at night without making certain I’ve prayed a pious prayer (try saying that fast). And, although I’m not sure throwing quick requests at Him randomly throughout the day is a great way to pray, I let myself do it because it frees up my quiet times for a deeper conversation with God.
So all that was great, but I still found it difficult to praise God in prayer. At the end of the day I’d look back and realise that I hadn’t prayed any prayers of praise, so I’d try quickly get it out the way before I talked about the things I really wanted to pray about. (I know, right? It’s hard to admit this.) And it was forced. Partly because all my other concerns were crowding my head and partly because I didn’t know what words to say that didn’t feel contrived.
But that all changed when I listened to a sermon recently on Psalm 33. It’s one of those psalms that goes on and on about how awesome God is and how much He is worthy of praise.
I can’t say I was particularly desperate to hear the sermon (“I know all that, what can I possibly learn from this?”) but it turned out to be a sermon through which God taught me something valuable: praising Him does not have to be a chore.
When your friends invite you to dinner and they make an unbelievably delicious meal it’s not hard to say “wow guys, this is amazing.” That’s praise.
When I go for a walk at 7am (very rarely) and am surrounded by cows and mist and earthy smells, it’s easy for me to say “wow God, this is amazing.” That’s praising God!
It seems so obvious now: God made the universe, God saved me, God has made me His child, so appreciating these things is praise to God. I had always thought praise had to sound something like: “Our heavenly Father, You are faithful and kind, You have created the world and done mighty deeds. I praise You for your wonderfulness.” That’s all well and good, but if it’s said out of a desire to say the ‘correct’ things then it sounds suspiciously like those babbling pagans Jesus mentioned.
Of course I’d love to be able to praise God like that naturally, going on and on about His awesomeness like Psalm 33, out of a real, overflowing appreciation of who He is. And I know I will be willing and able to do that one day, in fact we all will, and it will be utterly wonderful.
But right now I’m just pleased that I can feel comfortable praising my Saviour in everyday circumstances, in a few words, while dealing with the business of life, out of an appreciation of what He has made and what He has done.
Have you had any misunderstandings about prayer and praise? Feel free to comment below.
- free from Pixabay with verse added by me.
- from an article about praise at OnFire Ministries.
- from a good read on Life, Hope & Truth about praise, although it might inadvertently encourage the ticking of boxes.*
- free photo from Pexels.
*I like this quote from the Life, Hope & Truth article:
Our praise really doesn’t make God feel more important any more than our offerings can make Him rich.
No, God doesn’t ask us to praise Him for His own benefit. He asks us to praise Him for our benefit.