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A few weeks ago, a friend asked me, “How is your praise life?”
“Hmm? Do you mean my prayer life?” I asked.
“No, not your prayer life, but your praise life.” He went on to define what a praise life is. It means making time to focus on God by praising him for his character and things he has done.
When I heard that, I realized that over these several months since COVID started, I really haven’t praised God much. Yes, I have poured out to him my worries but haven’t really taken the time to be grateful to God.
It’s hard to remember to praise God especially when we go through trials in life.
My friend said, “That’s exactly why we need to cultivate the habit of a praise life.”
According to American preacher John Piper, one reason we should be in the habit of praising God is that it helps us to recognize how big God is compared to our problems. We tend to make our problems bigger than they actually are and forget that we serve a God whose grace is sufficient for us in our weakness.
While there are other reasons why we should make it a habit to praise God, today, I would like to talk about how we can cultivate an attitude of praise. I would like to turn to Psalm 145, from which I will draw 3 points: to cultivate a heart of praise, we ought to 1) know who God is, 2) recall what God has done, and 3) tell others about God. Let’s pray before we read the psalm.[Read Psalm 145]
Know who God is
My first point is, we ought to know who God is in order to grow in our praise life. We can’t praise someone without knowing what good qualities that person has.
In 2009, a Scottish woman named Susan Boyle auditioned for the TV singing competition Britain’s Got Talent. She was middle-aged and plump with grey hair—hardly the impression of a successful music artist. But when she sang the song “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical Les Miserables, the audience gasped in amazement. The judges gave her a standing ovation. People didn’t recognize how amazing she was until they heard her sing.
As for us, do we recognize the amazing qualities of God? In our hearts, do we ever give God a thunderous applause? Or is our clapping half-hearted, like, “Oh, God? He’s just so-so.”
In Psalm 145, we can see why David gushes with praise for God. It’s because of what David recognizes about God’s character.
For example: In verse 1, God is King. In verse 3, his greatness is unfathomable. In verse 4, he does mighty acts across history. In verse 5, he is full of glorious splendor and majesty. In verses 8 and 9, he is gracious, compassionate, patient and loving. In verse 13, he rules over an everlasting kingdom. In verses 15 and 16, he is our source of all our daily needs. In verse 17, he is righteous and loving in all his dealings. In verse 18, he remains near to those who call on him. In verses 19 and 20, he hears our cries and saves us.
Have you experienced God in any of these ways before? For me, I can relate to verse 15 and 16: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.” And to verse 18, “The Lord is near to all who call on him.” Even though COVID-19 has affected my work and income, God answered when I called out to him. Even before COVID, God provide for me to be in Japan for 4 years—being here is itself a miracle.
When we see how mighty God is, we can find the courage to face tomorrow—because we are leaning on God’s strength.
Recall what God has done
Moving on to my second point, besides looking at who God is, we ought to recall what God has done. In Verse 5, David says, “I will meditate on your wonderful works.”
For the ancient Israelites, every year, they would celebrate the Passover festival to remember how God rescued their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. They also have a practice of building memorial stones to commemorate God’s help during a certain event.
I don’t have any real stones, but I have a story that serves as my kind of memorial stone because I tell the story again and again, to different people. It’s the story of how God saved me as a teenager. If God didn’t save me, I would probably have severe mental problems today because I grew up in a broken family. Do you have any memories of how God helped you, even if it was in a small matter? It’s good to recall these moments, and remind ourselves that God is still our Helper today.
The Israelites celebrated God together, as a community. As Christians we do that too, such as by gathering to sing on Sundays and by taking Communion together. Because of COVID, we are not having Communion now, but I would like to encourage you to do it with your family members at home. Communion is a precious time to remember what the Lord Jesus did for us.
Communion is often a quiet and solemn ritual in most churches, and that’s appropriate since it’s a time for repentance and self-reflection. But I also think that we can take the bread and cup with gladness and praise.
If you were crossing the road and almost got hit by car but someone pulled you back just on time, you would feel so thankful to that person. You might even want to hug them or give them a gift, even if they were a stranger. You might feel shaken by the danger of that moment but a new awareness of life and how lucky you are to be alive. Likewise, Jesus is the person who pulls us back from danger. In fact, we could say he was the one hit by the car instead of you.
If not for Jesus dying on our place, we would still be destined for death. If we truly understood Jesus’ sacrifice and heart for us, we will naturally want to praise God. And we would want to tell others about Him too.
Tell others about God
This leads me to my last point: telling others about God helps us cultivate a habit of praising God.
When we experience something wonderful, we want to tell others about it. Many of my students recommending me to watch the TV drama Jin, which is about a time-travelling surgeon who goes back to the Edo period. During my classes, they kept praising the drama was, and that made me want to check it for myself. I watched it and found they were right. After that I also wanted to tell people about Jin. First I thanked my students for recommending it. After that I told my wife’s parents about it.
We may think of praising God as singing songs at church or thanking him in our prayers. Well, praising God can be done in different ways, and one of them is to tell people about your experience of God. In Psalm 145 verses 11 and 12, David says that people of God will “tell of the glory of your kingdom/ and speak of your might,/ so that all people may know of your mighty acts/ and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.”
Sometimes we don’t do that because we’re afraid non-Christian friends will think we are crazy. Well, that’s a valid concern and we should ask God for guidance about speaking to others. We can also start by telling our own Christian friends about God’s goodness and get used to talking about it.
To summarize, let’s cultivate a habit of praising God. He is truly worthy of our worship, and focusing on Him helps us face our own challenges with God’s strength and love. To cultivate this habit, we must begin by getting to know God more. Along the journey of life, let’s recall our past experiences with God to renew our love and trust for Him. Lastly, let’s learn to speak about Him to others, out of a genuine love for Him. And who knows? Someone may be blessed by your story. I pray that we will each experience God this coming year. Let’s pray.