“Praise the Lord!” or “Praise God!” How many times have you said some version of this phrase? It’s a staple in the Christian vocabulary! God answers a prayer, things are going well in your life, a family member comes to know Christ as Savior – all of these things are good reason to praise Him. But have you ever stopped and really thought about what you’re saying? What does it truly mean to praise God?

The English word praise means to express approval, admiration, respect, and gratitude. There are multiple Hebrew words that translate to praise in the Bible; here are a few:
Yadah – to praise, give thanks, or confess; to lift or throw arms upward in praise and surrender
Hallal – to praise, glorify, boast
Zamar – to make music or sing praises
Tehillah – to praise vocally in song or shouts
Todah – thanksgiving

Each of these words presents a slightly different take on praise. According to these terms, when we praise God we are giving thanks to him, surrendering to him, boasting about him, often through music – vocal or instrumental. Learning about all of these words has made me think about how I praise.

When I first came to know Jesus and was figuring out what it meant to praise him, I learned about it in the sense of “praise and worship” where praise songs were the faster, more upbeat songs and worship songs were the slower and more reflective type of songs in a worship set.

One of my early experiences with praise was as an inaugural member of the first student worship team back in the day when GT Church was in a different location and student ministries was known as youth group. I was one of two piano players (who took turns playing an upright piano – we didn’t own a keyboard at the time) along with a drummer, an electric guitar player, a bass player, and a couple of singers. I remember our first practice in a tiny basement room. We had a repertoire of about five songs total and while we may have made a joyful noise, I kind of recall it being more noise than joy at first. Over time we improved a great deal and started adding new people to the team, but even in those early days when we may not have sounded the best, we were totally invested in praising God with everything we had.

I also remember that I wasn’t completely sold on raising my hands while singing at first either. As a more reserved and private type of person, I wasn’t sure how I felt about such an outward display. I started out with the kind of hand raising where you keep your elbows glued to your sides and either put your hands out palms up or just raise them to about shoulder height, being sure to keep them as close to your body as possible.

Confession time – that’s still my comfort zone even today. However, as I continued to grow in my faith and knowledge of the Lord, I came to realize that raising my hands wasn’t just something I was “supposed to” do when worshipping. I realized that it was a symbol of surrendering to him and acknowledging his power and holiness. As I came to a deeper understanding, I found myself stepping out of that comfort zone and lifting both of my hands up over my head sometimes, not because I was “supposed to” but because I wanted to. I wanted to show God that I was willing to surrender my will to his and to glorify and thank him for all he has done for me.

I’m not saying that everyone needs to raise their hands in praise all the time or that there’s anything wrong with having a comfort zone when it comes to worship. I am, however, encouraging you (myself included) to maybe take a look at how you’ve been comfortable praising him and consider whether or not there’s a way to step beyond your comfort zone and go deeper in your praise at times. Whether you have a beautiful voice or can’t carry a tune in a bucket, whether you’re loud and boisterous or quiet and reserved, we are all called to praise the God who made us. No matter how or when we do it, we all have things we can and should praise God for.

Another thing I’ve learned about praise is that it’s easy to do when things are going well, and a little more challenging when times are hard. But it’s when times are hard that I’ve found I need to praise God more than ever! It’s amazing how music can change our mood – I can be in a terrible mood, but when a catchy, upbeat tune comes on, I find myself starting to bob my head or tap my foot to the beat and it’s hard to stay in that place. Praise is the same way. You may not feel like praising God based on your current circumstances, but singing those words and hearing that music can serve to remind us of who God is, what he has done for us in the past, and what we know he can do in the future. I know it’s done that for me!

I’ll leave you with this final thought – praise can be more than just singing a song. We can praise God when we pray, when we read his Word, and in anything we do that gives glory and honor to his name! How will you praise God this week?

Read //
Psalm 8
Psalm 65
Psalm 100
Psalm 146

Journal Prompt/Discussion Questions //
Why does God deserve your praise?
How will you praise him this week?
What things will you praise him for?
Pick a Psalm to use as a prayer this week.

Prayer Focus //
God, I praise you for who you are. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever! Mere words aren’t enough to express how wonderful and holy you are, but I offer these words now as an offering of praise. Thank you for loving me no matter what I do, simply because you made me and I am your child. Help me to praise you every day in multiple ways, no matter what my circumstances may be.