What is the purpose of praise in the Christian life? We begin by sub-dividing the question. What is the purpose of corporate praise in the Christian life (Psalm 22:2 and 84:4) and what is the purpose of individual praise in the Christian life? (Psalm 42:5 and Daniel 2:23). I won’t examine both of these questions except to give a general overview of the subject matter.
Psalm 31:1 gives an amazing command: “Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright. Psalm 51:15 adds, “O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Thy praise.” Psalmist teaches that even non-human things are called to praise the Lord in Psalm 69:34. “Let heaven and earth praise Him, The seas and everything that moves in them.”
Praising God is Pleasant
The writers of scripture marvel at the greatness of God. Their hearts and lives overflow with love and adoration. In their revelry of the living God they break forth in praise and invite all of creation to voice their praise. Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is becoming.” Here the Holy Spirit tells us that praising God is pleasant and becoming.
I’ve made no distinction between corporate praise and individual praise but on the whole it is commanded and, yes, it is the proper response to those who have received God’s manifold blessings. Like David dancing before the ark of the Lord. He danced with all his might offending his wife who thought David a fool. This was public praise.
C.S.Lewis, in writing about the Psalms said it best, “The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express that same delight in God which made David dance.” (C.S.Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms). Expressing our delight in God is scriptural praise.
The word “Praise” occurs over 250 times in the Bible; I take this to mean that praising God is an important dynamic in the Christian life. Reading the last few chapters of Revelation it is clear that one of the defining features of the new heaven and earth is the activity of praise and worship. In Revelation 4 John describes God’s presences in terms of worship and praise. When the disciples saw Jesus alive from the grave they worshipped him. The early disciples upon receiving the Holy Spirit gave themselves to the praise and worship of God (Acts 2, 3).
Sunday Morning is a Warm-up for Heaven!
In this life it is hard to imagine a future realm where our hearts are so full of God that our natural inclination will be to praise Him! Though this is a vain illustration it might help to understand God-centered praise. Imagine the sound of 60,000 people praising Randy Moss after catching a touchdown. Now imagine all of God’s people lifting their voice of praise to Him who reigns forever and ever. The roar will be deafening! D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of my heroes, said that “Corporate worship on Sunday morning is preparation for worship in glory.” Sunday morning is a warm-up for heaven!
The grave question to ask at this point is why our corporate worship when placed side-by-side with David’s seems so pale! I won’t answer that question but it is striking that our corporate worship experience seems anemic by comparison. In my mind Sunday morning worship with God’s people should make the voice of 60,000 screaming Viking’s fans seem like a faint whisper by comparison.
I have been chiefly focusing upon praise among God’s people and praise in our private worship. Ephesians one, however, would show us that praise is more than Sunday-go-to-meeting experience but it includes works of holiness, and God’s redemptive purposes in Christ Jesus. The purpose of praise is to acknowledge with joy the Lord as our creator and redeemer. The purpose of praise is edify one another (Psalm 35:18 and Psalm 40:3).
Praise, like Christian joy, is not an afterthought. God means to save us from our sins so that we may live in praise and express our praise to the God of our salvation.