What does it mean to praise God together?
Scripture is saturated with ‘praise’ towards God. More often than not this is expressed through prayer, or sung worship – the psalms are full of both – but what does praise mean?
Praise is God-centred rejoicing
Our society is very ‘me’ orientated. We worship ‘self’ and rob God of the glory. So when we praise God together, we are confirming the right order of balance in the universe, that God is King, not us! He alone is worthy of all praise.
As Tim Keller said:
The word ‘worship’ is from the Old English ‘worth-ship’ – the ascribing of highest worth. Whatever you value or love the most, whatever is your greatest source of significance and security, you are worshipping in your heart. Worship in church is just an expression of that.
In short, I would define ‘praise’ as ‘joyfully and reverently honouring God our Sovereign Creator for his holy, loving, gracious and saving work in our lives.’
God alone is worthy of all praise as our Creator and Saviour (Rev. 4:11; 5:12,14). Indeed, the whole of Heaven reverberates with joyful worship, both from angels and from people of every tribe and tongue who have been redeemed by Christ (Rev. 7:9-12). Praise is the very atmosphere of Heaven (Ps.105) and it should therefore be reflected in the atmosphere of our churches too!
Praise is gathered affirmation of the gospel
Week by week, in stadiums up and down our country, fans unashamedly gather together to cheer on their team. There is a totally different dynamic when we gather with other supporters compared to watching alone. If it’s true in the sporting world, how much more true should it be for Christians?
It is God’s desire that we gather together to praise him (Ps. 95; Acts 2:46), for we were not meant to live in isolation, like hermits, but in community with fellow believers, rejoicing in God’s goodness. This is ultimately seen in that image of the great multitude in Heaven rejoicing in the victory of Christ (Rev. 5:9-14; Rev. 7:9-12).
Our churches are small echoes of this scene. The early church assembled in the temple courts to hear teaching, pray, encourage one another and to unashamedly praise God for the saving power of the gospel (Acts 2:42-47). They were publicly and openly affirming their faith together, rejoicing in Christ’s resurrection and because of the resurrection of Jesus, every time believers gather in church, they are affirming that we too are on the winning team. Death is defeated! Christ has won! He is worthy of all praise! The songs we sing and the prayers we offer ought to reflect the gospel back to us, as a constant reminder of Christ’s victory!
Praise replenishes our weary souls
The everyday world that our congregations live and work in is, by and large, a godless cynical place to be. In every sphere, our faith is ridiculed and challenged. This continual bombardment from the world, the flesh and the devil seeks to erode our love and loyalty towards the Lord and we can feel wearied by it.
The counterbalance to all this is found in our gathered times of praise in church. For here, is a faith refreshing oasis in the godless desert of our working week, an antidote to the lies and caustic cynicism of the world. Here is a place to both replenish our faith and rejoice in it. This is why we are encouraged not to stop meeting together (Heb. 10:24-25) for there is great mutual support and blessing found in praising God together as the Apostle Paul reminds us:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Col. 3:16).