The power of praise brings the supernatural presence of God into our practical lives. When we live in praise, His is with us and works in and through us.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: (Psalm 103:2)
This verse is one to wake up to and one to go to sleep with. But it’s also one to carry with us all through the day. It’s a reality that the pressures and stresses of life exist. They also crowd in, wearing us down through difficulties and trials. They most like to capture our first and last thoughts of the day to destroy our peace and steal our rest. How easy it is to be swept along without even realising it. But I’m reminded this morning that creation exists to praise God. Even the simplest of flowers declare the glory of God in beautiful simple ways. They open themselves to the sun we see God in them. They provide a pattern for us that reminds us of the power of praise.
The power of praise brings the presence of God.
I have a very active mind. I call it ‘writer-brain’ – one which, given half a chance, will conjure a multitude of scenarios and ‘what ifs’ before I even open my eyes. While it’s a gift from God and has its uses, it’s also a major stumbling block. This is because the mind seldom devotes itself to the things of God. It has to be restrained and disciplined. Our minds are the throne of self and usually the spiritual battlefield of our lives. Experience has taught me to use today’s verse, and the principle of Psalm 103, to control my wayward mind. I don’t always get it right. There are times, when I’m weary and pressured by circumstance, that the mind is off and running even before I wake. To yank it back under control, we need the power of praise.
Psalm 103, in its entirety, is a wonderful example of just how to get things back into perspective. As believers, our perspective should always be God. He should be what we choose to see in any situation. The principle of this psalm is how we do this in a practical way. The first part of today’s verse is key, because it cuts through the chaos and confusion of life and focuses on God: Bless the Lord, O my soul. The moment we start to praise, something wonderful happens. God is immediately present. Praise it the doorway to the supernatural presence of God. Even in sleep, our mind can distract us from Him. With praise, we effectively push everything aside and create a throne for our God. This is part of the power of praise. Where God is present and enthroned, He rules.
Thanksgiving and the power of praise.
We’re human, every last one of us, and God graciously gives us what we need to praise Him. While praise and thanksgiving are ‘separate’ acts of worship, they work together. The things of God can never exist in a vacuum. Each sustains and builds and flows out from the other. That’s the impetus of the second part of the verse. It reminds us to remember His benefits, the things He does and has done for us and others. Thanksgiving stirs up praise within us. The more benefits we remember, the easier it is to praise. But the real power of praise lies in the reality of who and what God is, and that transcends the ‘me-myself-I’ focus of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is what God has done for me. Praise is who God is.
But praise always contains a thread of thanksgiving because of our relationship with Him. Intimacy always brings a personal infusion to praise. Think of it this way. Through praise, the God of the universe becomes the God of me. The Bible tells us that even the devil believes and trembles. Simply praising God for being God is an absolute purpose of all creation. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, ultimately. But we are given the precious opportunity to praise Him from intimate knowledge rather than instinctive compulsion. We praise Him because we know Him. We know Him because we have learned who and what He is through His Word and His work. Our praise is always infused with thanksgiving because of His promised presence and intimacy. The power of praise works in us because thanksgiving reminds us of who and what He is for us personally.
The power of praise is supernatural and practical.
Life with Christ – and I forged a difficult road for myself along the way – has taught me that the things of God are supernatural and practical. They are supernatural because He is spirit, and is never constrained or limited by natural things. But, at the same time, they are immensely practical. He intends that they impact our lives spiritually but also in the here and now. We are, for the moment, living in the world and cannot escape it. But God enables us to live supernaturally in the world through His supernatural presence. This isn’t a ‘super spiritual’ notion, all vague and esoteric and impossible to explain. It’s very simple. We praise, and God is present. When God is present, the supernatural exists in a practical way. God in us works through us. The supernatural is made practical through the power of praise.
This doesn’t mean everything else vanishes. The power of praise isn’t an automagic fix for every trial and tribulation, and we shouldn’t expect it. We must remember two things. We live in a fallen world and the things of the world will always impact our lives, for better or worse. The second truth is that God uses our trials and tribulations to grow us spiritually. They strengthen our faith, deepen our intimacy with Him, teach us wisdom, and increase our dependence on Him. Without difficulties, we grow very slowly. Suffering has taught me many things I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. One of the most significant is that praise brings the supernatural into the practical. His presence in me is the power and grace to overcome, endure, and allow Him to transform everything to good.
The ordinary, every-day power of praise.
While we must never diminish the glory and awesome majesty of God, we should also not make it too spiritual to be any earthly good. The things of God prepare us spiritually for eternity, but they are also intended to impact our lives and those around us. The day will come when all we need to do is praise and worship in His eternal presence. But that is our future reward. For now, we need to live in the ordinary every-day power of praise. By ordinary, we don’t presume to reduce God to our level. It denotes a practical and achievable way of life. His intention is that we live as citizens of heaven while here on earth. That means living by supernatural spiritual standards and empowerment. The power of God is not reserved for the huge, life-changing moments. It’s day-to-day, and part of every tiny detail of our lives.
We are created to praise – to bring glory to God. In essence, this means we live to praise Him. The power of praise is revealed in a life of praise. There are moments when pure ‘high praise’ in the presence of God is fitting and even required. This is praise that infuses and ignites worship. But a life of praise is living each moment in praise to God. It means waking up in praise, and living in praise through every step of every day. Praise is more about our hearts than about what we say. If our hearts are filled with praise, we have the presence of God with us. Even silent praise – in situations where, practically, we cannot speak – is real and powerful. When we live in praise, we live in the supernatural presence of God.
We choose to live in the power of praise.
Our verse today starts with an instruction – bless the Lord, O my soul. It’s a choice, an exercise in self-discipline. We live our lives in habits and patterns learned over time. Praise is no exception. If we desire the supernatural presence of God, we must choose to live in the power of praise as a daily, ordinary habit. But habits are consciously cultivated. It’s like learning to drive a car. At first, we seem to have too few or too many hands and feet. We get in our own way or we forget the basics. But over time, having made our choice and committed through self-discipline, driving becomes as instinctual as breathing. We have teach ourselves to praise and discipline ourselves to do it. That requires choice. Will we live the simple purpose of praise for which we were created? Intimacy with and the presence of God depend on it.
Lord of All, we praise You this morning by choice, acknowledging Your sovereignty and power. Forgive us for the times when we let the world and its trials distract us from Your glory and majesty. Help us to make the choice to live a life of praise. Empower us to discipline ourselves to praise You, even when we don’t feel like it or other things crowd us. We come with thanksgiving, remembering Your benefits so that we can be reminded who and what You are. Teach us, Lord, to praise You in all the moments of life, whether little or large. Our desire is to live for Your glory, and to know Your sweet presence through each and every day.