by Derek Prime

Two strangers once found themselves on the same ship. They began to watch one another closely, both conscious of an instinctive bond. But they came from different lands, and neither understood a word of the other’s language.

On the Sunday they attended a church service in the ship’s saloon. Each knew that the other could not follow the prayers, and each recognized the mutual desire to worship that had drawn them there.

That afternoon they sat, not far from one another, under the awning of the promenade deck. One of them noticed that the other had a Bible in his hand. He could remain silent no longer.

“Hallelujah!” he said, approaching his fellow traveller and pointing to the Bible.

“Amen,” the other smiled. They shook hands.

That little story is told by F.W. Boreham in A Reel of Rainbow. He notes that the men “had found a meeting-place and a greeting-place among the monumental untranslatables.”

Hallelujah sums up my life's goal“Hallelujah” is that kind of untranslatable word – a word which occupies a unique place in international Christian vocabulary, a word by which Christians all over the world can communicate.

“Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord!” sums up my life’s proper goal: the bringing of praise to the God who has made me, and also redeemed me by His Son Jesus Christ.

Provocative words started me off on this theme – the words, in fact, of Psalm 102:18: “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” The writer of the psalm looked forward to the time when Israel would be gathered out of the lands of her exile and be made once more into a people of the Lord. God Himself speaks of His people in this way, through the prophet Isaiah, when He declares, “The people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise” (Isa. 43:21). Sadly, Israel lost sight at times of her destiny as an instrument for Gods praise. As a Christian I may, unfortunately, do the same.

I want to try to establish the right position of praise in the Christian’s life, because praise occupies a unique place in God’s purposes. When God first formed man, man was created to praise God; when we are born again, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we are recreated in order that we may praise God.

And yet – if we are frank – we do not always find it easy to praise God, much as we may want to do so. We must not pretend that such difficulties do not exist. They are certainly not unique, and they are probably much more common than we think. We need to face up to problems so that we genuinely seek after answers God may graciously choose to provide.

So what exactly did the Old Testament writers mean by “praise”? Top of the list comes Hillel, meaning cry aloud or break out into a cry and especially a cry of joy. It conveys the thought of making a noise! So great is the Lord that His people must draw attention to His glory. He is “worthy of praise” (2 Sam. 22:4).

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,” Psalm 100 begins, and that exhortation does not stand on its own (e.g. Ps. 98:4, 6; Zeph. 3:14; Zech. 9:9 etc). And yet some people may feel that there is something almost undignified and out of place about loud and demonstrative praise, or that warm demonstrations of our feelings are contrary to our culture or temperament. We may even try to “shout for joy” in a muffled and polite mumble!

But we should be prepared to challenge our caution and reserve with the Bible’s plain exhortations. Loud praise is consistently associated with joy in God. When we are excited about ordinary things we tend to raise our voices. When something wonderful happens, we often talk about it loudly. As God graciously reveals glimpses of His glory, or renews our experience of His deliverance, it is natural for us to express our praise with intensity and volume.

Of course, there is no virtue whatsoever in loud praise just for the sake of noise and its loudness is no guarantee of its reality. But we must not be afraid to express the depths of our feelings as we worship God. If we raise our voices in praise and welcome of some important state dignitary, should we not raise our voices at the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords? Even as there is variation in tempo and volume in a beautiful piece of music, so there will be variation in the expression of our praise to God. What is important is that we should not be inhibited in expressing sincere praise. Loud praise should never be “put on”; it must always be an unaffected burst of delight in God Himself, too great to be constrained.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was concerned that people’s praise should be enthusiastic:

Sing lustily, and with a good courage … Beware of singing as if you were half dead or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sang the songs of Satan.

There is no danger of our being over-enthusiastic in our praise of God if it is from our heart. Th e soul that is in love with Jesus Christ must sing! “What are our lame praises in comparison of His love?” asked Archbishop Leighton. And his answer was: “Nothing, and less than nothing; but love will stammer rather than be dumb.”

A Prayer

Lord, too often I’ve failed to praise You. Sometimes I haven’t wanted to praise You for reasons I’ve been unwilling to admit to myself. On other occasions I’ve not praised You properly, and yet I’ve wanted to do so.

I quietly remember before You now that you have created me, and You have redeemed me through the Lord Jesus Christ, that I might proclaim Your praise.

Teach me how to praise You as I ought. Deliver me from any unhelpful inhibitions arising from either my natural temperament or the culture or traditions which have moulded my life. Help me to stammer rather than be dumb. Make the praise of my lips to be more than matched by my praise of You in the life I live.

I ask these things for the glory of Your name.


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Created to Praise

From “Created to Praise” by Derek Prime, Copyright © Derek Prime 2013, Christian Focus Publications Ltd

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