November Growth Exercises

Praise

Perhaps Christian Praise should not be considered a ‘discipline’ or something to be worked out, practiced and developed. Perhaps it should just arise spontaneously from hearts of wonder and gratitude as we get to know our great God. Maybe we should all just ‘naturally’ pray prayers like Paul’s:

Ephesians 1:3    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship  through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 

Romans 11:33    Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”  35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” 36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Perhaps those sorts of prayers just ‘happen’…. but they don’t. They come from a deep and disciplined life of praise. Our reading of the book of Psalms has already shown us the value of ‘learning to pray’ the prayers of others. The Psalms of Praise act as ‘training wheels’ for our lives of prayer, and especially our lives of praise.

So this month, we are going to intentionally work on our praise of God. We’re going to practice. We’re going to discipline ourselves, all so that we learn the language of praise and so that our hearts know how to overflow with joy in the presence of God.

Week One : Praise Him… for what he has done, especially his salvation

We have read passages from much of the Bible already in our Growing Disciples program. So this week, take a new page in your journal and write down as much as you can, completing the phrase: “God is the God who…” For example, Abraham came to know God is the God who fulfilled his promise and gave him Isaac. Moses and the Israelites came to know God is the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Turn your reflections on God’s great acts of creation and salvation into prayers of praise.

Don’t forget to expand your brainstorming to include all that God has done since Jesus, through his people and the church: in your life, your family members lives, and your community’s history.

Week Two: Praise Him… for who He is: his person and character

God has graciously taken the initiative in revealing to humanity not just his plans but his person. The sermon to the Hebrews begins, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” 

This week, take another new page in your journal and write down as much as you can, completing the phrase: “I know God to be…” In this way, we will avoid too many abstract ideas which, although excellent theology, may not lead to doxology.

As you did in the previous week, use this page in your journal as a springboard for prayers of praise.

Week Three: Praise Him… Creatively

As the Psalms reach their crescendo in Psalm 150, you get a sense of highly trained worshipers, at the height of their art, giving their all for God. At the same time, it seems that everyone else is enthusiastically grabbing anything nearby that can be turned to the purpose of worshiping God. All this melds into a wonderful cacophony of praise. Read Psalm 150 and see if you agree.

You may not even be very handy with the timbrel, or even know what it is (Psalm 150:4), but think through your creative talents or outlets in life. Can you paint? Can you play music? Can you write? Can you design? Can you landscape? Can you cook? Can you make people feel at home? Pick one, and spend some time planning how you could turn it to the purpose of worshiping God for who he is and for what he has done.

Week Four: Praise Him with other people

Many of us will have had experiences of worshiping God alone. These can be intimate and rewarding times, yet there are essential aspects of worship that can only be experienced and offered to God in community. We are, perhaps, very familiar with ‘our’ community, ‘our’ church, ‘our’ way doing corporate worship.

This week’s exercise is very simple: gather some friends to worship God, differently. Together, plan a time of praise or worship like nothing you’ve ever done before. Find out about some Christian worship practices and styles that are different to those you with which you are familiar. If you’re familiar with practices that are energetic and lively, you might consider something more contemplative. On the other hand, if you have never raised your hands or sung with enthusiasm, it might be time you did. Be prepared to venture outside your comfort zone.

As you engage in worship, try not to critique all the differences. Instead, look for the positives that this unfamiliar worshiping style reveals about the nature of God.