Praise Prayers not for Pollyanna’s
Christ says that we are no longer strangers but are fellow
citizens in the heavenly realm – we are friends with God. The conversation between friends is genuine
and natural but we are struck with the vast differences of our natures: we are
sinful to His sinlessness; we are imperfect to His perfection - a relationship
both profound and humbling.
Describing prayer then as a dialogue is accurate but
puzzling. On the one hand, it is two-way
communication built on an intimate relationship. But we are speaking to the Almighty God and prayer
as a dialogue suggests that the Creator and His creatures are equals and surely
prayer is far more than a mere dialogue.
So as to elevate this unique prayer dialogue, “praise” is
embedded as a conduit or common denominator in our conversational prayers. Additionally, the blood of Christ covers our
imperfection and we have confidence in our bold approach to the listening ears
of heaven. But the ‘praise element’ is
what marks a great difference
in our prayers.
When our prayers incorporate praise language, that “praise”
frames our communion with God. But there
is more to it than just the posturing of our words: it is the tone and intent of
praise that can transform us when we use it to its depths.
When I heard my mother pray she would spend a lot of time in
praise and as a teenager I thought this was an exercise of words not based in
reality. It almost seemed to me that she
didn’t know what was happening outside her world and the ‘disconnect’ of her
Pollyanna perspective was out of step with the real problems surrounding her. But my mother’s prayers were powerful and they
got results. Why?
Now I know that it wasn’t a ‘disconnect’ at all. If anything it was based in a God reality
that, in my immaturity, I did not comprehend. My view was, “if it’s a good day, then praise makes sense and let’s
acknowledge the maker of all good things.” But what about when it’s hard, even impossible, to give praise?
In The Psalms, the Hebrew word for the title of this book is
sayfer tehilleam which translated
means, “book of praises.” Interestingly,
there are two kinds of Psalms – happy or psalms of praise and psalms of lament
(sadness) and there are far more laments than there are praise psalms. So why is this ancient book of poems called a
book of praises? One reason is that the
word is not just an exclamation but it is also a command to ‘praise the
LORD.’ In the command we acknowledge who
God is, what God has done and this is declared in the midst of your
heartache. It is like he is saying,
“come tell me what you are feeling – I can handle your doubts because it is my
character - I am much larger than you think.” It is through these laments that the Spirit invites us to pray with this
kind of honesty to a praise-worthy God.
Articulating the weight of our sorrows often gives us
relief. Holding on to the pain,
confusion and pretending we have it all together when we don’t does not give
the relief we seek. The praise releases
the power to give you hope when you have despaired, to bring you faith where
your doubts have reigned and replacing the cursing with blessing from the God
who hears your cries.
Naturally, it doesn’t make sense to form words of praise
when we are disappointed, disillusioned. But praise works through the stages of our “stuff” and lifts us to a
level higher than our circumstances. It is in distress that we draw close to
the God who alone knows us fully. Then when we praise God in the midst of trouble,
He handles the full spectrum of our hardships and because of that we erupt with
heart felt, genuine praise.
Our praise language elicits a celestial chemistry,
fusing His Spirit with our spirit and we are filled with the fullness of God as
He inhabits our praises!