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Bible Speaks: Praise interrupts our harmful preoccupation with ourselves
Bible Speaks
Rev. L. Althouse

March 26, 2006
Background Scripture: Psalms 145.
Devotional Reading: Psalms 150.

Lots of us know that we should praise God, but somehow or other we never get around to it. Or, we hear other people praising God and feel guilty because we do not feel so moved to do it too.

Even those of us who do praise God from time to time may feel a bit intimidated by Psalm 145: “I will extol thee, my God and King, and bless thy name forever and ever.” In just three verses there is one “extol,” two “bless,” a “praise” and a “praised!” Many of us don’t sincerely express that much praise in a year.

Some years ago, I went to Radio City in New York to see a TV quiz show. Several of us were selected to be interviewed for a possible appearance as contestants on the next day’s show.

It went very well until they asked me how I would react if I won the big prize. “Don’t worry about me,” I said, “I’ll be calm, cool and collected.” It didn’t dawn on me then that they wanted someone not to be “calm, cool and collected.”

Being “normal”
Why did I react that way? Part of it, I think, was my Pennsylvania German background, a people not known to be normally very expressive, at least in a positive sense. My family background was more of the same. Doing and being “good” was the normal expectation and did not generate praise. I placed a high value on keeping emotions in control. So, learning to verbalize praise to and for God was something I had to learn - and am still learning.

People who do not communicate deeply on a one-to-one basis may nevertheless “go wild” at a sporting event, political occasion or a musical concert. Maybe this is because they assume that there are some places where emotions are good, but not in others.

I can recall attending an evangelistic camp meeting when I was a teenager. The minister who led the service appeared to be manipulating people through their emotions. I was so intimidated by the emotionalism that I vowed never to attend another.

It has been a long, long time since I have witnessed any church service emotions close to “getting out of hand.” We are very careful not to “get carried away.”

Paul advocated a kind of middle ground on emotion in worship. While he encouraged genuine praise and adoration, he also called for keeping the excitement within reasonable limits in order to prevent chaos. Today, I think there may be times when we are a little too orderly.

Good for us
There is another reason why many find it so hard to feel and express genuine praise: because they think that praise is something, which God requires of us and, in fact, that by failing to praise him, he will be displeased with us. Like little children, we sometimes find it hard to give others the very things that we think they most want. I cannot presume to know how God reacts to praise, but I believe that praise is good for us.

Maybe God can get along without it, but we cannot.

Praise interrupts our often harmful and corrupting preoccupation with ourselves. A pastor was counseling one of the women of his parish and recognized that her biggest problem was a preoccupation with herself. She was the center of her own universe and had little awareness or appreciation of anything outside that orbit.

So he asked whether she had ever been to the Grand Canyon. No, she had not and what did that have to do with her problems? The pastor replied, “You desperately need to be confronted by something much, much bigger than yourself.”

So do we all - and that is the secret of praise.

This farm news was published in the March 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.