Growing up, in some way or another, I was taught how to worship and what ‘improper’ worship looked like by members of my church and the people around me. In that church- shouting, jumping, speaking in tongues, hands lifted high, and maybe even some tears were all signs of so called ‘true’ worship and praise. And the child or adult sitting in the corner with their arms folded or to their sides, not singing, and not praying or praising out loud was seen as ‘improper’ praise to God. I remember seeing parents snatch their kids hands up and yelling at them to worship. Those parents would say things like, “Don’t you see Sister Beth’s daughter over there praising God. Her eyes are closed and she is praying and worshiping. And what are you doing? Nothing!” Next Sunday I would see that same child with their hands up straight in the air, eyes closed, anger on their face, and a seemingly please parent who thinks they just did something amazing. Now I don’t agree with this at all because I always felt that worship should come from the heart and be genuine and true. I always felt that worship was my personal dance and praise party with God, thanking Him for all He has done and for all that He is in the way that the Holy Spirit led me too. But despite feeling and thinking this way, I still grew up judging people by how they worshiped.
I would visit churches and see people with their arms crossed or sitting down during praise and worship and would think this to myself: “God must not have done anything for you if you can just sit or stand there and not truly praise Him.” or think “That person was too high and mighty to lift their hands and give God the praise He is due.” Trust me, this was absolutely the wrong thing to think and feel but that was how I was taught to think about people who were not outwardly expressing their praise. This went on for a while until three things happened: 1) God checked me on my feelings very quickly 2) I began digging in my word more and 3) I began dating someone who praises differently than I do.
God quickly began working on my spirit and showing me that true praise is not about what people can see, it’s about what He sees in our hearts and thoughts when we are praising Him. Those same people in the church who are shouting and running a 5k around the chapel could be the same ones who leave the church walls and start bad mouthing Sister so and so and even the Pastor– that’s not praise. That same person can feel as though church stops once the sermon is over but has everyone else fooled that they know how to praise the Lord so they must be close and dear to God. Those same people could actually be catching emotions that the think is the Holy Spirit all the while God is just staring at them trying to figure out what in the world they are doing but that is a topic for another day. Whereas that one sister or brother who is sitting down, head bowed and quiet could be praising God in a way that no one understand or sees but God understands and sees everything. Anyone who knows me know that I love praise and worship. I truly am the one with my hands lifted high and dancing and singing every song but there are moments where I find myself so still in the presence of God. I don’t move and sometimes feel like I can’t and will just stand in awe of God’s love for me. I at times don’t even feel worthy enough to lift my head up and will just praise God quietly and pray that He hears all the things that are heavy on my heart– things too heavy to put into words. It’s in those moment where I feel the Holy Spirit take over me, convict and change me. And it is in those quit moment that I feel the most intimate with God. Those moments are just as praise worth and genuine as when I am singing and dancing and speaking in tongues.
Let everything that has breathe praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! Psalm 150:6
It says it right there in Psalm. Everything that has breathe will and shall praise our Lord and Savior. Whether dumb, lame, deaf, or disabled God wants your praise. If I were to keep on thinking that the only way to praise God ‘properly’ is for someone to jump up and down, run around the sanctuary, dance and shout… what about those who cannot walk, those who cannot speak or hear the music? Does that mean I don’t think their praise counts or that God doesn’t see it either? No! Of course not! And like I said God has to rewire my thinking and what I taught so that I could see the truth.
The main thing about praise is that it must come from the heart, be honest and pure and full of surrender. We can’t fake anything with God and no matter how much praise you get from others about your praise none of it matters if God doesn’t approve. Now I know some people who don’t necessarily like all the music and noise during praise in worship at times and that is fine as well. Praise and worship is an everyday thing. We should praise God with our lifestyle, our words, our actions and in everything that we are and everything that we do. I see my boyfriend who is more quiet and reserved when it comes to praise and worship but I tell you he is as connected, grateful and intimate with God as any man of God could be. I know and see how he praise our heavenly Father in ways that I know are pleasing to God and seeing his outlook on praise and seeing how he praises is a beautiful thing to witness.
Our heart can cry and out and sing to God- that’s praise
Exalting God and telling others all that He has done for you- that’s praise
Digging deep in the Word and obeying the Lord- that’s praise
Loving and forgiving your neighbor- that’s praise
Kneeling at the feet of Jesus, silent, with a crying heart that you are running to God to mend- that’s praise
Psalm 103:1 Praise the Lord,my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name
In the good times and in the bad I will praise the Lord!
Amen, Amen, and Amen