[July 05]—Livin’ On A. . . Part One: Praise

Psalm 113

            I know, I know. People have told me I write fairly well, but titles are definitely not my  forte. I’m not a big Bon Jovi fan (some of his lyrics are really inappropriate), but this particular song has been a favorite of mine for some time, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with the lyrics here.
            Anyway, this is a subject I’ve wanted to address for some time now, so we’re going to spend a few days looking at the subject of prayer. I could be wrong, but it seems like this is the last big topic which we haven’t covered, so we’re going to do it before we dive into an overview of the New Testament Epistles.
            First there’s a caution to note here. It’s easy—at least for me—to delve into a subject like this and examine it like an esoteric topic of study without putting into practice what we’ve learned. In other words, the purpose of this is for us (you and me) to pray better and more often. To clarify, if you end up knowing more about prayer but aren’t praying better and more often, I’ve failed in my task.
            Another thing to note. We’re going to look at different aspects of prayer over the next few days: Praise, thanksgiving, petition, etc. Most of the time, each prayer is going to have a mixture. It’s not often that you’ll offer a prayer of pure praise, for example. We’ve gone into this before, but it’s worth remembering: Most of the Psalms are not pure praise. Today’s reading is an exception. The vast majority of them have some element of complaint.  Our Father wants us to be honest with him; just mouthing words of praise without doing it from the heart is no good. But even in the midst of hardship in which we cry out to the Lord for relief, we can still praise him for what we know.
            Again, if I’m getting into territory you’re familiar with, I apologize, because I’m going to go into some stuff I learned as a kid in Sunday School. When we praise him, we’re recognizing things which he is. He’s the Creator of all things seen and unseen. He’s the sovereign Lord who controls all things and sustains all things just by his powerful word. He works all things out for his ultimate purposes, and nothing can thwart his plans, neither man nor the most powerful demon.
Of course, the best example of that last point was the Passion of Christ. To all observers both in the physical and spiritual realm, it’d look like Satan was the ultimate victor here and Christ the one who was losing it all. Jesus was betrayed, abandoned by his followers, falsely accused (with no defenders), beaten, tortured, mocked, and finally publicly executed. All of this is exactly what Satan wanted, and he was undoubtedly thrilled to see it and bring it about. Even Jesus himself said this was the hour when “darkness [reigned].”
            But lo and behold, this was the Father’s plan to destroy the Enemy’s work once and for all. Because of this “defeat,” the Lord Jesus now has triumphed over sin, death, Hell and (especially) the Devil.
            Pointing out things like this is considered praise. It refers to things which affect you as a believer, but only tangentially. The fact that my Father is sovereign is a great source of comfort to me personally, but even if I didn’t benefit from that at all, he'd still deserve praise for it.
            Now let’s look briefly at the reading for today, if you’re looking for a Psalm of praise, this is probably the best one. My thoughts:
  • The Psalmist calls for his audience to join him in praising the Lord. Who needs to be praising him? Everyone. The last verse of the 150th Psalm says that everything that has breath should be praising him.
  • And where should he be praised? “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.” In other words, everywhere.
  • He is exalted over everything and everyone. The greatest kings and presidents and prime ministers and absolute dictators are under his authority, and they breathe at his pleasure. In poetic language, he has to “stoop down” to even look at these so-called powers-that-be.
  • But in a wonderful contrast, he does something specific while he’s “stooping.” He lifts up the downtrodden, the “down and outs” and “nobodies” and seats them with princes. He takes the childless woman (on the bottom of the totem pole in that society) and brings her into a wonderful family. This is a pattern you see often in the Psalms and elsewhere, what you might call the “Great Reversal.” This demonstrates his sovereignty: he intercedes into a situation as only he can, and reverses things according to his pleasure and plan. Despite man’s greatest efforts and plans (and working thru them), he reverses the order of things, making the rich poor and the poor rich, bringing down the exalted and exalting the lowly.
Why is this so important? Doesn’t God want us to make this personal? Doesn’t he want us to point out the things he’s done for us personally? Of course he does.  But before we get to thanking him for things he’s done and been for us, we should keep our perspective by meditating on who and what he is in himself. As pointed out before, even if I never personally benefited from his actions, he'd still deserve praise just for who he is and what he’s done.
I think that’s a great place to start in our prayer life, don’t you?

And for your edification and enjoyment, here's "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" by Rich Mullins (and notice the Bridge?):

For today, read the passage again, slowly, taking each phrase and turning into a word of praise. For example, “I praise you, Father God, because you're exalted over all the nations, your glory above the heavens.” Meditate in praise for a moment. 

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