Let’s praise God!
Keep praying, but be thankful that God’s answers are wiser than your prayers!1William Culbertson
The simplest pattern for prayer is a “praise sandwich” (see p. 33, Japan Harvest, Winter 2017). But what does it mean to praise God?
I was in college in the 1970s, at the tail end of the Jesus Freak movement when large numbers of hippies came to know the Lord. In that era, Christians would often run around saying, “Praise the Lord.” I even had it engraved on the belt I wore! And we went so far as to abbreviate it to “PTL!” The problem is that just by saying “Praise the Lord” or “PTL,” we were not really praising the Lord. When you think about it, used like this, the phrase is really a command. It’s just like saying “Close the Door” and maybe even abbreviating it to “CTD!” No matter how many times you say it, if no one actually closes the door, it is just a meaningless phrase. So I would try to remember to actually praise the Lord when someone used that phrase. Sometimes I would even praise the Lord in front of the person who had said it.
What does it mean to praise the Lord? I learned a definition back then which has stayed with me since. To praise the Lord is to focus on who He is and what He does.
In I Kings 8, King Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem. He prayed a long prayer that shows us ways to praise as we pray (verses 23 to 53). He referred to God as the “LORD [Yahweh], the God of Israel” (v. 23, NASB). He continued to praise God saying, “There is no God like You in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Your servants.” I am so grateful for that.
He reminded the people that God fulfils His promises (v. 24). Solomon realized that God was bigger than the heavens and, of course, the temple he had built (v. 27). Solomon acknowledged that He is a God who hears and forgives (v. 30). Solomon praised God by telling the people that not only does God judge His people and condemn the wicked, but He also justifies the righteous (v. 32). God is really worthy of all our praise and thanks.
Supplication as praise
In this prayer, Solomon uses the word “supplication” nine times as well as other similar words. Supplication in the Bible means a request or petition. It shows us that Solomon realized that he could not do what he was asking God to do. There were so many situations that required God’s intervention, such as sin, famine, captivity, or war with the enemy. Thus, he had to plead with God to answer his requests. In so doing, he was actually praising God for His omnipotence.
If God’s people sinned against Him, but repented and turned back to Him (v. 33), Solomon was confident that God would hear in heaven and forgive their sin (v. 34). What a kind and merciful God we have.
He acknowledged that God alone knew the hearts of all men (v. 39). And Solomon knew that God’s name would even be known to foreigners (v. 42). So he asked “that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, to fear You” (v. 43). I am so glad that even we, though Gentiles, have been allowed into His presence.
Solomon praised God as a God who maintains the cause of His people (v. 45). When they repent, He will forgive them “and make them objects of compassion” (v. 50). His eyes are always open to the supplication of His people (v. 52). What grace! What mercy! This God is our God! He is the One to whom we pray. You can take almost any portion of Scripture and use it to praise God. All you have to remember is the simple formula: praise is telling who God is and what He does. So let’s praise Him!
1. The Westminster collection of Christian quotations, (Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 287.