The command to praise God is a common one in the Old and New Testaments. Approximately 250 times in the Bible we read commands and declarative statements regarding praising the Lord.
Yet as common as praising the Lord is in Scripture, it is much misunderstood.
Many people mistakenly think that merely by saying or singing “Praise the Lord” or “Hallelujah” (which is Hebrew for “Praise the Lord”) that they are actually praising God.
To understand the concept of praising God we do well to consider human praise. Imagine you wished to praise your earthly father. Would you come up to him and say, “Praise Dad”? of course not! If you did your father would probably have you committed for observation.
If you wished to praise your father you might say, “Dad, you are a man of love and compassion.” Or, “Pop, I really appreciate the fact that you’ve always taken the time to listen to me.”
The command to praise the Lord is just that: a command to praise Him. We do that by saying praiseworthy things about Him.
We find this regularly in the Scriptures. The following are a few examples:
“Praise the Lord. . . For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever” (Ps 117:1-2).
“Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness” (Ps 150:2).
“I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things. . .” (Isa 25:1).
“Praise the Lord! For He has delivered the life of the poor from the hand of evildoers” (Jer 20:13).
“And all the people, when they saw it [the healing of a blind man], gave praise to God” (Luke 18:43).
Praising God is not a feeling. Praising God is a conscious activity. We praise Him by thoughtfully extolling His goodness, His greatness, His majesty, His love, His grace, His mighty deeds on our behalf, etc.
It used to be popular–and still is in some circles–for a group of people to join hands, close their eyes, and sway with the music as they sang over and over again, “Halle-lujah, halle-lujah, halle-lujah, halle-lujah. . .” Unfortunately, rarely are those singing instructed that while they sing they should consciously reflect on God’s character and on the many good things He has done for us.
The mere saying or singing of the words “Praise the Lord” or “Hallelujah” is not praise. Praise is conscious admiration and thanks for who God is and what He does.
The next time someone says, “Praise the Lord,” try saying something back to them like, “God is good,” and see what they say. After all, they commanded you to praise Him. The least you could do would be to comply!