Principles of Prayer
by Francis Foulkes ©

Chapter 4 THE ASPECTS OF PRAYER (Continued)

1. Praise

There is good reason to put praise first as we think of the different aspects of prayer. Praise differs from thanksgiving in that rather than recalling the special gifts that God has given or the particular acts of God on behalf of men and women, it speaks of God and glorifies God for who he is in his very nature. Praise is totally God-centred, and thus genuine praise always lifts us out of our natural self-centredness to our God, as "Source, Guide and Goal of all that is" (Rom.11:36, NEB).

Exodus 15 is an example, where we have thanksgiving to God for the exodus, but also praise of God as Lord and the acknowledgment that there is no one like him. He is God of unfailing love, eternal, and all-powerful. Another good example is Psalm 18 (= 2 Sam.22) where there is much thanksgiving for what God has done, but there is also praise for who God is, Rock, Shield, Stronghold, Refuge, Saviour, and so "worthy to be praised"; "his way is perfect", and so he should be extolled among the nations (Ps.18:2, 3, 30, 31, 32 and 46).

Often in the Book of Psalms and in psalm-like passages elsewhere in the Scriptures we have the call to praise the Lord. Psalm 96:7-8 is typical and it says, "Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts." "From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised" says Psalm 113:3. "It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night" (Ps. 92:1-2). Isaiah 12:4-6 is a good example of reasons given why praise should be offered:

"Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you."

Isaiah 25:1-5 is a similar song of praise, following on from the call in the previous chapter to "give glory to the Lord, -- exalt the name of the Lord, the God of Israel" (Isa.24:15) Often "the name" of the Lord is spoken of in such exhortations to praise, as the name expresses the nature of God and thus the reason why we should offer praise. "Stand up and praise the Lord your God who is from everlasting to everlasting" is the exhortation of Nehemiah 9:5, "Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise." So God's uniqueness is often the cause given for our praise:

"No one is like you, O Lord;
you are great,
and your name is mighty in power.
Who should not revere you,
O King of the nations?
This is your due.----
the Lord is the true God,
he is the living God, the eternal King"
(Jeremiah 10:6f.,10)

He is the God of creation:

"God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. -- He who is the Portion of Jacob -- is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the tribe of his inheritance - the Lord Almighty is his name." (Jeremiah 10:12-16)

Many of the Psalms are pure praise, and the Psalter concludes with one that invites praise with all the instruments of music that can be summoned; indeed "let everything that has breath praise the Lord" (Ps.150:6)

The Old Testament speaks of praise being offered in the temple, and the New Testament takes up the record of this as the aged widow, Anna, is spoken of as never leaving the temple but worshipping there night and day (Lk 2:36). The emphasis of the New Testament, however, in teaching and example, is that every time and place, even the most unlikely, is the right time and place to praise God. Paul and Silas continued to offer praise in the Philippian prison (Acts 16:25). The praise of God's people is, of course, to be not only of lips but of lives, since the Lord is the only One whom they should worship and serve (Matt.4:10). Worship, especially the worship of the incarnate Lord, may also be expressed in tangible gifts, as was the case with the gifts of the wise men and of Mary of Bethany (Matt.2:11 and 26:6-13). There are great passages of praise in the New Testament, and the study of the reasons for praise is important. The canticles of Luke 1:46-55, 68-79, 2:29-32 are beautiful songs of praise, and the doxologies of Romans 11:33-36, 16:25-27, Ephesians 1:3-14 and 1 Peter 1:3-5 are breath-taking in their scope.