Lesson 10: Praise
Note: This is a Sunday School lesson by Scott Carr, Jr. based on ch. 12 in Dr. Tim Keller's book, "Prayer".
* Kinds of Prayer:
1) Praise and Thanksgiving.
2) Confession and Repentance.
3) Supplication and intercession.
* Worship in the Lord’s Prayer: It starts off with worship. Praise motivates the other kinds of prayer. When we praise God, we recognize Him for who He is. As a result, we see more of the flaws in ourselves and also see how much we depend on Him.
* Healing Power of Praise: God spends a lot of time in the Psalms telling us to praise Him, not because He needs to hear how great He is, but because He is worth our admiration and if we don’t praise Him, we miss what is truly good in this world. We have a need to say what we enjoy as a way of completing the enjoyment. Think of a relationship in its earliest stages when everything is new and fresh. It is almost painful to not say what you feel. There is great delight in putting words to what we most enjoy. If we are going to truly know God for who He is and enjoy Him (as the Catechism says), we must express our adoration. Admiring God and expressing that admiration changes us. Without praise, we cannot experience true joy. Otherwise, we would be cold, critical, and bitter. Praise makes us spiritually healthy because we have found deep joy in our Creator and Savior.
* Reordered Loves: The act of praise cultivates in us a love for God. We are defined by what we love. We will seek what is most important to us and change in the process. If a person is what we find most important, we will change in ways to win their approval. If entertainment is what is most important, we will cease doing important things to make time for it. If education or work is most important, we will ignore family, friends, and rest to get done what we want to accomplish. What we love does something to us. It changes how we live and drives all of our choices. Remember, St. Augustine taught that we all seek to be happy, but we misidentify what makes us happy. Our loves are disordered. We seek after things that cannot make us truly happy. What we want is true, lasting joy, which is only found in God, but we instead look for that joy in lesser things. Those things will always let us down and we will be miserable as a result. Not only do these things affect us as individuals, but also as cultures. What we love as a society, as a people group, as a nation, is also disordered. If we want to change, if we want to conquer sin in our lives, if we want to give up our loves for these lesser things, we must change what we love, we must change what we worship. In praise, we set our love on God and are constantly reordering our love towards Him.
* Thanksgiving: This is praising God for what He has done. When we thank God for what He has done, we come to see more of who He is. Think about how bad things cause us to pray and confess to God. How come when God answers those prayers, we do not respond in gratitude with the same immediacy? Romans 1:18-21 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” In Paul’s expressive description of wickedness in the world, one of his climactic indictments against humanity is that we do not give thanks to God. Think of how plagiarism is a failure to give someone else credit for the work they did and how seriously it is taken. Failure to give thanks to God is cosmic plagiarism. It produces in us the illusion that we are self-sufficient. We claim the credit for God’s gifts. We are dependent on God, but in our sin, we surpress that knowledge. We do not want to have such obligations to God. Assuming we are self-sufficient leaves us with room to be anxious. When we fail to give thanks to God, we rob ourselves of the peace that comes from trusting God.
* Habit of Praise: Praise and thanks are contrary to our nature due to our sinful natures. We have already stated how we love things other than God and repress the truth about our dependance on God. So if they are so antithetical to our natures yet so important, how do we get into a habit of practicing them?
1) C. S. Lewis suggests that we make it a point, whenever we experience pleasure, to think about what kind of God would create such things and give them to us. When this is done, the joy no longer comes from the thing itself, but from the God who created it and gave it to us by His grace. Such a practice puts everything in its proper place and allows us to have true joy.
2) Thomas Cranmer, the original author of the Book of Common Prayer for the Anglican Church, gives a structure to the collects in the book. Notice in the structure that Cranmer begins the prayer with who God is, which is a form of praise. He then moves to the petition and at the end says what we will do with the request if granted, which sets up gratitude to God. He frames each petition in the context of praise. A way of making this form a habit is to write out prayers and intentionally follow this pattern until our prayers naturally conform to it. 1) The address-a name of God
2) The doctrine-a truth about God’s nature that is the basis for the prayer.
3) The petition-what is being asked for.
4) The aspiration-what good result will come if the request is granted.
5) In Jesus’s name-remembers Christ’s role as mediator. (198)
3) Matthew Henry has a book called A Method for Prayer which groups together all the prayers of Scripture. Using the headings, find good prayers of praise and thanksgiving in Scripture that you can make your own. The whole book can be found at matthewhenry.org. Also see Tim Keller’s own headings on pp. 199-201 in Prayer.
* The Omega Prayer (Psalm 150): While the Lord’s Prayer starts with praise, the psalter ends with it. The end goal of prayer is always praise. All repentance and supplication in the end lead to praise. It doesn’t have to arrive there immediately, but it is always the final destination and will get there eventually. To not praise God is to not take part in the real world. What will it be like when we get to see God face to face and praise Him for all eternity? What joy must that consist of? To praise God now is to get a sampling of the beatific vision. If we truly praise God, we can get through any difficulty in this life. Prayer places us in the reality of the glory of God and allows Him to captivate us.
1) Read ch. 13 in Prayer.
2) Spend time each day praising God.