Why would God want us to praise and worship him? After all, a person who demands praise is a pompous big-headed narcissist aren’t they? On top of that isn’t God completely self-sufficient? If that be true then he certainly doesn’t need our praise and worship. So then why are there so many bible verses telling us that we are supposed to praise God?
“O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” – Psalm 107:8
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” – Psalm 150:6
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:13-14
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:46-47
These are only a sampling of many verses that tell us to praise our God. But the question many might ask is why? Why praise him? I’m so glad you asked.
One reason is that praise gives credit where credit is due. Even more to the point, God deserves our praise. I’m sure we’d all agree that it is right and good to praise someone who is worthy of praise. We know this intuitively and so we almost automatically praise people for all sorts of accomplishments.
We even praise the people we love who might not be known for any great achievements, such as a child for just being your child, or for graduating kindergarten or for simply mowing the lawn. And of course, for others we admire in our lives such as a teacher or preacher or parent, we instinctively know that it’d not be right or good to withhold praise from them.
So, I think that it’s safe to say that we all understand the concept of praise being due certain people.
In fact, imagine that you wrote an incredibly beautiful poem and won a prestigious award for your writing; but when the time came for the award ceremony, they gave the prize for your poem to the wrong author! You, and every one of your family and friends, would immediately know that wasn’t just, right, or good, because you were the only one worthy of that particular praise moment.
So, In the same way, God – as the only being perfect in goodness, justice, love, etc. – is worthy of our praise. We do then, in fact, owe him praise. And when we don’t give it to him it isn’t just, right, or good. He wants us to praise him because it is right and good for us to do so. And so, since God wants us to always do right and good things, he’d of course want us to praise him.
But more than praise being right and good (and also because of its being right and good), praising God showcases what and who we value. When we praise God, it communicates to our deepest soul, and to God, that we value him above all things, and this ultimately brings us joy and enhances our relationship with him.
We see this in human relationships as well – think of a man with his wife. It brings a man who loves his wife, great joy to value her and praise her.
Here’s how C.S. Lewis puts it in “Reflections on the Psalms”:
I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise… The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game… I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ’Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value. I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.
Lastly, we need to remember that God created us for his pleasure (just as we create delightful things for our pleasure). Praising God – acknowledging his goodness, love, perfection, and all the incredible things he has done for us – brings him pleasure. If you have children, you know what a wonderful thing it is to have them praise you. I know for myself, that I love getting spontaneous texts from my children that say things like, “Hey dad, I love you.” Or, “You’re my favourite dad, just thought you should know.” They are praising me as their father, albeit with a bit of subtle humour at times. But humour or not, it enhances the relationship.
But we can also know the pain of having children selfishly take you for granted and ignore you. When that happens, your relationship is strained. In the same way, the right response from us toward God is praise because he deserves it. When we act out our love and acknowledgment of him in this way, we fulfill our purpose; and when we are rightly fulfilling our purpose, we have the best possible joy – God is pleased, our relationship with him is enhanced, and he has rightly received what he deserves.
Luckily, this is not a difficult command to follow, because when we know Jesus intimately, we can’t help but to truly love him, and our praise naturally flows from that love.
Ultimately, we’ll be praising God for eternity, so we might as well begin practicing today. Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” – Revelation 5:13