Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
[Psalm 106:1 NIV]
In the 16th chapter of Acts, we read that Paul and Silas were captured by a mob in the marketplace of Philippi because the people did not like what they were saying and doing in their town. Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in the inner dungeon of a prison with their feet shackled. Yet what do we find them doing around midnight in that dark and dank prison cell? “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.” (Acts 16:25).
Why would they be praising God and singing in their dire situation? Are they in a serious state of denial of their circumstances? How many of us find it in ourselves to praise God when we are in the depths of our troubles? Granted, troubles that pale when compared to Paul and Silas’ predicament, but troubles, nonetheless.
For when we find ourselves in the depths of despair— in situations for which we don’t know where to go or what to do, circumstances that seem hopelessly bleak—isn’t that all we can think about. Isn’t it our nature to be totally consumed and obsessed by our predicament? A troubled relationship in our family, a hopeless mess at work, a huge financial debt for which we see no resolution. The last thing we feel like doing is praising God.
Paul and Silas knew the secret of how to lift their hearts above their troubles and enter God’s presence and power. Praise is not primarily for God’s benefit. God doesn’t need an ego boost. But praise is primarily for our benefit. To remind us of who God is, to remind us that God’s presence is still with us, to remind us that God is still in control, even when we feel that things are out-of-control because we cannot look past the blinders, we place on ourselves.
Praise is refocusing our attention on God and away from ourselves. It reopens our hearts to God. We all need reminders of God—His greatness, His mercy, His love, His faithfulness. Praise is a way to do so. Focus on God, not on our circumstances.
With praise we direct our focus toward God and acknowledge that we are not the only thing around. We understand that the world doesn’t revolve around us. For God is a God who can be trusted, is sovereign, is in control and ever-present.
When we praise God, we do so with grateful hearts, seeking His Holy ways, searching for His holy face so that we do not live out our lives in quiet desperation but in abundance of blessings.