It’s time to gather those sisters, journals and pens to talk some Sister Talk.
Father God, we invite You to the middle of our conversation today. May we bless You in this time together as much as You bless us.
Moms In Prayer International is a group prayer ministry focused on encouraging women to gather one hour a week to pray for their children and their schools. It was through this ministry I was first introduced to praise as a part of prayer and to praying Scripturally.
Moms In Prayer uses a four-step prayer model. Each group has a designated leader to prepare the prayer outline and lead the prayer time from one part to the next. The prayers always begin with praising God for one specific character trait found in Scripture. The verse provides the basis for the time of praise. Praying in these groups is designed to be conversational. Members respond to one another’s prayers and pray as the Spirit leads in short brief prayers. It’s not going around the circle taking turns, it’s just like having a conversation with your friends or family only all the talk is directed to God.
Learning to pray praise was one of the greatest things I’ve learned through the Moms In Prayer ministry, the other is the four-step prayer. When we have a guideline for our prayer, it prepares us to pray for others one on one or in a group situation. Moms In Prayer equipped me for prayer in spontaneous situations. I almost always pray with the four-step method I learned from Moms In Prayer: Praise, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Intercession.
There are other ways we’ve seen this taught as well. Some refer to it as an ACTS prayer:
As the director of Children’s Ministry I teach children to pray by using the letters in the word PRAY. “P” stands for praise, “R” for repent, “A” asking for others, and “Y” ask for yourself. When our children are young we begin to teach them prayer through simple bedtime prayers and saying grace before meals. I think this is the next step.
When we meet someone for the first time our conversation often remains on the surface. We ask questions about their job and family, where they are from, etc…. As a friendship grows so does the conversation. We move from surface conversation to matters of the heart. Prayer, our conversation with God, grows in the same way.
This is not some magic formula for success. Those who have powerful prayer lives often move in and out of the four steps of prayer on many different levels. Prayer groups may move through all four in one session, while at the same time individuals may experience all four throughout their day. These four steps of prayer will be the focus of our next four sessions. Today we begin with Praise.
Praise is one of those “first things first” and is fundamental to our prayer lives. When Jesus was teaching the disciples to pray, He began with praise.
Read Luke 11:1-2
The word hallowed in this verse means holy, consecrated, sacred, revered. When we begin talking to God with praise it reminds us of our place in the created world. We don’t come demanding to be heard, like a frustrated child… we come placing ourselves before the King, first praising Him for who He is. Praise reminds us who we are and who we are not.
Praising God literally ushers us into His presence.
Open up your Bible and read Psalm 100.
My daughter and I were blessed to take a trip to Italy a few years back. I had always dreamed of going to Italy and the university where she attends was offering a trip.
When we arrived in Rome, we visited the Vatican. In order to enter you must first move through security which is in a huge wall surrounding the entire area. Once inside, a large outdoor area opens before you complete with a life size nativity scene. It was quite a walk to move from the gate to the Cathedral entrance.
Visiting the Vatican solidified this Psalm in me. Praising God is like taking step after step toward the entrance to His court. As I praise Him I envision stepping closer and closer to Him until I find myself in His presence.
As we praise God, His presence is revealed. We see another example of this in 2 Chronicles.
Before this time, the Israelites had no permanent place of worship. David wanted to build the temple, but God would not allow it. Solomon, David’s son, was the man God chose for this job. At this point in Scripture the temple was completely built, the furnishings were set, and it was time to bring in the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark represented God’s presence.
Let’s turn to 2 Chronicles 5 and read.
According to verse 13 what was happening at this point?
What was the result of the people’s praise?
Can you imagine praising God and an actual cloud fills the space around you? This is the power of praise. We may not see it as a cloud, but by faith we believe praise brings us into the very presence of God.
Being in His presence is seeing who He is.
Because of Moms In Prayer, I began praying praise to God daily, often multiple times a day. And what I experienced through prayers of praise grew my faith. Often in my times of praising God it’s as if my words reflect off Him back into my spirit. I sense His Spirit telling me: Yes, that’s who I Am. He affirms my prayer of praise, encouraging, strengthening my spirit with the truth of His character.
Much like our memory verse this week:
Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. —Psalm 147:1
It is good for us to sing praise to God. It is pleasant. Fitting. And builds our faith in who He is.
Have you experienced God’s presence this week as you focused on praise? In what way?
Was there a time you noticed you praised in the same way…? using the same words over and over?
Recently I noticed I began my prayer with the same few words. “Lord, you are my Rock, my Redeemer, my Hiding place.” I needed this particular reminder during a season in my life, but when I awoke one morning repeating these words I realized I had developed a habit and somehow wasn’t really identifying with those words anymore.
Praise expands our understanding of God’s character and I was stuck in a rut.
One of the important aspects of praise is its ability to grow our faith. When we consider how to praise God, our understanding of His character expands. A very useful tool for expanding our understanding of God and our ability to praise Him in words is a dictionary. Looking up the character trait of God we want to praise Him for gives us greater insight into the word and the many ways God reveals Himself through the definition of the word. Using a concordance to find various Scriptures describing God for our praise focus can also help deepen our time of praise.
On Day 1 of our weekly work you were asked to prayerfully consider a word of praise. What word did you choose?
What new understanding of God’s character did you recognize in your word?
Just this week I prayed, “Lord, how shall I praise you today?” The word “warm” came to mind. Honestly, I don’t see God as warm. Authority figures in my life don’t take on this quality and it was a bit of a jump to recognize this as one of God’s character traits. “What do you mean Lord… warm?”
Throughout the last few days I’ve been considering this word and pictures come to mind. A blanket wrapped around my shoulders as I sit on the couch, the hug my teen son gave at the end of a disagreement, a child sitting on her father’s lap, the light dancing off a fire. God is warm, and gentle. He provides warm comfort in the midst of my failure. He is inviting me to bask in the warm light of who He is.
The exercise of asking God: How can I praise You today, Lord? is not new for me. In preparation for leading prayer groups it’s where I begin: How do you want us to praise You, Lord?
As I approached this exercise last week I prayed the question. Words came to mind but it didn’t feel like Him answering my question. It felt more like my flesh trying to hurry the process along. I decided I should move to the floor. Get low before Him and ask again.
Face down on the floor of my laundry room, I asked: How can I praise You today, Lord? He still seemed silent. My desire was to hear from Him, so I prayed: I’m not getting up from the floor till You tell me how to praise You today. The thought promptly came to mind: Praise Me how you choose to praise Me today…
My answer came from my heart without thinking, one of those overflow moments: It is beyond my ability to praise You the way I would choose… Praying those words, the praise focus for my day became clear: Beyond. He is Beyond my ability to praise Him adequately, the way He truly deserves. I’m not sure anyone can. There are no words to fully express how He deserves to be praised. He is Beyond words.
He is Beyond my comprehension: His love, His grace, His mercy, His wisdom, His knowledge, His ways. He takes me Beyond where I can go on my own. He is simply Beyond. And what made Him even further Beyond was to think He knew how I would answer His question. The way He led me to praise Him. The way He answered my question with a question. The way He interacts with His people… it’s just Beyond.
Praise has power. It has the power to redirect our focus, change our perspective, and lift our spirits. In your homework this week, we took a look at Psalm 28. Let’s turn their now.
Read Psalm 28
What do you see changing about the writer of this psalm as he progresses? Do you notice a change in him? his tone?
We see the psalmist’s perspective change from pleas for mercy to confidence God has heard his prayer. You can almost imagine him lifting hands in the midst of his crisis. Nothing about his circumstance has changed at this point. Praising God reminded Him of who God is… Strength, Shield, Shepherd.
Read Psalm 138
The writer of this psalm was not some happy go lucky singer living a perfect life. What problems was he having? What did he claim in spite of his trouble?
When our lives are troubled and we face the impossible, responding in praise helps us keep our eyes on Jesus. It moves our focus from the looming darkness of negativity to the power of possibility in Christ. Have you experienced this in your life? Did focusing on praising God help you to feel different about something you faced this week?
My week, actually the past several weeks and the seemingly unending weeks to come, appear to be beyond my ability to do all I believe I’m called to do. At times my flesh wants to panic, but my spirit knows God is faithful. I’ve experienced His faithfulness too often in the past.
So when my flesh stirs up, my go to praise is to praise Him as Faithful. And in the process of praise, and reminding myself it’s not my work but His, peace returns.
In quietness and trust is your strength… —Isaiah 30:15
The Hebrew translated as quietness actually means an absence of motion, like water without any surging, ripples or waves (Dictionary of Biblical Languages). I cannot quiet my spirit on my own when it gets stirred up. Only praise returns me to a place of quietness and trust in Him where I find strength to do the next thing.
Praise also has the power to break chains and bring freedom. Paul and Silas experienced this one night in prison.
Let’s read Acts 16:16-24
What happened to Paul and Silas?
- they were harassed by a young slave girl who had the spirit of divination
- Paul became so annoyed after many days of harassment he cast out the spirit from her
- they were drug in front of the crowd and taken before the Romans
- they were attacked
- beaten with rods
- fastened in stocks
- left in jail
Paul and Silas freed a young woman of demonic possession. They were punished for doing good. Many are throughout the world. Have you ever felt attacked for doing the right thing? Something God called you to do? How did you respond?
There was a time I worked for someone who was difficult at best. I remember sitting in his office as he questioned my integrity over grant expenditures even though he signed the grant paperwork himself. Even though he knew we were required to spend the monies on exactly what was specified in the grant. It became a very heated discussion. As he continued to attack I stood, backed out of the office, and ran. I could have chosen a different response.
I’ve never been viciously attacked for doing what I believed God called me to do, but I have been rejected, cast out, and accused.
Each time my first response was to question. Question whether I really was following God. Question whether what was said was true. I pray and seek. I learn from the experience and move on.
Read Acts 16:25-26
What were Paul and Silas doing in prison?
What happened as a result of their praise?
When we respond to the trouble of this world with praise, we get free.
Read Acts 16:27-34
How did Paul and Silas respond to their new freedom?
How would you have responded? Would you remain in the prison for the sake of another, though you were free to leave?
God set Paul and Silas free as they praised Him. They had the choice to leave, there was nothing physical keeping them from walking out of their prison cell. Their choosing to remain brought salvation to an entire family. God’s freedom allows us to choose to remain for the sake of another.
Even as I write the words above, I am awestruck. His Word continues to reveal even as words appear black on a white page.
Freedom is not about the circumstances we find ourselves in or chains of depression, anxiety, abuse. Praise breaks those chains, allows us the freedom to remain in the prison for the saving of many. Embracing this seems too good to be true in the moment. It describes the very God I love… too good to be true!
Do you see this truth glimmering light into your own darkness? Where is it you feel chained or imprisoned? What might happen if you begin to praise God there?
Take a moment. Close your eyes and see your own chains. Now begin praising God from this place. [You might want to journal your praise or just pray silently.]
[If you’ve gathered a group of sisters for this time, close in a brief prayer.]
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. —Galatians 5:13 ESV
Praise is a step of faith which enables us with the willingness to use our freedom to serve others in love. When we truly see God for who He is, we are encouraged to stay in a difficult place for the sake of others.
We’ve praised God from the midst of our prisons. Is it possible there is someone your experience could help? What would it look like?
Being devoted to prayer begins with praise, by ushering us into God presence, shifting our own perspectives to His holy perspective, and setting us free!
In my frustration to praise God as He is worthy with words, I realized actions speak volumes louder than words. Praise also expresses itself as faith in action!
Like Paul and Silas choosing to stay in unlocked cells for the sake of the prison guard. Our faithful actions of grace to others bring praise and glory to God.
The whole point of praise is to glorify God. Magnify Him. Shine a spotlight on Him so we see Him better and so others can see Him too.
Offering grace to others is for God’s glory! Extending grace glorifies Him, which is what we were created for.
We are called to glorify, praise God in all we do. Not only are we to praise God in word and song, we are to praise, glorify, exalt God with our very lives.
Jesus glorified God with all He did. We are to do the same. Willingly laying down our lives as living sacrifices for the benefit of His Kingdom and the lives of others.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
—Romans 12:1 ESV
Being broken people in a broken world, we fail regularly to glorify God with our lives. So next week we move to confession.
Complete your time today by singing a favorite praise song.
Here’s a link to our suggestion: Set a Fire
Have a wonderful week.
Click here to get the PDF of next week’s homework: Week 8-Going Deeper