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by Margaret D. Mitchell
Week of April 20, 2014
"Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises." -James 5:13
Start With Praise
How many of us actually feel like praising anyone when we are down? Probably not any of us. Some may begin with confessions or petitions of prayer before praise. Some may wait until they offload their burdens at the cross before they praise. But according to The Lord’s Prayer model, which begins in Matthew 6:9, we are to start our prayers with praise: "Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name."
When we come close to God, His presence can change our atmospheres, our moods and our circumstances. We can intentionally don a garment of praise and look to the joy God places within us over any hindrance upon us. It’s a choice. God’s presence melts our hearts and makes our confessions that much more heartfelt and our petitions that much more in divine perspective. Nothing is more powerful.
He is Glorified…
We know that God inhabits both the prayers and praises of His people. The Bible tells us that where two agree, God answers and where two or three are gathered in His name, God is in the midst (Matthew 18:19-20). God is glorified when we praise Him (Isaiah 61:3).
In James 5:13, the word “praises” is transliterated in Greek as “psalló,” which means to properly pluck a stringed instrument in terms of making music and singing. The word “pray” is transliterated in Greek as “proseuxomai,” which literally means to exchange our wishes and ideas for God’s, as He imparts faith (divine persuasion). So we can sacrifice whatever we are holding onto or whatever has a hold on us to God and trust His grace and justice concerning these matters. Another way of saying it is to cast our cares on God (Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:7) and sing.
Since Jesus took our sorrows at the cross (Isaiah 53:4) and gave us a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3), we can believe and receive His truth so we can praise God no matter what. His truth will set us free (John 8:32).
Declaring or singing affirmations of God’s kindness as we experience them are also considered praises: In Acts 12:11, when an angel released Peter from prison, Peter said, “Now I know for sure that The Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” We also see the prayer element: "But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him” (verse 5). “And when [Peter] realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying” (verse 12). We see here that prayer helped usher in a praise report and a miraculous testimony from Peter!
Praising God is a discipline. We can even praise God when we are suffering as we see in 1 Peter 4:16, "But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by His Name!" That’s what Peter did.
How About You…
Do you intentionally choose to praise God often? Or do you allow the heaviness of hindrances to hold you back? Whatever you choose, you will give life to. Even in the midst of great suffering, you can increase your joy or your heaviness by the direction you take. You can praise God right where you are—in the middle of your living room at home, in your car, in your church, etc.
God sees your heart. Psalm 91:14 assures us, "'Because he loves me,' says The Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name.'"
If your spirit feels heavy, try to begin by speaking affirmations unto The Lord—declare what He says about Himself in His Word—and go from there. If you really desire to immerse yourself in an ocean of praise, find a church that freely worships with music and dance, where you can feel the sweet presence of The Lord the moment you walk in the door. Ask The Holy Spirit for His direction on which church to attend. He’ll lead you there. Also, ask Him to raise up prayer warriors on your behalf. God always honors fervent prayers (James 5:16).
Jesus Died For You…
Jesus died to give you a “crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” so that you would “be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of The Lord for the display of His splendor” (Isaiah 61:3). Do you believe Him at His Word?
This devotional was adapted from Margaret's forthcoming book, "Enduring Grace." All rights reserved. Copyright 2014.