My beloved Lord,
I don’t know what words to write that can capture your beauty, Jesus. My pen fails; my thoughts fall short. Everything is dim against Your dazzling light. There is not a moment of boredom, monotony, or distance with you. You have forever enraptured my heart: every day, I fall more deeply in love.
You reveal new aspects of your nature everyday—if only we opened our eyes! Creation reflects Your exquisiteness in captivating fragments—the painted skies at dawn and dusk—pearls of dew clinging to the grass—ripples in a pond as rain begins to fall—quivering leaves betraying a silent breeze—petals delicately unwrapping into blossoms… You are always moving, always working, and if we spent every last breath doing nothing but praising you, we would barely scratch the surface of your splendor. Forgive us for ever believing that anything else deserves first place in our hearts. Nothing comes close to you. Nothing ever will.
Take a moment, right now, to fix your attention on God, His presence within you, and His love surrounding you.
Love is at the root of all praise. In order to truly love Jesus, we have to know Him. Not simply know about Him, but know Him personally. What an honor and privilege it is to know the Lord of lords, the King of kings, and love Him with our whole heart! We must cherish and cultivate this relationship with Jesus. Praise is a fruit of intimacy; the more we seek Him, the more freely praise overflows. Many of us yearn for Jesus to be our one and only desire, and we crave a close friendship with Him, but it seems… unattainable. Too good to be true.
Please, do not buy into the lie that you are too insignificant for God to talk to you. He sent His Son to take all the punishment of your imperfect life before you were even born. He knew at times you would forget Him, deny Him, and betray Him, but He loved you as much then as He loves you now.
You cannot earn, increase, or decrease His love for you. If you feel distant from Jesus, if He seems more like a far off Man in the sky than a Lover after your heart, open your Bible. Invite the Holy Spirit to lead you to Jesus, and start reading. Those sixty-six books contain everything we need to know about our precious Savior. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is a living book, and as you read, it starts working within you. Every word actively searches our hearts, reveals the distractions and idols in our lives, and turns our eyes back to God. Come honest, vulnerable, and open, for the Lord is your Redeemer and will not condemn you (Romans 8:1). Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8). As He teaches us His ways, our lips will pour forth praise. As we follow His commandments, our tongues will sing of His Word (Psalm 119:171, 172).
None of this is done in our own strength—we can only love God because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). He will lead every single step if we yield to Him, and praise and worship is no exception to this. Jesus models the perfect walk with God so beautifully. He humbled Himself to be completely dependent on the Father. He lived in meekness and obedience: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). God invites us all into this level of surrender. Trust His invitation. Respond to His invitation. Let Him lead and sustain. Let Him pick the song, the dance, the paint, the brushstroke. We don’t have to worry about manufacturing praise, because all praise flows from the One who created us. Praise is joining with Heaven in declaring the nature and goodness of God.
The Mighty Power of Praise
There is power in praising Jesus. He is holy, enthroned upon our praises (Psalm 22:3). In 2 Chronicles 20, when Judah was facing a battle against three strong enemies, King Jehoshaphat cried out to the Lord, “We have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (12) God responded to Judah saying, “the battle is not yours, but God’s… You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf” (15, 17) The people’s immediate reaction to this revelation? They all “Stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice” (19) This praise wasn’t just a response to God’s promise, it was an expression of faith: He said it, and they believed it!
The next morning, the King of Judah didn’t prepare his army with weapons and strategy. “He appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and said, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.’” They stood firm, held their position, and waited for God’s word to unfold. He was their only defense. “And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, and they were defeated” (22) As Judah stood from afar, singing and praising God even before they saw the miracle come to pass, the Lord set each of their enemies against the other, so “they all helped to destroy one another” (23) This is the power of praise: it brings every situation into alignment with the truth of God’s nature, and postures our hearts in surrender and faith as He moves. Judah’s eyes remained locked on the Lord. And the Lord was with them.
The Edifying Nature of Praise
Praise and thanksgiving are not simply means to an end. Much like prayer, the focus is not what we want, but rather who we are speaking to. Yes, God is a miracle worker, and His ways are so much higher than ours. But we don’t love Him simply because of what He’s done and what He’ll do for us. We love Him for who He is. His presence itself is so breathtaking! In the book of Revelation, all the creatures in heaven are praising the Lord endlessly. “Day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Revelation 4:8). This word “holy” (Greek; hágios), means to be set apart, different. As they behold our wonderful God, all they can focus on is His “otherness.” He is completely unlike anything and anyone we will ever know! It is a beautifully amplifying cycle; the more we behold Him, the more we hunger to know Him deeper.
Praise as Humility
We live in a world of spotlights, performance, and self-promotion. Praise shatters pride, because it turns all attention to Jesus. It’s not about the melody or the pitch. It’s not about sophistication or eloquence. In Luke 7, when Mary Magdalene met Jesus, she started weeping and “began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil” (37) Imagine the mess, the awkwardness, the judgement from everyone else in the house staring at her: sobbing, shamelessly, on their Teacher’s feet. When Simon saw what Mary was doing, He insisted she was too sinful to be this intimately close to Jesus (39). But Jesus… He treasured this.
Mary didn’t change her praise in response to critique; she let Jesus defend her: “Simon, I have something to say to you…Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much” (40, 44-47) Mary’s praise was wordless, but it said the most. She came to simply adore the Lord, and she came authentically, unfiltered and undistracted. She is remembered, not for a powerful sermon or beautiful song, but for pure adoration. For loving Jesus much.
True love for Christ doesn’t care about anyone else in the room, because our Beloved is the only One we see. Love comes in dependency and humility, because He is our source and protector. God gave us Jesus, and all we have to offer in return is ourselves. You are all He wants. He cherishes our hearts, broken and imperfect as we are. So let us surrender and follow His lead back into first love. Pour out your praise, however it looks like. He is worthy of it all.