I have written previously on how we need a fresh perspective on worship within the church. And while I pray that our understanding and practice of worship is being transformed, it is also necessary for us to have a fresh perspective on our praise.
Again, worship has become synonymous with singing songs on Sundays or a certain style of music. A much richer and deeper understanding of worship is found in the Greek word proskuneo, translated as worship throughout the New Testament.
The word proskuneo simply means to lie prostrate before one who is worthy. The one lying down with his or her face pressed to the floor becomes less, and the one who is worthy becomes more. Our worship is an emptying of ourselves of our wants, needs, and desires so as to be filled by the One who is worthy.
We become a vessel…or a conduit…filled by the Holy Spirit extending outward in the world. Our worship is us getting out of the way so the Spirit of God can work through our hands, our legs, our voices, and our entire bodies for Kingdom purposes in the world. Through our worship, we become the point where God meets a hurting world in need of healing and restoring.
If our understanding of worship has been so twisted and misunderstood in the church, is it possible that our understanding of praise could be just as twisted and misunderstood? Is it possible that we have reduced our praise to a Sunday sing-a-long? Is it possible that our praise has centered on what we get out of it rather than what God is doing through it?
Throughout the Old Testament, a common response to God as deliverer and liberator was a song of praise. When God delivered the Israelites out of slavery, through the water, and into freedom, the response from Moses and the Israelites was a new song of praise. It was a great retelling through song of what God had done, how God delivered, and the great characteristics of God. This pattern continued throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament culminating in the apocalyptic of Revelation.
John sees a vision of the throne room of God with Jesus encircled by four creatures, twenty four elders, thousands upon thousands of angels, and every creature on earth singing praise to the liberator and deliverer, who brought his people out of slavery, through the water, and into freedom.
In our praise, we come united joining this mighty chorus…this heavenly refrain of the created order…this great retelling of liberation and freedom. Our praise brings us together in our common experience so as to never forget who He is and what He has done. It is the song of a common and united people responding in recognition and exhaltation of the one who saves.
But there has to be more going on in our praise than a common people simply joining together for the great retelling. There has to be something more that is going on of which we may not be aware.
When Jesus entered the temple area, children were singing praises to him. The religious leaders were angry at what they saw. Jesus said to them, “From the lips of children and infants [God] has ordained praise.” This quick reply gives us great insight, as Jesus was quoting from Psalm 8, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”
Did you get that? There is great power in the praise of a child. Such power that it can actually silence the foe or avenger. It is no wonder that Jesus says that to enter the Kingdom of God…one must become like a little child. When we get out of the way with our own selfish pursuits, our own ego-driven agendas, and become like little children, our praise has the power to silence the foe and avenger. Our praise has the power to push back the forces of evil and extend God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities of evil…and our praise is one way that battle is fought. So when we join together united in the common chorus…the heavenly refrain…the great retelling of Jesus as liberator and deliverer, let us know that the praise we sing is not about what we can get out of it, but what God is doing through us to break down the gates of hell. For we know that it is through our praise that the gates will not stand.