This is the eighth week of something new I’ve been doing. I’m sure some people think it’s weird. I kind of do too, but I really felt led. It was a little awkward at first, but I didn’t want to ignore what I believed was the prompting of the Lord. So, I mustered up some courage, picked a Bible verse, and posted a video of me praying on social media for anyone who felt inclined to pause while scrolling. Like I said, weird!
I had no idea if this was a one time thing or an ongoing assignment, but here it is, two months in and I guess I’ll keep going until further notice. Even though I appreciate the comments and messages I have received from people thanking me, or saying things like, “How timely,” I would do it for even one quiet person who didn’t say anything. That is how strong I felt God’s prompting.
My prayer and encouragement for this week comes to you in this—a piece I wrote last year that I have edited and updated for this purpose. It’s all about the power of praise. It was called, The Week I Stopped Praying and How it Strengthened My Faith.
Here it is…
The Apostle Paul, missionary and writer of about half the New Testament of the Bible, was no stranger to hardships. Not only was he imprisoned numerous times, he was beaten, pelted with stones, shipwrecked more than once, without food and water for long periods of time, often on the run, and the list goes on.
In this particular story, Paul and his buddy, Silas, while on a missionary trip, were attacked by a crowd, stripped and beaten with rods, flogged, and thrown into prison. They were assigned their own guard and their feet were put in stocks (from Acts 16:22-24). Then there’s this: “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.” Acts 16:25-26
Under these extremely harsh circumstances, it would have been understandable for these two men to grumble, complain, even curse God’s name. Instead, they sang. They praised Him!
When I was writing my second book, while doing some research, I came across a quote that really caught my eye. I didn’t use it in my book, but I did apply it to my life. The quote by Billy Graham goes like this, “I believe that the greatest form of prayer is praise to God.”
It’s a simple quote, nothing I hadn’t already heard or believed, but it spoke to me. It beckoned, “Try it.”
On a regular basis, I start praying with praise. Often, when I wake up—first things first, I thank God for a new day. Sometimes, before I even open my eyes, I lift His name on high, by giving Him credit for life and breath, a roof over my head, a comfortable bed, food in the fridge, clean running water, and so on. And then at some point after that, I fill His ears with all my requests. When I read this quote by Billy Graham, I felt led to put the requests aside for a little while. He is God after all, I thought, He knows what I, and those I pray for, need. I’ll admit it though, I’m a big “asker,” so I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.
When my husband Chris, who is also my daily prayer partner, was away I tried it.
When I was tempted to ask for a friend’s healing, I instead praised God that He knew all about my friend and what she was dealing with, and I praised Him for His faithfulness to supply for all her needs. When I was tempted to ask God to provide the miracle another friend was desperately seeking, I instead applauded Him for being the inventor of miracles—a God able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask for, imagine or dream. For the sick, I thanked Him for being the great Physician. For the lonely, I thanked Him for being an exceptional companion. For the grief stricken, I thanked Him for being an outstanding source of comfort. And on it went.
I was content knowing God has heard every prayer I’ve prayed throughout my life and that He has answered, or is answering each one according to His will. And like the birds of the air, even more so, He feeds you and me, and like the lilies of the field, he clothes us (from Matthew 6). And that His Spirit intercedes for us and strengthens us in our weakness (from Romans 8)
Those seven days were really something special. I was so humbled, my faith was strengthened, joy overflowed in me and I felt absolutely free! Which brings me back to Paul and Silas and the power of their singing: while they humbly praised God, prison doors opened and chains were broken. And what struck me is that all the prison doors were opened and all prisoners freed.
This incredible story goes on to tell us that they didn’t flee. They stayed put. When the jailer woke up and saw the doors open, thinking they had all escaped, he drew his sword in order to kill himself. Paul called out though, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
Then in verse 29-30 it says, “The jailer called for a light, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
“They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…’” vs 31
It goes on to say that the jailer washed the men’s wounds, he fed them, and it says he was filled with joy because he and his whole family had come to believe in God.
Like my personal experience revealed to me, and what the strong evidence of this story reveals to all of us is, there is power in honouring God. It sets the praiser/prisoner free and even those around them listening. It produces joy and peace. It also has the power to save (like the jailer in the story). The thing about praise is that it magnifies God and it humbles us; it reminds us of our dependancy on Him. Praise also: invites His presence, pushes back darkness and depression, it leaves no room for grumbling or complaining and alleviates worry and fear.
To those who praise God, I encourage you to keep it up! To those who rarely do or never have, I just want to say, it’s not difficult. You can start by putting your mind on Him. Think of things you are grateful for, and simply say, “Thank you.” Give him the credit for life and breath, a roof over your head, a comfortable bed, food in the fridge, clean running water… And praise Him for His love that nothing can separate you from…
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love… Romans 8:35-38
A few verses for us to refer to or quote in our daily praise:
Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise You. I will praise You as long as I live, lifting up my hands to You in prayer. Psalm. 63:3
Come, and let us sing for joy to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Psalm 95:1
Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things He does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. Psalm. 103:2
And lastly, an encouraging word/challenge from the Apostle Paul, who with his buddy Silas praised God even from their jail cell… “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Heavenly Father, help each of us to have an attitude of gratitude and may we learn to praise you in every circumstance!