The ABC's of Praise
Learning God-honoring worship from Psalm 145
This is a Psalm that begins with a commitment that on the surface seems rather simple: "I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever." "I am going to praise you, God" is the Psalmist's promise. What could be easier than that?
But when we examine his language more closely, we discover a clue that the art of praise may involve more than we thought. In the first two verses alone, the Psalm writer uses three different verbs to describe this act of praising God. To praise God is to exalt him—to lift him up. To praise God is to bless him—to praise him from the heart. To praise God is to "laud" him—to extol his name. Apparently there more to blessing God than simply saying "bless you." Here is an entire vocabulary devoted this subject.
Another feature of this Psalm is that it is cast in an acrostic form. Although it's not something that can be seen in our English translations, every verse begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The first verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; the second verse begins with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and so on until all the letters but one are used. So in a way, I suppose it could be said that what we have here are the ABC's of praise. The Psalmist outlines some of the fundamentals of praise, instructing us to praise God in a way that is most fitting.
The art of praise is learned.
We learn how to praise God by listening to others. In particular, the Psalmist says that the art of praise is intergenerational: "One generation will commend your works to another ...
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John Koessler is professor and chair of the Pastoral Studies Department at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois.