Question: "What does it mean to praise God?"
Answer: Christians often speak of “praising God,” and the Bible commands all living creatures to praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6). One Hebrew word for “praise” is yadah, meaning “praise, give thanks, or confess.” A second word often translated “praise” in the Old Testament is zamar, “sing praise.” A third word translated “praise” is halal (the root of hallelujah), meaning “to praise, honor, or commend.” All three terms contain the idea of giving thanks and honor to one who is worthy of praise.
The book of Psalms is a collection of songs filled with praises to God. Among them is Psalm 9, which sings, “I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High” (verse 2). Psalm 18:3 says God is “worthy of praise.” Psalm 21:13 praises God both for who He is and for His great power: “Be exalted in your strength, LORD; we will sing and praise your might.”
Psalm 150 offers a strong focus on praise, using the term thirteen times in six verses. The first verse provides the “where” of praise—everywhere! “Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
- The next verse teaches “why” to praise the Lord: “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.”
- Verses 3–6 note “how” to praise the Lord—with a variety of instruments, dance, and everything that has breath. Every means we have to make sound is to be used to praise the Lord!
In the New Testament, there are examples of praise given to Jesus. Matthew 21:16 refers to those who praised Jesus as He rode a donkey into Jerusalem. Matthew 8:2 notes a centurion who bowed before Jesus. In Luke 24:32 the disciples of Jesus were said to worship Him after His resurrection. Jesus accepted praise as God.
The early church often shared in times of praise. For example, the first church in Jerusalem included a focus on worship (Acts 2:42–43). The church leaders at Antioch prayed, worshiped, and fasted during the time Paul and Barnabas were called into missionary work (Acts 13:1–5). Many of Paul’s letters include extended sections of praise to the Lord (1 Timothy 3:14–16; Philippians 1:3–11).
At the end of time, all of God’s people will join in eternal praise of God. “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him” (Revelation 22:3, ESV). With the curse of sin removed, those who are with the Lord will forever praise the King of kings in perfection. It has been said that our worship of God on earth is simply preparation for the celebration of praise that will take place in eternity with the Lord.