Psalm 117:1–2 says, “Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.” Paul quotes this verse in Romans 15:8–13. Praising the Lord is certainly something all people should do. So what exactly does it mean to praise Him?
There are multiple words in Hebrew and Greek translated as “praise” in our English Bibles. In essence, to praise is to express adoration or approval. We praise the Lord for His traits, His works, and His character. Praise includes the acts of blessing, commending, honoring, thanking, celebrating, and rejoicing. We praise the Lord because He is worthy of all our praise. He is worthy of all adoration and approval.
When David brought the ark of the covenant from Obed-Edom’s house back to Jerusalem, “he appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 16:4). In part they were to “give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. . . . Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. . . . He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations. . . . Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. . . . Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. . . . Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’ . . . Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Cry out, ‘Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.’ Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting” (1 Chronicles 16:8–36).
We see several important aspects of praising God in David’s instructions. Our praise for God helps make Him known among the nations. In praising God we extol His goodness to others. Praising the Lord involves remembering the things He has done. We praise God for His miracles as well as for His judgments. His mercy and His justice are both deserving of praise. Praising the Lord also involves remembering His faithfulness and His promises. We praise Him that He will keep all the promises He has made. We praise the Lord that His love is everlasting. All people, everywhere, should see that God is worthy of praise, based on who He is. Even nature is called upon to praise the Lord and proclaim that He reigns. We call upon God for salvation because only He can rescue us, and our response to His deliverance is to praise Him. God is to be praised “from everlasting to everlasting”; praising the Lord is not a one-time event but something we continually do.
Praise is a central part of worshiping God. David set aside a division of the Levites to praise the Lord with musical instruments in the future temple (1 Chronicles 23:1–5, 30). Later, during the rebuilding of the temple, “when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: ‘He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.’ And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid” (Ezra 3:10–11).
We praise the Lord for His grand plan of salvation, and Christian unity helps encourage praise: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.’ Again, it says, ‘Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.’ And again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him’” (Romans 15:7–11). We praise the Lord and in so doing follow Jesus’ example in praising the Father (Matthew 11:25).
In Ephesians 1 Paul writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 3). He then proceeds to give us many reasons to praise the Lord “who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Reasons for praising God include God’s election and sanctification (verse 4), His adoption (verse 5), His glorious grace (verse 6), His redemption through the blood of Christ (verse 7), His forgiveness (verse 7), His gifts of wisdom and understanding (verse 8), and His plan for the future (verse 10).
When our lives are filled with the righteousness of Christ, it redounds to the praise of the Lord. In Philippians 1:9–11 Paul prayed, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” James 3:9–10 warns that we cannot both praise God and curse others. If we are to genuinely praise God, then our actions (and our words) should be in line with His righteous character.
Our praise of the Lord is to be ongoing: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15). We “declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Whom do we praise? The Lord alone (Psalm 148:13). How do we praise Him? With singing (Psalm 149:1), with dancing (verse 2), with musical instruments (Psalm 150:3), with our words (Psalm 35:28), with our actions (Colossians 3:17), with our uprightness (Psalm 119:7), and with all our hearts (Psalm 86:12). When should we praise the Lord? All the time (Psalm 34:1). We should express our adoration, approval, thanksgiving, and celebration to the One who created and redeemed us. “How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” (Psalm 147:1).