Why does God want us to praise Him? When we understand why, we’ll want to explore how the Bible teaches us to praise in ways that please God.
Praise may seem like an esoteric religious custom, but actually it is one of the most natural things in the universe. If we had the ears to hear, we would recognize a chorus of praise all around.
Listen to Psalm 148’s poetic description of the ultimate reality:
“Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you stars of light!” (verses 1-3).
Psalm 150 adds, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (verse 6).
Not only that, but Jesus pointed out the praise potential of rocks! When the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke the people who were shouting His praise during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus said:
“I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40).
Throughout the whole creation, praise comes naturally. But with humans, it seems a little harder. We want to know why. In this world under Satan’s sway (1 John 5:19), we find it easier to be suspicious and cynical than spiritual and lyrical about praising God.
So, why does God want us to praise Him? Our cynical minds, accustomed to human foibles, wonder, does praise somehow stroke God’s ego? Does it make God feel more important to have us praise Him?
Perhaps an analogy can help clear up this misconception.
Let’s say you could make cute little clay dolls. And let’s say you could put little signs around each of their necks that said, “The person who made me is wonderful!” Would that make you feel better about yourself?
Okay, that’s not even close to being a good analogy, because compared to God, we aren’t even specks of dust. Our praise really doesn’t make God feel more important any more than our offerings can make Him rich. He was already the most important being in the universe, and He owned everything already. Nothing we can do changes that.
And when you consider the abuse that God receives from human beings every day, creating human beings looks like a bad deal for God. The praise He gets today is far outweighed by the curses and profanity hurled at Him.
So, no, God doesn’t ask us to praise Him for His own benefit. He asks us to praise Him for our benefit.
The benefits of praising God
What does praising God do for us? Here are just a few of the benefits:
Praising the all-powerful Creator God gives us perspective. When we are stuck staring down at the mire of troubles, remembering the God who can pull us out can be reassuring and comforting. Looking up to God can help us see that our intractable trials are no problem to “the blessed and only Potentate” (1 Timothy 6:15).
Praising God helps us to focus on reality—what’s truly permanent in our chaotic and transitory lives. Focusing only on the physical things that can be shaken leaves us unstable. But focusing on the spiritual things gives us a firm foundation that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:25-28).
Praising God helps us to focus on reality—what’s truly permanent in our chaotic and transitory lives.Praising God helps us to get to know His characteristics—it helps us build a closer relationship with Him. If we contemplate all God’s admirable qualities, we will naturally want to thank Him and imitate Him.
Praising, blessing and honoring God helps us to become more like Him. He wants us to be His children, thinking and acting as He does. And He is a God who honors and blesses and praises (1 Samuel 2:30; Genesis 12:2-3; John 5:44; 12:43; 1 Corinthians 4:5).
This barely scratches the surface of the benefits—to us—of praising God. Knowing why should lead us to want to know more about how the Bible teaches us to praise.
Here are three ways to praise God that are pleasing to Him:
1. Study and meditate on praise
The Bible is filled with examples of people and angels praising God. We can study, think about and learn from these prayers, poems, songs and shouts.
Psalm 103, for example, gives us abundant food for thought and fodder for praise. Let’s look at just a few verses:
“Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (verses 1-5).
Throughout the rest of this beautiful psalm, King David extols God’s forgiveness and loyal love.
As we read such examples of praise, we should remember the apostle Paul’s encouragement to meditate on things that are “true,” “noble,” “just,” “pure,” “lovely,” “of good report,” virtuous and “praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8). Our Bible study and meditation then inform our next step.
2. Pray with praise
In response to a disciple’s question about how to pray, Jesus gave an outline for prayer, including, “Hallowed be Your name” (Luke 11:1-2). “Hallowed” is from the Greek word hagiazo, “to regard and venerate as holy” (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament, 1993, p. 69).
“It means ‘let your name be regarded as holy.’ It is not so much a petition as an act of worship; the speaker, by his words, exalts the holiness of God” (Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Volume 2: New Testament, 1994, p. 251).
So Jesus was teaching us to begin our prayers with praise of God’s holiness. As the many prayers in the Bible show, this should be a major theme of our prayers, not just a four-word summary.
What should we praise God for? Some aspects of praise would be common to all people: extolling His love and His law, thanking Him for Christ’s sacrifice and His mercy, admiring His creativity and His creation, appreciating His Bible and His plan, honoring Him for His help and His healing.
Other aspects of praise will be personal to our own situation, such as thanking Him for specific blessings, healings and help.
The prayers and psalms of the Bible can give us ideas and samples of appropriate praise. See our article “Prayers of Praise” for more about this.
3. Praise in song
Praise should be a daily part of personal prayer. But the Bible is also filled with examples of communities of people joining together in praise of God, often in song.
Moses and Miriam and Deborah and Barak led the people of Israel in songs of praise (Exodus 15:1-21; Judges 5:1-31).
King David, in addition to writing dozens of songs of praise himself, organized many members of the tribe of Levi to play instruments and sing praise with “resounding joy” (1 Chronicles 15:16).
Hundreds of years later, Nehemiah “appointed two large thanksgiving choirs” to celebrate the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 12:31).
And the use of music in worshipping God continued in the New Testament era. The apostle Paul explained that being filled with God’s Spirit would result in Church members “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20).
Singing praises to God remains a vital part of the worship services for the Church of God today.
For more about the songs recorded in the Bible, see “Songs of Praise.”
A time to praise
This article has looked at why and how to praise. Let’s conclude with a quick look at when we should praise God.
Many examples show praise spontaneously breaking out when good things occur and during joyful celebrations. It’s natural during times of rejoicing, such as God’s annual festivals, to praise the One who made our joy possible (Deuteronomy 16:14; Psalm 81:1-3).
But praise isn’t just for times of joy. In time of trouble the psalmist cried out, “Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out to the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man” (Psalm 71:4). And in the next breath, he says, “My praise shall be continually of You” (verse 6).
As we saw earlier, praise should be a vital part of our daily prayers. As we grow closer to God and have a deeper understanding of His goodness, we will also be able to say, in good times and in bad, “But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more” (verse 14).
And someday at Jesus Christ’s second coming to establish God’s Kingdom, the times of troubles will be replaced by wonderful times of rejoicing: “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10).
Then God’s name will be truly hallowed, when the voice of a great multitude thunders out, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory” (Revelation 19:6-7).
Praise the Lord!
For more about prayer, see the articles in the section “How to Pray.”