The Power of Praise and Worship
THE BIG IDEA: Our highest calling is to worship God with all of our hearts. When we do this, there is a power in praise that can bring us victory over the troubles and problems in our lives!
“The weakness of our hunger for God is not because He is unsavory, but because we keep ourselves stuffed with ‘other things’… When God is the supreme hunger of our hearts, He will be supreme in everything.” (John Piper, Hunger for God).[i]
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Our Highest Calling:
“Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:35-38).
What is our highest calling? When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment in the Bible was, He said: “Love God.” This sentiment is reflected in the first question of the Westminster Confession of Faith’s Larger Catechism:
- Q: What is the chief and highest end of man?
- A: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and to fully enjoy Him forever.
There are many Scriptures that bear out this truth:
- “For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen.” (Romans 11:36, nlt).
- “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your bodyand in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
- “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
- “All nations whom You have made Shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And shall glorify Your name. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And I will glorify Your name forevermore.” (Psalm 86:9).
The Power of Praise:
Paul and Silas were continuing on their missionary journeys, telling people the Good News about Jesus. When they arrived in the city ofPhilippi, they preached the Gospel, healed the sick, and cast out devils. However, one of the demon possessed people they set free was a slave girl who had been possessed by a spirit of divination. She earned a lot of money for her masters by fortune-telling. “But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.” (Acts 16:19). A mob was quickly formed against them, and they demanded that they be stripped and beaten with wooden rods.
“And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”” (Acts 16:23-31).
My editor, Wendy Neudorf, wrote a great paraphrase of this story that I want to share with you:
“One by one, they stopped to listen. The two new ones were singing. Hymns, someone said. The others were unaccustomed to melody of any kind, especially here in this cramped and putrid cell where the common activities were fighting and cursing. Now, however, the odd man found himself humming along, even nodding in silent agreement as the two prayed. But the quiet would be short-lived.
Eyes flew open as the dirt floor shuddered. What was this? Rocks, large and small, dropped as the walls threatened to crumble.
“Earthquake!” one shouted.
Men covered themselves with their arms and cried out, certain the end had come.
Fear turned to astonishment when the great doors of the prison flew open. Shackles fell to the ground. The earth ceased its violent convulsion and all was silent.
“Stop!” the man called Paul ordered, pointing to the prison guard standing just outside the doorway.
The guard, sword in hand, froze in shock. His expression bore evidence that he’d assumed he was alone.
“We’re all here.” Paul’s voice was calm.
“But –” the guard began. He looked into the cell, not believing what he saw. “The door is open – your chains are loosed. I thought – I thought –” He could not finish.
“You thought we’d escaped.”
The guard nodded. “I would be blamed. And I would rather kill myself than face the magistrates.”
“There is no need.” Paul said.
The guard entered the cell and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. “Please, come out of this place.”
He led the two men out of the prison, watchful for the authorities that would surely come to assess the damage. And to accuse. When he had brought them safely to his own home, he turned to them, “What must I do to be saved?”
Silas smiled and put his hand on the guard’s shoulder. “That’s easy, my friend. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your family.”
Paul and Silas watched as the young man closed his eyes and sighed. “I believe,” he said. “I believe.”
The guard and his entire family were saved that day.”[ii]
What an unbelievable story! These two men of God were serving the Lord, and they were being beaten up and thrown in prison. And this was no modern jail cell with pillows and blankets and television sets. They were in the dungeon – a maximum security cell. Their feet were in stocks, their backs were bleeding. They were not in a happy place.
But in the midnight hour… It’s no accident that Luke emphasizes the fact that this took place at midnight. This story gives us hope and encouragement when we find ourselves in the darkest midnight hours of our lives. Things couldn’t have gotten any worse for Paul and Silas – they were in a smelly, damp, dark and dismal place. But what were they doing? Were they having a little pity party, all sad, depressed and miserable? “Woe is me, we’re in prison, we were trying to serve God, but now He’s left us alone in this awful place!” No. Paul and Silas were praying and praising the Lord. And this wasn’t a quiet little meditative prayer either. They were praising God so loudly that the other prisoners heard them. Then all of a sudden… something happened! They weren’t just singing songs to a god who was way out there in outer space somewhere, “Oh God, I don’t know if you’re listening or not.” No. As they began to praise the Lord, something started to happen. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, and everyone’s chains fell off.
This is the power of praise. There’s something that happens when you boldly declare, “I’m not going to let my circumstances get me down. I’m going to lift my hands and praise God anyway.” The power of praise can set you free! I believe in the power of praise and worship. When we lift our voices with a shout triumph and victory, circumstances change. Do you have troubles, problems, and difficult things that you’re facing in your life? Get your eyes off of your problems and onto the Lord. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2).
How do we praise and worship?
What is worship? If we’re going to praise and worship the Lord, then we need to know what it is and how to do it. To answer that question, let’s turn to the Word of God.
1. We Worship From the Heart:
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” (John 4:23).
I love the context of this statement that Jesus made. Sometimes we think of worship as just something we do in the holy sanctuary Sunday mornings at church. Some people think that worship doesn’t relate to their 24-7 eating and drinking, working and playing lives. Jesus is talking here to a woman who had serious issues in her life. This woman had been divorced five times, and was currently living with a man she wasn’t married to. Jesus spoke to the very real and painful issues in her life. Worship is not just some mystical thing that we do at church, but it is something that makes a difference in the strain and the struggle of our day to day lives.
The first thing we learn about worship is that we must worship the Father in spirit. True worship must come from our hearts, our innermost beings. As we go through this list of how to worship God, it’s not just about lifting our hands or bowing before the Lord. True worship must come from the heart, because you can do all of the external things, but if it’s not coming from the heart, it won’t make a difference in your life.
Pastor Chris Jordan
[i] John Piper, Hunger for God. (InterVarsity Press, November 1997).
[ii] Wendy Neudorf, Prison Break, January 2010.
[iii] John Calvin, Commentary on Acts 20:36.