The Power of Praying in God's Name
Scripture: Psalm 138:1-3
Repeatedly throughout scripture we are commanded and encouraged to praise the name of God. But, what does it mean to praise God's name?
Praise is extolling God and thanking him for what he has done, is doing, and continues to do. Praise is telling of his wonderful acts and lifting his great name to the highest heavens. Praise is earth-shattering, ground-shaking, hand-clapping, feet dancing, trumpets blaring, and bell ringing. But it is also acceptance of our situation, submission to his Lordship, acquiescence to his will, and rejoices in his plan.
God has chosen to manifest himself or reveal himself in the praises of his people. David wrote of God, "But you are holy, enthroned on the praises (or dwelling in the praises) of Israel" (Ps. 22:3 HCSB). God is enthroned in our praises. God is made Lord through our praise. We give God the right to rule and reign in our lives when we praise him.
This fact is the significance. We often think that praise is simply thanking God or singing a few songs or raising our hands or kneeling before God. While all of those things are elements of the act of praise, they don't get at the core of praise. When we praise the name of God we are saying that whatever the outcome to our prayers we will acknowledge God's sovereignty, his rule, his reign, his right to do whatever he pleases. The true test of whether or not we praise God is accepting from God the answers to our prayers that we don't want. It is easy to praise God when we get from God what we want, but what about when we don't get what we want. Do we praise God then? Real praise is accepting from God whatever comes our way.
Merlin Carothers wrote in Power in Praise: "Praising God is not a patent medicine, a cure-all, or a magic formula for success. It is a way of life that is solidly backed up in God's Word. We praise God, not for the expected results, but for the situation just as it is. As long as we praise God with an eye secretly looking for the expected results, we're only kidding ourselves, and we can be certain that nothing will happen to change us or our situation. Praise is based on a total and joyful acceptance of the present as a part of God's loving, perfect will for us. Praise is not based on what we think or hope will happen in the future."
William Law, an eighteenth century English clergyman, stated: "If anyone could tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness and perfection, he must tell you to make it a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you. For it is certain that whatever seeming calamity happens to you, if you thank and praise God for it, you turn it into a blessing ..."
We praise God, not for what we expect to happen or hope to happen or even want to happen. We praise God for who he is and where we are right now. How would this change our prayers? How often do we pray for someone to get well physically when maybe God is using the illness to get their attention? How often do we pray for a new situation - a new job, a spouse, a child, a bonus, or any number of "good" things - when God is trying to teach us patience and character where we are now?
Does this mean that we just passively accept whatever lot we find ourselves in? Does this mean that we develop the "whatever will be, will be" attitude? No. The fact is that when we honestly praise God, something does happen as a result. His power will flow into a situation, and we will notice, sooner or later, a change in us or around us. The change may be that we come to experience a real joy and happiness in the midst of what once appeared to be a miserable situation, or the situation may change. But this is the result of praise, and must not be the motivation for praise.