Scripture tells us over and over again to praise God. What happens when we praise the lord?

First, it is important to remember that God isn’t dependent on us. God doesn’t need our praise. But why, if God doesn’t need our praise, is there such an emphasis on praising God?

Consider what happens when we praise. When we are focused on praising God, we are taking the focus off of ourselves. We are very egocentric people. We think about ourselves a lot. But when we are praising God, the focus shifts and we are given the gift of not focusing on our lives, but on God.

This refocusing turns us toward the heartbeat of God and reminds us that the world is bigger than we are and God is bigger than we can comprehend.

Praising God helps us notice just how small we are and how big God and God’s creation are. It forces the focus to go from me to God. It is hard to keep thinking the world revolves around your own life when you are focused on God and God’s creation. Suddenly your own troubles and worries seem much smaller in comparison to the vast scope of God.

This praise that causes us to focus on God instead of self has far-reaching effects. Have you ever heard anyone say something like, “That sermon didn’t do it for me” or “I don’t like that hymn” or “I can’t feel God’s presence” or “I didn’t get anything out of worship today?”

If we are focused on God and praise then the correct response is, “Good, it isn’t about you!”

What we do with our lives is intended to praise and glorify God. If we feel like we get something out of it too, alleluia! If we like a hymn or a sermon or a prayer, great. But the focus is not us. Praising God helps us keep a perspective about who we are and who God is.

Praising God also draws the community together. It is easy to look for differences among people. We label one another; Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative, strong, weak, helpful, lazy, smart, underachieving, distant, know-it-all, hard to get along with, etc. When we engage in praise to the lord, we are united. The action of praise leaves less room for anger and discord.

Praise also makes us more aware of God’s presence with us. When we focus on God, it is easier to notice that God is with us. Don’t misunderstand, God is always present, we just don’t always notice. Living a life of praise helps us be in tune to God’s action in the world.

Lastly, Psalm 148 calls us to praise the lord, joining with all of creation. It would be impossible to praise the lord without caring for creation when we have been united with all of God’s creative work. We are called together to praise, which means that the chorus isn’t complete without each part. If the voices of the mountains or trees or sea creatures are silenced, we aren’t able to praise as we should.

Why do we praise? Maybe it is God’s gift to the beloved creation to remind us of who we are and whose we are.

The Rev. Nikki Cooley of the First Presbyterian Church in Liberty wrote this column on behalf of the Liberty Ministerial Alliance.

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