Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. (James 5:13, NKJV)
Prayer and song. This couplet proves comforting and invigorating as we go through life’s storms and life’s calm. Suffering comes in many forms; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Prayer is a balm for the weary, an assuring strength during times of tumult and uncertainty. And so, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Even as suffering leads to earnest prayer, happy times evoke praise of the Almighty. The Lord is the source of joy that no one can take from us – the joy of victory over sin and death (John 16:20-22, 33). When life brings good fortune, Christians raise up songs of praise to God. We remember that God is the Giver of every good blessing; we did not create our happiness without His good providence. And so, James gives us sound instruction for difficult and happy times. He reminds us to look to God through all of life’s joys and sorrows. The Lord “will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). He will see you through.
1 Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 117:1–2, NKJV)
This brief psalm drives to the heart of why all people should triumphantly praise Jehovah. The stated reasons are, (1) Because of His mercy, and (2) Because of His truth. God’s mercy protected the nation of Israel over and over throughout their history. God’s truth denotes the integrity of His promises (especially those made to Abraham and David), as well as the revelation of His truth. God offers all sinners (whether Gentiles or Jews) His mercy and His truth in Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:8-9). Of all the reasons to praise God, His mercy toward sinners and His unwavering truth are at the heart of why we do so. Without God’s mercy, we would all perish in sin (Titus 3:4-5; Eph. 2:4-5). Without God’s truth, we would not know God’s purposes for us, nor could we be freed from our sins (John 8:31-32). Notably, mercy and truth go together; they are fully present and fully obtained in Jesus Christ (John 1:14-18).
Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips. (Proverbs 27:2, NKJV)
Nobody likes a braggart. Praising oneself is a prideful display of self-importance. Christians do not go around “tooting their own horn.” Their meek and quiet life will speak for itself (see Jas. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:11-12). Praising oneself is a mark of self-righteousness, not humble self-denial. The self-righteous Pharisee “stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess’” (Lk. 18:11-12). Praising oneself indicates one is absorbed with selfishly demanding the spotlight. Christians do not seek the praise of men, but the praise of God. Therefore, we must not draw attention to ourselves through the vanity of self-adulation. Instead, let us be busy directing our attention toward serving others, and toward humbly obeying God. Then, we will have neither the time nor the inclination to draw attention to ourselves.
1 Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion; and to You the vow shall be performed. 2 O You who hear prayer, to You all flesh will come. 3 Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them. (Psalm 65:1–3, NKJV)
God’s sovereignty is in full view in this psalm, as David and the citizens of Zion yearn to praise Him. Those who inhabit Zion (God’s kingdom, His people) set their hearts upon praising God. David cites two reasons his opening refrain for us to praise God. These reasons compel us to honor and extol His greatness, while keeping our pledge to serve Him. (1) God hears our prayers. He alone is the God who is near, who hears and answers the prayers of His children (1 Pet. 3:12; 1 Jno. 5:14-15). Although sinners mount up against God’s people, “by awesome deeds of righteousness” God will answer us and deliver us from evil (Psa. 65:5) (2) God forgives our sins. God provides atonement for our sins through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:10). These are among the reasons Christians yearn to worship God. God hears us and God saves us! Lift up your voices, inhabitants of Zion! Our God reigns!
5 And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV)
Why do you pray? What is the driving motive behind your prayers? God, who knows the human heart, knows the insincere motives of prayer. Prayer is not a public display of a Christian’s devotion to God. We are warned not to pray desiring that people praise us for our piety. Hypocrites pretend to pray out of devout dependency upon God, but their motive is to be seen by others. Faithful Christians do not pray for the accolades of others, but so that the Father will hear and help them. They do not make sure everyone knows all about how and when they pray to God; they are content to communicate privately and earnestly with the Father. God promises to hear and answer these prayers. If we pray to be praised by others, men will answer our prayers with their praises. But, God will not answer us, for we have elevated ourselves above Him and trusted in ourselves instead of trusting Him.
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:4–5, NKJV)
One’s worshipful praise of God expresses joyful thanks for His great blessings. Adoration is due Him by all who would come into His presence. Psalm 100 is a psalm of thanksgiving unto God. All the earth is pictured serving the Lord with gladness, and coming “before His presence with singing” (v. 1-2). As our Creator, He is due the honor of thankful praise (v. 3-4). Let us come into His courts with thankful praise because of His insurmountable character by which He blesses us: 1) His goodness. God is beautiful and deserving of our complete admiration. 2) His mercy. God is unfailing in His kindness, and is ever vigilant to show mercy “to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exo. 20:6). 3) His truth. Unfailing in its power to purify us, God’s word of truth endures forever (1 Pet. 1:22-25). God’s goodness, mercy and truth compel Christians to “enter His gates with thanksgiving” and praise His name. May we never overlook giving God the praise of thanksgiving.
1 I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. 3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” (Psalm 34:1–3, NKJV)
“Count your many blessings, name them one by one…and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” This refrain reminds us that we constantly live by the good blessings of God. Humble faith acknowledges the Lord as the source of every good gift (Jas. 1:17). Even the trials of life refine us and bless us; these too are used by our Father to discipline our faith so that we may bear peaceable, righteous fruit (Heb. 12:5-11). Today is the day to praise the Lord and exalt His holy name. Boast in the Lord and not in yourself for all He does for you. His good providence has given you this day’s blessings and opportunities. Praise and magnify His name!