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Reconciling petition and praise

“As we pray tonight, let’s limit our verbal expressions to praise rather than petition. Instead of praying for the wants or needs in our community, let’s just shower God with praise,” the Bible teacher suggested. Several people responded verbally, but no one could resist putting in a petition. Petition comes naturally. Praise not so much. Yet praise is essential to well-balanced Christian living. This leads to a question: Why is praise so important?

God deserves our praise
Human achievement is rewarded with accolades. The quarterback scores a touchdown, and the crowd goes wild. Honour goes to the inventor who comes up with a product that makes life easier for everyone. Musicians or speakers endowed with the ability to move an audience endear themselves to the masses. People who stand out are lifted up

It is right that we should pay tribute to those who make the best use of their talents. But the ultimate praise goes to the One who brought life into existence. The One who created a universe with intricate parts that work together perfectly. The One who introduced the world to music through a  mockingbird’s song. The One who crowned creation with humankind, made in God’s own image and given freedom of choice.

When the exercise of choice led to sin, God loved humanity so much that he allowed his only Son to pay the penalty for sin. Jesus suffered and died on the cross to restore the divine-human relationship that was lost in the Garden of Eden. The ultimate sacrifice deserves the ultimate praise!

God desires our praise
It’s hard for me to believe that almighty God could want anything from me. People I admire in high places aren’t interested in my praise. They don’t even know I exist. Even if I met them, I would have nothing to offer them. Yet the sovereign God knows all about me – my past failures and present shortcomings – and he wants a relationship with me anyway. God desires my praise. God could command a battalion of angels to fall at his feet, but God prefers my meager offering of praise.

In Old Testament times, people were required to honour God through certain rituals and offerings, but there was a problem. It was possible to carry out the functions in rote fashion  without involvement of the heart. That displeased God. Through the prophet Isaiah God said, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Isa. 29:13).

Thought Starters to Praise

• Praise God for his creation. What has God created that impresses you? (a mountain? a juicy peach? your children?)

• Praise God for his love. How has God shown his love to you? (by sending Jesus to die for your sins? comforting you during a rough time? forgiving you when you mess up? sending someone to share a burden?

• Praise God for his Word. What verse strengthens you in today’s circumstances? What verse helped you through a crisis?

• Praise God for his intervention. What mistake might you have made without God’s guidance? (a disasterous marriage or business partnership? What ideas and insights has he given you? (a unique parenting idea or a plan for a new project?)

• Praise God for his character. What praises flow from your lips as you meditate on God’s majesty, his power, his love or his justice?

Our lives can become praises to God. Jesus spoke of his disciples, “Glory has come to me through them” (John 17:10). When Christ lives in us, we actually become “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). Love that comes from our hearts is the kind of praise that God wants.

Praise is preparation for the future
We don’t know a lot about heaven but, according to Revelation, there will be a lot of praise going on in the holy city. The pages of the final book of inspired writings are filled with words like praise, honor, worship and give glory to God. Worship and praise will extend far beyond our traditional mealtime and bedtime prayers. If we don’t develop habits of praise here, wouldn’t we feel out of place in the presence of angels seated around God’s throne paying tribute to the Most High?

Praise comes naturally for some people while others struggle to come up with even an awkward expression. Are there ways to cultivate worship and praise?

Be specific
About the time my son turned two, he began to say a prayer before meals. After a few weeks, on his own initiative, he enumerated the food items for which he was giving thanks. “Dear God, thank you for chicken and potatoes and green beans.” I believe God smiled along with me. When I invite people to dinner, I appreciate a compliment on the meal. But comments like, “I love the corn pudding,” or “The frozen salad is awesome!” make my day.
Through practice, we can program our minds with praise until it becomes part of our daily routine. Praise God for a new day each morning – for the job that provides our livelihood, for modern technology that makes the job easier, for the dog’s enthusiastic greeting when we arrive home. God delights in praise for things we tend to take for granted – air conditioning on a hot day, heat on a cold day, or a Spring day when the outside temperature is just right. When we solve a problem in a creative manner, praise belongs to God for passing on his creative genius.

Praise through giving
Our banking records show a lot about where we place our priorities. Giving confirms the praise that comes from the mouth. A sacrificial offering that goes beyond regular giving represents a splurge of praise coming from the heart. In tough economic times, giving can become a challenge. That was the situation in the Macedonian churches but the Apostle Paul wrote, “I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability” (2 Cor. 8:3).
It takes creativity to come up with ways to give beyond your ability. Here are some ideas:  Pass on the savings from a trip to the grocery store. Print money-saving coupons from your computer. Take snacks from home to work instead of using the vending machine. Forgo buying a new jacket in favor of supporting a missionary. Serve leftovers at home in order to feed people who have nothing to eat. Ideas will begin to flow when your mind gets going.

Praise through action
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus made it quite clear that service to someone in need praises God. These deeds are equivalent to deeds done for Christ. What shapes do this form of praise take? Ideas are endless. In addition to opportunities to work directly with the church, my church partners with a school and several organizations to provide volunteer opportunities. Activities range from serving meals to veterans to reading to children. Ways to volunteer in any area are available through volunteermatch.org.
 Anyone can discover a good balance between petition and praise. Cultivating a praise-filled life will actually minimize the need for petition. The blessings that come from praise will fill us with so much joy that many of our anxieties will simply melt away.


  • Living in Scottsdale, Ariz., Esther M. Bailey is a freelance writer with a passion to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

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