When we talk about praise, what is it really about? Is it done by praise-singing or by words?
The word “praise” occurs 207 times in the New American Standard Bible (NASB). It occurs more times in the book of Psalms than in any other book – 100 times. The book is filled with praises. The first time that the word “praise” occurs in scripture is in Genesis 29:35.
And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.” (NASB) Gen. 29:35
The Hebrew word that is translated as “praise” in this verse has the sense of “to acknowledge . . . God’s character and works, or man’s character.” Praise is the recognition of another’s character or works. To praise God is to declare who God is and what He does. Praise honors God because of His divine deeds and character.
The first time that the word “praise” appears in the NASB version of the New Testament is in Matthew 11:25. The Greek word has the idea “to profess or to confess.” This is the same basic idea as the Hebrew word in Genesis 29:35. Both words have the idea of declaring God’s greatness, attributes (holy, good, just, righteous, infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, etc.), or glory to others.
This means that we praise God when our singing and preaching speak about God’s greatness, attributes, and glory. Sentimental songs about our love for or our feelings about God are not songs of praise, since they are about us and not Him. Songs that speak about God are songs that praise Him. Preaching and teaching almost always praise God since they speak about God. However, some preaching and teaching does not praise God, especially when error is taught or when He is not mentioned at all.
God is praised when scripture is read, since it is His Word and it speaks about Him. We praise God when we pray with faith because we are acknowledging that only He can answer our requests. He is the One who is all-powerful. We are not. He is the One who moves circumstances, and events, heals, and changes people’s hearts. We praise God when we give money to Him, if it is a “thank you” offering to Him. Our giving should be an expression of our thanks for His gift to us. These are acts of praise for Him.
Praise can be both words and songs. We will close with these passages from scripture. They are praises to God.
O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise. (NASB) Ps. 51:15
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You. (NASB) Ps. 63:3
Let my lips utter praise, For You teach me Your statutes. (NASB) Psalm 119:171
Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (NASB) Hebrews 13:15
1. Harris, Archer, and Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press. 1980. p. 845.