The Life-Transforming, Heart-Healing Power of Praise
Our worship of God does not make him more powerful. Neither does it compel him to act. But God is pleased by praise. He loves to act on behalf of his people when his people exult in him and exalt him in worship. Praise is where God lives (Ps. 22:3)! It is his home! That is why when we worship, things happen: the spirits of the discouraged are lifted and refreshed, sick bodies are healed, unsaved souls come to faith, the Spirit's voice is heard, relationships are healed, hope is restored, the Word of God is more readily heard and obeyed, unforgiveness toward others is overcome, bitterness disappears, demons are routed, otherwise stingy people become incredibly generous, and joy inexpressible and full of glory fills the hearts of God's people!
C. S. Lewis struggled with the constant demand in the psalms that God's people worship him. He couldn't figure out why. It seemed like God was a vain and insecure old lady who constantly needed people to tell her that she was still beautiful. That is, until he made a profound discovery:
"I did not see that it is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to men. It is not indeed the only way. But for many people at many times, the 'fair beauty of the Lord' is revealed chiefly or only while they worship Him together" ("A Word about Praising," 93).
When we worship God in the midst of our troubles and trials he releases a supernatural power into our hearts that enables us to persevere and live through adversity. Sometimes he will even deliver us from the pain and heartache itself, but if not, he will always supply us with the strength to endure as long as it lasts.
Praise has the potential for hastening and quickening the process of spiritual healing in our hearts. It awakens us to remember all of the marvelous blessings God has bestowed and the countless ways he has shown himself faithful in the past. It empowers us to trust him for the fulfillment of his promises in the future.
It isn't unusual for God to respond to our worship by supplying us with power for physical healing. But even if he doesn't, he will always enable us to respond as Job did: "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord!"
Praise accelerates the process of sanctification. When we are absorbed and obsessed with God and his greatness, the power of sin loses its grip on our hearts. This doesn't mean that we can guarantee for ourselves a utopian, pain-free life if only we would worship more. But it does mean that when our hearts and minds are consumed with God and his promises to us in Christ that earthly problems and pain become increasingly more tolerable.
Gordon MacDonald was at one time president of Inter Varsity Fellowship. But following a moral failure he stepped down from all ministry and spent a couple of years in counseling and prayerful repentance. His marriage was saved and he was eventually restored to ministry. He later served as President of Denver Theological Seminary, where he is now Chancellor. He wrote about his experience in a book titled, Rebuilding Your Broken World. In it he describes one occasion when worship accelerated the healing of his heart:
"In one of the darkest hours of my broken-world condition, I found myself one day in the front row of a Dallas church where I had been asked to give a talk. I had made a long-term commitment to be there, but had it not been for my hosts' hard work of preparation, I would have tried to cancel my participation. Frankly, I was in no mood to speak to anyone. But I felt constrained not to cancel, and so there I was.
When the service began, a group of young men and women took places at the front of the congregation and began to lead with instruments and voices in a chain of songs and hymns: some contemporary, others centuries old. As we moved freely from melody to melody, I became aware of a transformation in my inner world. I was being strangely lifted by the music and its content of thankfulness and celebration. If my heart had been heavy, the hearts of others about me were apparently light because, together, we seemed to rise in spirit, the music acting much like the thermal air currents that lift an eagle or a hawk high above the earth.
I not only felt myself rising out of the darkness of my spirit, but I felt as if I were being bathed, washed clean. And as the gloom melted away, a quiet joy and a sense of cleansing swept in and took its place. I felt free to express my turbulent emotions with tears. The congregation's praise was a therapy of the spirit: indescribable in its power. It was a day I shall never forget. No one in that sanctuary knew how high they had lifted one troubled man far above his broken-world anguish. Were there others there that day feeling as I did? Perhaps they would have affirmed as I did: God was there" (178).
Such is the life-transforming, heart-healing power of praise!