I admit that at times I like to be praised. It encourages me when people tell me that I did a good job or that they were helped by something I wrote or said. Is it a subtle form of narcissism? I have read that self-praise builds self-confidence and reinforces positive thinking.
There is little doubt that we need more self-confidence and positive thinking, but do these accumulate because we think highly of ourselves? I believe that praise should rightly go to people or things that deserve it, but that we should be leery of praising ourselves.
The reason is quite simple: anything that I do well as a Christian and that deserves praise should go—as the song “My Tribute” by Andrae Crouch so well puts it—to Calvary. Yes, “To God be the glory for the things He has done.”
In his book, Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis has a chapter on praise and praising God. At first, Lewis found it difficult to understand why all religious people should praise God and why He, in fact, demanded the praise. Why would God tell people to praise him?
It seems clear that God does demand praise: “Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me, and to the blameless, I will show my salvation.” (Psalm 50.23) Note also how the Psalmist wishes to be saved to praise God and it can’t be done if he is dead: “What is gained if I am silenced if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?” (Psalm 30.10) “Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?” (Psalm 88.10)
David also praised God regularly: “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.” (Psalm 119.164)
Lewis did not immediately realize that “it is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence in men.” He said to not know this experience is “like being tone deaf, never reading a great book or having the feel of fresh air on one’s face.” But God doesn’t need our approval. It would be like, as Lewis jokes, having “my dog to bark approval at my books.”
As Lewis notes, “all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise” and there is praise all around us: about our favorite team, poet, book, food, scenery, and “even sometimes politicians or scholars. Even good critics find something to praise in a work.“ The Psalmist is in telling everyone to praise God because they speak of “what they care about,” and when they do, “praise not merely expresses by completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”
In heaven angels and all Christians “are perpetually employed in praising God” and at that time we will enjoy him fully and God is inviting us to enjoy him now as well. However, as Lewis notes, even in praise, “the flame does not ascent pure from the altar” and we may blunder in our words of praise.
In the New Living Translation, there are 377 instances of the word praise, and 178 of them are in Psalms. Here are a few examples:
Psalm 150: Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness! Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp! ...
9.1: I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.
18.46: The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock! May the God of my salvation be exalted!
40.3: He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.
47.6: Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises!
56.10: I praise God for what he has promised; yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.
63.3: Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!
89.5: All heaven will praise your great wonders, Lord; myriads of angels will praise you for your faithfulness.
100.4: Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.
I want any praise that I receive to be to God, so I try to redirect it to Him. I read this somewhere “Praise is indeed a potent and restorative tool. It changes us for the better by refocusing our affections, realigning our priorities, and restoring our souls. Our spirit becomes more pliable, open, and receptive to receiving God's Holy Spirit.”
Some people are uninhibited and demonstrative in showing praise. Others are more reserved and subdued—except at football games! Does it matter? Is loudness one of the essential components of praise? Perhaps we can also rest in our praise: “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.” (Psalm 16.9-10)