To praise God spontaneously and with a genuine focus on Him, other criteria is necessary. One is realizing that there is nothing in this for me. Oh, I know that God inhabits the praises of His people and I could experience a greater sense of His presence. I also know that He gives peace and joy to those who lift their voices to praise Him, but if those are the only reasons for my accolades, I’m apt to feel nothing. Yet God deserves praise.
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. (Psalm 34:1)
David wrote this Psalm after a most humbling experience. It happened before he became king and when King Saul was trying to kill him. He fled to Achish, the king of Gath, looking for protection. Upon arriving there, the king repeated something he’d heard said by the Israelites — praise exalting David above Saul.
And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. (1 Samuel 21:12–13)
This is the future king of Israel, the one who killed Goliath and who gathered hundreds of followers. He is faking insanity because he is terrified of what his fame might do to him. How dishonorable!
If this were me, I would at some point later be terribly embarrassed, even ashamed of what happened. David was humbled, not only by his fear, but by his efforts to save himself. Nevertheless, it worked.
Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?” (1 Samuel 21:14–15)
I’m not sure what I would do if my life depended on it, but I’ve learned something about humility. Whenever I humble myself (or God humbles me), praise for Him flows like a river. Just as after this shameful event in his life, David blessed the Lord at all times and praise was continually in his mouth, so also I find blessing and praise almost automatic after the ignoble events in my life.
From this, God shows me that the key to being able to praise Him continually is simply getting ‘self’ out of the way in humility. Proud people never praise God. The less I desire to be something or somebody, the more freedom I give the Holy Spirit who lives in me. When He is set free, He simply praises God — His thoughts and words coming out of my mouth.
Lord, there is no one like You. You take the worst that can happen and use it for good, not only to change me, but to release the praise and honor that You deserve. I stand in awe of You, Holy God to whom all praise is due. I stand in awe of You.