Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! (Psalm 100:1)
Did you know there was a praise emoji? Until last week, neither did I.
Let’s take a step back. Some of you may have no idea what an emoji is to begin with. For those who make daily use of the text message and develop a nervous twitch when their phone isn’t in their hand, the emoji has become as indispensable to communication as the alphabet. Emojis (or ‘emoticons’) are a function of the keyboard on a phone, a series of various symbols that express emotion. A smiley face, a sad face, a red angry face are all on my phone to let others know how I feel.
But the menu of available emojis goes far beyond facial expressions. Just how far, I learned last week. I mentioned to my daughter that I was working on a message about praise. Somehow our conversation ended up on the praise emoji. I had no idea there was such a thing. She showed me what it was. The emoji expresses praise with two hands. I guess the idea is two lifted hands – but to me that emoji might as well have been a symbol for the number ‘ten.’
When it came to the praise emoji this much was clear: I didn’t know what it looked like and I seldom used it.
Can Presbyterians Do This?
For many people – and that includes many praying people – the same may be said of praise generally. We don’t know what it looks like, and we don’t do it as often as we should. Simply put, we’re not very good at praising God. Dwelling on God’s greatness and declaring to God his glories and perfections doesn’t seem to come easily to us.
A couple of years ago Lifeway Research conducted a survey of 1100 American adults to determine what it is that people most often pray about. Prayers for family members and friends were the primary focus of prayer for 82% of the respondents. Coming in second at 74% were prayers for difficulties or problems. Further down the list at 37% were prayers that focused on God’s greatness.
This isn’t surprising. Most of us would acknowledge that we easily pray for the people we love and care about. We also know that we direct a fair amount of our praying energies to the challenges we’re facing. But praise, well . . . not so much, not so often.
When we recognize this and make a deliberate effort to praise God, we often find we’re awkward and inarticulate. What do we do? Should we raise our hands? Is it ok for Presbyterians to do that in church? How do we praise God with words beyond the obvious “Praise God?”
Like the emoji we seldom use, praise is hard to recognize and not practiced as often as it should be. That’s why we’re thinking this week about praising God.
No One is Left Out
Awkwardness aside, let’s keep a couple of things in mind as we ponder the praise of God this week.
First, the invitation to make a joyful noise is extended to “all the earth.” No one is left out, exempted, excluded. Praise is not a skill practiced by those with a particular gift or temperament. We are made to praise God. All of us.
Second, whether we do it or not, the name of the Lord will be praised. Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem was accompanied with shouts of acclamation and praise. Offended, the Pharisees demanded that Jesus rebuke his disciples and rein in their exuberance. Jesus’s answer is worth hearing when we feel awkward and self-conscious about our praise of God. “If [they] were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:39-40).
How is praise most often expressed in your life, and what seems to prompt it?
Make no mistake, the name of God will be praised. “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3). You can be a part of that, and you can begin right now.
Gracious God, you are worthy of our praise. The Psalm tells us to praise you with all that is within us, remembering all your benefits and blessings to us. Forgive our forgetfulness, and help us by your Spirit to praise you. Teach us what that means and make us eager to do it, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.