“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8)
Scientists have identified a distinct psychological phenomenon called “negativity bias” that affects virtually everyone’s perspective on the events around them. It states that “even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things.” (Wikipedia) Essentially, we are wired to focus on the negative more than the positive. The bias is so strong that studies of married couples show that it takes a 5 to 1 ratio of positive input to negative input in a marriage for the relationship to remain stable. (Psychology Today, June 2016)
This is one of the core reasons why praise is such a vital habit to embrace. Praise helps counteract our natural wiring which leans toward negativity. Praise is active positivity, active strengthening, and active faith. Praise creates a cascade of benefits.
My vision expands when I praise. I realize in this short time of focusing on praise how limited my appreciation is for God. If my children only praised me for putting food on the table, I would feel slighted. As I praise, I realize how much I have to praise. How easy it is to take God’s splendor for granted. How quick I am to move from praise to petition. There are so many reasons to praise God: color, taste, mountains, stars, forgiveness, kindness, music. The reasons are endless.
My faith grows when I praise. I have found that praise changes the nature of my prayers. I pray assumptively, with optimism and hope. Instead of acting like God begrudgingly hears my prayers, I pray like He is my loving Father, anxious to give His child His best gifts. My prayers take the form of “I praise You for…” instead of “God please …”
My soul soars when I praise. Sometimes praise is an act of the will. When the darkness is thick, praise becomes more difficult, and more necessary. Psalms 42 and 43 exclaim, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my savior and my God.” (Ps 42: 5, 11, Ps 43:5) The very act of praising God lifts our soul out of the mire. Sometimes, it is only for a moment; other times, praise sets us on a rock above our downcast soul.
My troubles grow smaller when I praise. In reality, my troubles don’t diminish. I gain perspective about my troubles. Part of that perspective is focusing on how big God is. “If God is for me, who can be against me?”
Powerful things happen as I build my praise muscles; but this is not why I praise. I praise because God is worthy of my praise. He is my Creator and my God. I praise because God delights in the praises of His people. Heaven is filled with the praises of the saints and the angels. Though we are lifted up when we become people of praise, praise is not a means to an end. Praise is an end to itself.
This week I want to suggest another exercise in praise. Consider reading Psalm 103 for each of the next 7 days. If you are brave, try praying it out loud. Read it slowly. Savor it. See if after 7 days you don’t find your vision expanded, your faith enlarged, your soul lifted, and your troubles diminished.
Praise the Lord!