Series: Todah Living: The Transforming Power of Thanksgiving
The condition, the attitude, the posture of the heart determines the authenticity of praise.
We can leap for joy or kneel in adoration, dance or bow, shout or remain silent. We can laugh and, at times, weep. Sometimes we may clap our hands in expressions of praise; other times clasp our hands in a solemn attitude. We may proclaim, we may pray. Any and all of these can be appropriate expressions of praise, worship, and thanksgiving.
However, if we confuse praise with its various expressions, it can lead to negative consequences.
It can lead to pride and judgementalism, a sense that our way is the only way that genuinely worships God. For some, those who sit quietly are not truly praising God; for others, those who stand and lift their hands are not truly praising God. Do you see how both positions have confused the expression with the essence?
It can lead to subjectivity in which we fail to discern what is of the flesh and what is of the Spirit. It shouldn't come as a shock to you that you can dance in the flesh, just as you can dance in the Spirit. You can sit quietly in the flesh, just as you can sit quietly in the Spirit. Confusing expressions of praise with the praise itself can lead to a type of emotionalism, valuing emotions in and of themselves as the act of praise.
These negative consequences put enormous pressure on pastors and song leaders. Why? Because the people feel that if they haven't gotten the effect, then they haven't praised. This can even lead to unconscious, subtle manipulations to get everyone to participate, to conform. No tradition is immune from the pressure to please the people rather than our holy God.
I mentioned earlier that failing to understand the biblical essence of praise has led to an artificial separation between the head and the heart typified by the split between Pentecostals/Charismatics and Evangelicals. Regarding expressions of praise, worship, and thanksgiving—generally speaking—Pentecostals emphasize emotion, whereas Evangelicals emphasize intellect.
Yet, each can be guilty of judgementalism and subjectivity.
Some Pentecostals condescendingly speak of the liturgy and services of Evangelicals as dead. But they fail to identify that there is a Pentecostal liturgy. Every week you sing the same songs, saving until the end the ones that get faster and faster, so everybody winds up with the right feeling. However, in the same way one can go to an Evangelical church and simply go through the motions, one can go to a Pentecostal/Charismatic church and do it mechanically.
Likewise, some Evangelicals condescendingly speak of the services of Pentecostals as superficial. Yet I have been in gatherings where spontaneous declarations of true adoration—of who God is and what he has done—were breaking forth. People were giving testimonies causing the rest of us to rejoice in God's faithfulness. That environment of freedom and joy encourages your own heartfelt expressions of praise.
I am not trying to belittle any of God's people. The opposite is true. What I want to do is,
clear up any confusion by helping you grasp what praise is, biblically speaking.
expand your thinking to recognize that biblical praise engages the head and the heart.
caution you concerning pride when it comes to the various expressions of praise.
Remember, the essence of praise, thanksgiving, and worship—biblically speaking—is to confess, declare, acknowledge, and proclaim the character and works of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When you keep this in mind, you will have discernment as to what is appropriate and what is not appropriate in any given situation.
Praise that acknowledges (yadah) leads naturally to the thanksgiving of appreciation (todah). I call this the todah lifestyle, one that both pleases our faithful Father and has transformative power in our lives.
This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice. Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore his audio seminars.