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  • BSideBecca

Prayer: Praise, Thanks, Bless

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

...yet there are the days

when every street corner rounds itself into

a sunlit surprise, a painting or a phrase,

canoes drawn up by the market, the harbour’s blue,

the barracks. So much to do still, all of it praise.

- excerpt from Derek Walcott's poem, No Opera

It's been a genuinely fun week! We had friends we've not seen in a while stop by for dinner, watched fireworks on the beach, I've read two really great books, enjoyed time with my young adult kids, had a couple fun walks outside with my husband, and we went kayaking with friends down the river in the early morning as you can see in the beautiful photo my husband took (my first time kayaking! i didn't sink! victory!). Even my dog has made me laugh this week since he's learned his treats have been moved to the pantry and now stands in front of the door staring at it until you get him a little snack. (Talk about the definition of "hope!") If you met me this week, I'd probably respond with a smile and a happy lil attitude and tell you about our fun week.

As most of us know, sometimes in our good moments we forget to include those praises and thankfulness to God in our prayers - or, if we're honest, even forget to pray, happily going along in our bliss - but as I get older, I realize more and more how important it is for me to pause and thank God for these blessings that are there right along with the more mundane or difficult times. (I mean, even in this "fun" week, we've still dealt with a tax issue, gone to a funeral and been frustrated with an insurance question.)

Three words found in Psalms helped me better understand the purpose and place of thankfulness in prayer. Those words are: praise, thanks and bless. Here's a quick overview:

Praise! This word comes from the Hebrew word halal, which means “to be boastful” or “to be excited in joy.” This Hebrew word would be similar to what you’d yell when your kid scores that goal in his Saturday morning soccer game. There are even a group of psalms that are called the Halal Psalms – Psalm 111 being an example of one:

Praise (halal) the Lord.

I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.

Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever.

When's the last time you've responded with excitement in joy to the Lord? Is there anything you can stop and give thanks to Him for in your prayers today?

Thanks! The Hebrew word yadah means “to thank.” But in the ancient Hebrew world, the concept of giving thanks was unlike ours today. Instead, the way you would thank someone would be to tell of their name. As an example, if my car brakes were giving me trouble (which they were) and we took it to our mechanic (which we did) and he fixed them for me at no cost because he realized it was their mistake (which he did), I would tell you his name (Matt at Rivers Oak Auto – call him!) as a way of giving thanks. Telling others the name of the Lord is a way to give Him thanks for who He is! Psalm 138:1 states:

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;

before the “gods” I will sing your praise.

Try replacing that word "praise" with the phrase “to give public acknowledgment.” Our prayers can give thanks to God, but our out-loud-words can as well - share with someone an answer to prayer you've received lately, tell His name! (You can even share a thanks in a comment below if you'd like!)

Bless! The Hebrew word here is barak, meaning “to bless.” A way we can bless God is by remembering what He has done for us. At first when I heard this, I was confused as I looked at God in His perfection and thought “wait, how could I possibly be a blessing to God??” But the more I understood verses such as Psalm 103:1-2 I could see that not forgetting means to remember what He has done for me and that this is how I am able to bless God.

Praise the Lord, my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, my soul,

and forget not all his benefits—

Praise God for the beauty of language in which we are able to use ancient and modern words to describe who He is and what He does to those around us.

Whether your week could be described as fun or the complete opposite, seeking reasons to praise, thank and bless Him brings us closer to Him and the knowledge of who He is. This week in your prayers:

praise Him for His goodness,

thank Him for His faithfulness

bless Him by remembering what He has done for you.

______________________________________________________ Thanks for joining me for Theology Thursday. This summer's theology posts will be on the subject of prayer as I continue to want to learn, study and think about prayer!

Prayer is not a simple question/answer to me (how about you?). It isn't an easy topic, and it's one that has been twisted by our selfish desires as humans and perverted by false teaching. It's my desire that as I get to know God more, I understand prayer more, but I also know I will never have all the answers and may not explain things exactly right. Have grace.


Books on Prayer I Recommend:

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller

[Short review: I am a fan of Keller's writing, but this book felt a little more academic to me in that much of it was reviewing other theologian's writings on prayer. Calvin and Owen are mentioned often, which: meh (that's super theological, right? meh.) The parts I enjoyed and where I benefited most -and why I'd still recommend it - were when Keller himself gave insight into what prayer meant to him and his faith (which he does do, just not throughout the entire book).

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference by Philip Yancey

[Short review: Well-written. Felt more personal than Keller's book. Intriguing questions and answers - one of Yancey's strengths is his ability to be honest about questions, but also to pursue finding answers. I've had an affinity to Yancey since I attended a few Sunday School class sessions as a college student where he was teaching material later included in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew. There's something about sitting in cold metal folding chairs in a basement of a church with coffee and donuts, learning from a wise teacher that never leaves your soul.]

Praying with Paul by D A Carson

[Full review coming later as I'm midway through this book: Intriguing. Interesting. Bases what he says about prayer mainly on Paul's prayers. I've had some a-ha, "let me read this out loud to you" moments. Looking forward to finishing this one!]

Coming in August - preorder now:

When God is Silent: Letting the Bible Teach You to Pray by John Koessler

[Short review: This book hasn't been published yet, but I've preordered and am excited to read it, as Koessler's wisdom has been an encouragement to me and I look forward to reading his latest book. His podcast is great, listen here: A Stranger in the House of God]

My Spotify Playlist of worship music that's not the same ol', same ol': Non-Pablum Songs About God

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