Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Praise is Not a Spectator Sport

Leslie Basham: When it’s time to praise, do you actually praise? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you go to church and you just sit and stand and watch the choir and listen to the preacher and go through the motions of watching the people on the platform, you may leave that service and never have really praised the Lord yourself. Worship is not for spectating. It’s for participating.

Leslie: It’s Tuesday, November 28th, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Over the last several sessions, Nancy’s been in a teaching series called The Power and Practice of Praise. There’s a danger when we hear a series like this. You can listen and understand, but then not do anything about it. Here’s Nancy to remind us that praise is an activity that we need to put into practice.

Nancy: We’re trying to learn during these days how to praise the Lord in a way that is biblical and that is pleasing to the Lord. There’s a lot of talk about praise and worship today. I think there is a lot less practice of true biblical praise and worship than there is talk. I don’t mean that to be critical in any way. I mean it to say that we all need to evaluate our own practice before the Lord and our own hearts and say, “Lord, am I praising You in a way that is pleasing to You?”

I mentioned earlier in the series that I had taken, over the last several days, time to, in a concentrated way, read through the entire book of Psalms—150 Psalms. I do read through the Psalms on a regular basis, but I never read them through in an intentional way to get through that quickly. What a blessing that was. You start to see some themes emerging.

First of all, you realize that praise often comes out of a heart that is heavy and sad and in trouble, that praise is a supernatural, not a natural, response to things going wrong, and that it’s a learned and disciplined response. We see that illustrated in the life of David and other Psalmists over and over and over again. I mean, those guys knew how to weep. They knew what trouble was. But out of the darkness, out of the valleys, out of their turmoil came some of the most powerful, profound expressions of praise.

Then the other thing that stood out to me as I read through the Psalms was how exuberant and celebrative and expressive Jewish praise was. There are words that are used . . . You have to do some word studies in the Psalms, taking your concordance or some other Hebrew study tools, to compare to the English words to get a view of how expressive this worship is in the Old Testament, in particular.

There was not the sense of inhibition in praise and worship as I find there often is in my own walk with the Lord. God’s been speaking to me in this area and asking me, “Why are you so restrained in many cases and inhibited in your own praise and worship?” You know, with some people it’s really a mystery because they can go to an Arkansas football game and come back to church the next morning hoarse because they yelled so loud through the six overtimes that that game took. They’re cheering and screaming and yelling.

Now, I’m not a person who likes to probably scream or yell anywhere; but some people who are very expressive at an athletic event, when they come to church, you can’t get a peep out of them. I mean, it’s not just a matter of personality then. There’s a difference in how we view the object of our attention. For some of us, the most celebrative, exciting thing in our lives may be an athletic event or one of your children’s athletic events.

But praise takes us into the place of fixing our attention upon the King, the God of the universe, who's worthy of all of our adoration and letting all that is within us bless His holy name. That praise must be expressed verbally and visibly.

If you go to church and you just sit and stand and watch the choir and listen to the preacher and go through the motions of watching the people on the platform, you may leave that service and never have really praised the Lord yourself. Worship is not for spectating. It’s for participating.

So I want to challenge you in every part of the worship service—and it’s all part of worship. It’s not just the music. It’s all part of it: the reading of the Scripture, the listening to the message, the responding to the message, the giving of our offerings, the singing. We’re to be participating in bringing this offering of praise and worship to the Lord.

We’ve been talking about some of the visible expressions of praise and worship and how we can use our hands and our bodies. Now I want to talk about how we can use our voices in giving praise to the Lord. Scripture talks first about speaking to the Lord and speaking to others about the Lord as a very important part of our praise.

I read recently, and this is actually what motivated me to do that (read through the book of Psalms) . . . I read one writer who said that for hundreds of years there were Christian servants of the Lord, back in the medieval period, who would read through the Psalms every week. They weren’t just reading the Psalms. They were praying the Psalms to the Lord every week. That’s 20-some—21 or so—Psalms every day. Praying those back to the Lord.

That thought challenged me. I don’t know that I’ll do it every week, but it was a great blessing this past week to read through the Psalms and to use them as an expression of praise and worship to the Lord—speaking to the Lord.

Then there are many references in the Psalms about speaking to others about the goodness and the praise of the Lord. Let me read some of those verses, and we’ll give you the references on the transcript on our website (ReviveOurHearts.com). You can get the actual references. But just listen and catch the heart of this.

The Psalmist says, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul” (Psalm 66:16). That’s praise. “My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day” (Psalm 71:15).

Then several verses from Psalm 145: “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever” (verses 4, 6, 11, 21).

Speak it. Sing to the Lord. “Bless His name,” Psalm 96:2 says. “Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary” (Psalm 96:2-4, 6).

Now, you and I speak tens of thousands of words every day. I know it doesn’t seem like that many, but it is. The question is what are you talking about? If we were to catalog all our words, how many of them are me talking about me? And how many of them are me talking about God?

I have to tell you I think I would be way off balance on that count. Why? Because I’m so consumed with myself. Because you know what really matters to me when it comes down to it? It’s the same thing that matters most of the time to you. It’s me. I mean, that’s what I really care about: my reputation, how things . . . how the weather affects me, how I’m feeling, how I’m doing, what I’m doing. We are self-centered self-worshipers.

When we become true worshipers of God, what we talk about will change. How much of the day are we talking about the goodness of God, the kindness of God, the mercies of God, the works of God, the salvation of God? If you and I were just expressing verbally to God and to others what God means to us, that would probably be our most effective witnessing tool because the people around us would realize God really matters to her. She loves Him. He’s done great things for her. He has saved her. And they would come to understand what that means if we were talking about the Lord, talking about what He has done.

Now, there’s a variation in the Scripture on speaking our praise to the Lord or to others about the Lord, and it’s this little phrase that I have to tell you I’m not real comfortable with. But it’s in there. I can’t escape it. The Scripture talks many times about shouting to the Lord. Shouting to the Lord. Now, I don’t know exactly why God makes this a part of praise. I know it’s not because God is hard of hearing. It’s not that when we praise louder, He hears us better.

But there’s something about that exuberant, celebrative, unrestrained, uninhibited shout to the Lord. Not trying to make a scene but, I have to tell you I’m not even sure I know how to do this. But I’m asking the Lord, “Teach me what it means to praise You in a way that is worthy of You.” I would rather talk with a soft voice, but there apparently are appropriate times and places to shout to the Lord.

Let me give you a little Hebrew lesson here that will give you an insight into this. Take verses in the Psalms that talk about shouting for joy to God all the earth. Sing aloud to God, our strength. Shout for joy. That word shout comes from a Hebrew word ruwa that means to split the ears with sound, to cry out with a loud voice. That’s what it means.

Now, there’s another word that is translated shout. “My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you” (Psalm 71:23). It’s the word ranan. That word means to creak, to shout for joy. It’s a word that is often translated in English sing. “Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints” (Psalm 30:4). Sing to the Lord. That is the Hebrew word ranan that means to creak. Now, that I can do. When it comes to singing, I can creak. My voice is kind of creaky. But it’s an expressive word. Shouting for joy. To split the ears with sound. To cry out with a loud voice.

You know, we do it in other circumstances, in situations where it’s considered appropriate, either a celebration or desperation at times. We know there are times and places where it’s appropriate to shout. Could I suggest that one of those is that there are times and places where it is appropriate to shout to the Lord? To be more celebrative and vocal in expressing His praise.

So the Psalmist says, “Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name’” (Psalm 66:1-4).

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been encouraging us to sing praises to the name of God. I like what she said a minute ago. When confronted with some biblical styles of praise that tend to make her uncomfortable, she prays to the Lord: “Teach me how to praise in a way that would please You.” Is that your heart?

One way to learn more about praise is through a book Nancy recommends called 31 Days of Praise by Ruth Myers. It will lead you through a month-long Bible study on what it means to worship God. You can get more information at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959. Now, let’s get back to Nancy’s teaching.

Nancy: Well, if you’ve listened to Revive Our Hearts for any length of time, you know that I enjoy singing to the Lord. It’s a good thing because other people don’t really like it when I sing. I’ve said before that I wish they’d let me sing on the air, but they won’t. When I threaten to . . . You know, I think of Joni Tada. She has such a beautiful voice, and she can get away with this on her radio program, but I can’t. But there are times when my heart just is very full of what God is doing, and I just want to sing. But I’m glad that the Lord loves it when I sing to Him. And I do sing to Him a lot.

Singing is an expression of a revived heart. In fact, if you go back through and study the history of revivals, you’ll find that when people have been revived, one of the immediate signs is that their singing just breaks loose. There’s a freedom. They may be singing the exact same songs in the same styles that they had sung before, but there’s a freedom and a release and an abandon in their singing to the Lord in times of revival.

In fact, I came across this yesterday. John Wesley, who was one of the leaders of the First Great Awakening in the 18th century, compiled what they called some “Rules for Methodist Singers.” He was the founder of the Methodists, and the people would sing to the Lord in the time of revival. Here were the rules, as he wrote them. There are seven of them.

He said, number one, “Learn the tunes.” Two, “Sing them as printed.” Three, “Sing all.” That means everyone. “If it is a cross to you, take it up and you will find it a blessing.” I love that. If it’s a cross to you to sing, do it anyway. Then he says, “Sing lustily [or boldly] and with courage.” And then, “Sing modestly. Do not bawl.” I don’t know what people were doing that made him say that, but . . . Then he said, “Sing in time. Do not run before or stay behind.”

I struggle with that sometimes. All these syncopated rhythms are a little hard for me. But then, number 7, he said, “Above all, sing spiritually.” Here’s what he meant by that. “Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself or any other creature. In order to do this, attend strictly to the sense or the meaning of what you sing and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually.”

Isn’t that good? Sing spiritually. Think about what you’re singing. Don’t just go through the motions. Sing to the Lord. We’ve been talking about verbal expressions of praise to the Lord, speaking to the Lord, shouting joyfully to the Lord. Now today we come to singing to the Lord.

In the Psalms alone, there are 68 references to singing to the Lord. I noticed as I read through the book of Psalms this past week that most of the times when praise is talked about in the Psalms, you will find singing in the same phrase or at least in the same verse. Most of the time. Sing praise to the Lord. Sing praise to the Lord. I don’t know what it is about singing to the Lord that is so powerful, but the fact that God emphasizes it as much as He does in His Word must mean that it’s important.

I do know one thing, and that is that Satan has an aversion to our singing praise. There’s evidence in the Scripture that Satan was . . . Before he was Satan, he was Lucifer. He was one of the worship leaders in heaven until he became proud, and he decided he wanted some worship for himself. He stole some of the glory that belonged to God. He got thrown out of heaven, and that may be why he has such a hard time with our singing.

In fact, I find that in times when my spirit is particularly weighed down or depressed or discouraged or oppressed . . . I mean, sometimes there’s an explanation, and I know why I’m feeling that way. Sometimes there’s no human explanation for what is going on in my heart. There’s just a heaviness there. Those are the times when I least feel like singing, but those are the times when I most need to sing to the Lord. And I will begin to sing.

If I’m traveling I usually will have with me a hymnal and a book of choruses. I’ll open (the older I get, the harder time I have remembering all these words) . . . So I’ll open those up or just open the Psalms and begin sometimes with a really quivering voice, sometimes with tears so strong and falling so greatly that you could hardly recognize the tune I’m singing. But I will begin to just sing to the Lord. Sing to the Lord. Sometimes I’ll take that hymnal and just sing through pages—I mean all stanzas—until my heart is tuned. And I find that Satan runs. He flees the scene of praise, particularly as we begin to sing to the Lord.

In fact, over the years as I’ve talked with women who are battling with depression, with anxiety, something I often will ask those women: “Are you doing two things: Are you memorizing Scripture and are you singing to the Lord?” I just know in my own life that those two things—memorizing Scripture and singing to the Lord—have been two of the biggest weapons against depression and discouragement in my own heart—two of the greatest weapons in the battle against our own emotions. One of those is singing to the Lord.

Over and over again we read it in the Psalms. Sing to the Lord. Sing to the Lord. Come into His presence with singing.

Donald Hustad is known as a worship leader, and he says this: “Somehow, about forty percent of churchgoers seem to have picked up the idea that ‘singing in church is for singers.’” He says, “The truth is that ‘singing is for believers.’” So, he says, “The relevant question is not, ‘Do you have a voice?’ but ‘Do you have a song?’”2 Not, do you have a voice. I’m glad because I don’t. But do you have a song? And you know what, that I’ve got.

Singing isn’t just for singers. It’s for believers. In fact, in the Scriptures singing is an evidence of being filled with the Spirit. It’s an evidence of being filled with the Word of God according to Ephesians and Colossians—those new believers after the day of Pentecost when they’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit, what did they do? Acts, chapter 2: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God” (Acts 2:46-47, NKJV).

Now, if you’re not singing as a matter of habit, as a matter of course, if you’re not regularly singing to the Lord, if you’re not regularly praising the Lord, you need to ask yourself, “Why not? What’s wrong?” And don’t tell me it’s because you can’t sing. If you are a child of God and God has commanded you to sing, you can sing. Now, you may not be the person they’ll ask to get up on the platform and sing a solo on Sunday morning. I’m not in that group either. But you can sing, and you need to sing to the Lord.

You need to be willing to get out of yourself. I think we tend to be so self-conscious of how we sound. Don’t worry about it. Sing to the Lord. You say, “I don’t know what to sing.” Well, open your Bible, find the Psalms, and begin to make up a tune. Sing the hymns of the church.

By the way, I think it’s a great, great loss that so many in our younger generation today do not know the great hymns of the faith. Now, we have so many wonderful worship choruses and songs today that I’m so glad have been added to our spiritual praise repertoire, but there’s something about some of the great theology that you find in our old hymns that is very, very meaningful. I will admit this: It takes a little more thought and effort to sing through some of those hymns. You have to think harder about what you’re saying, but that’s good to be thinking about what we’re saying to the Lord.

By the way, let me just encourage you moms. This is one good reason to make sure that your children take music lessons. Some of your children will be glad I said that and some won’t be glad. You can say, “Miss Nancy said you need to learn to read music.” I have found this has been such a gift in my own walk with the Lord.

I have a music background, and I got my degree actually in piano performance, not in singing, but I’m so glad I learned to read music because now when I don’t have a worship team or people there when I’m alone with the Lord to help me sing to the Lord, I can open a hymnal and read the music even to a hymn that I’ve never seen before. That has proved to be a source of great, great blessing in my walk with the Lord.

Now, that doesn’t mean if you can’t read music that you can’t be spiritual or you can’t praise the Lord. You praise the Lord with whatever you know how to do. You don’t have to have the hymnal in front of you. Make up the tune or make up words from the Scripture. But let me say that as the children of God, we have more reason to sing than anyone on the face of the earth.

The hymn writer said it this way:

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,

To His feet thy tribute bring;

Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,

Evermore His praises sing;

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Praise the everlasting King.3

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Today’s teaching is part of a series called The Power and Practice of Praise. Like most of Nancy’s teaching, it’s Biblically-based, practical, and challenging.

If your heart has been getting revived through the teaching of Nancy Leigh DeMoss, would you help us spread this message to other women who need to hear it? You can do that by making a financial gift to the ministry. This is the perfect time for giving because your gift will be doubled up to the special challenge amount when you donate by December 31st.

When you become a part of our matching challenge, we’ll say thanks by sending you a free gift. It’s a perpetual flip calendar. See it for yourself, and find out more about the matching challenge at ReviveOurHearts.com.

When things are going poorly, it’s the perfect time to praise the Lord. Find out why tomorrow. I hope you’ll join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version.

1Brian Edwards. Revival, p. 141. EP, 1990.

2Donald Hustad. Leadership, Vol. 3, no. 1.

3Henry F. Lyte. 1795-1847.

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