Lately, something has been tugging at my heart. It’s the simple question of why God seeks out his own praise. The very idea that the ultimate creator, healer, and master of our souls has a need for his own people to fall down on their feet for His glory seems a bit preposterous. Why the demand for it? I understand that we should desire to worship God, but shouldn’t it just naturally flow from our hearts, like giving Christmas gifts or thrusting a dollar bill out our window to the homeless guy?
This singular thought, along with the absurdity that donuts come with sprinkles (they add no flavor/they are a distraction/what’s the point) have been taking over my brain. Actually, the donut deal just entered into my head once, while praising God is a constant, in case you think I give God and donuts the same amount of mental energy.
But I needed to dive deeper into the issue of forced praise. I wanted to bounce the logic around in my brain and get my fingers around the words. Words that could be strung together into thoughts I could relate to and believe in. I don’t want to just pick the answer that sounds most logical. I desire to seek truth. So I went to Google, which is my go-to when trying to determine if a battery is still good or how to get my son to take a nap.
As it turns out, CS Lewis already addressed this issue. But of course. He creates magical worlds in closets where children eat Turkish delight and get conned by ice queens. It’s only natural that he would have tackled this perplexity as well, and better than I could ever do. But back to my own mental brainstorming, because we are on the topic of arrogance and all.
I devised the following possible reasons for why God demands praise. They are:
(1) He’s God, so let’s just not question things. Wear your best bonnet to church and eat the fried chicken, for heaven’s sake. K? We’re good?
(2) It’s like gravity – we can’t help but be drawn to worship (But why is God asking for it?)
(3) Praise is pleasing to a parent’s ear (“I love you mommy!” “This is the greatest beach vacation ever!”) because it shows that the child is living in joy, so God demands praise because He has a desire for us to live in joy (very close)
(4) We need to submit our own ego and by praising God it’s the ultimate expression of humility. God knows this and thus demands praise for our own good. (This just sounds patronizing)
(5) “Demand” is a bit old fashioned. It’s more like “God desires it.” (Now I just feel like I’m making things up)
God doesn’t need to prove to anyone else his own self-worth. Who would he need to prove it to? There are no other gods, or deities, or higher powers greater than God himself. But God is completely God-centered. First he says you shall have no other gods before Him (Exodus). Then Jesus walks in and says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John). Dude. Every time you turn around you’re reading about how God wants to be recognized, respected, worshiped, honored, and revered. Doesn’t he get enough praise? I would like for my children to tell me I make the best meatloaf, but sometimes you just love them anyway without such high expectations.
We tend to align praise with compliments, such as “you sure are beautiful,” or “I really think you are a wonderful housekeeper,” or “I sure wish I could be more like you.” These are praising statements, and no one should really ask for them because that’s just plain rude. But if you tell me these things, I won’t exactly throw you out on the street. I might just pour you more coffee and invite you over more often.
Think about the things you really love. Praise comes escaping from your lips before you can even think about it. As Lewis puts it, “the world rings with praise.” Think about a book you recently read you just loved. The words fell off the page like brilliant jewels, and the story captured you from the first page to the last. You can’t wait to sing its praises. You can barely stand not to talk about it, and refer your friends to it. “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy,” Lewis continues, “because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come . . .upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent . . . to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . .”
God is self-centered. He has nothing to hide. He has no errors to overcome or blemishes to patch. He truly the center of the universe. And God knows that not only do we come into communion with him through worship, but that the consummation of our relationship with Christ requires such praise. Not if we want to. Not if we have time, but all the time, every day, when the sun rises and the oak tree branches sway. This is something God expects because he loves us so extremely, and so passionately, that he will seek us out through the cold depths of unbelief and sin.
Only by diving in full throttle, with our souls open, can we begin to comprehend such a love. Such a bitter ache. Such a bleed that did not come rushing out, but dripped out one drop at a time while salt was thrown on the wound. Because through the sting, we begin to see what’s coming. We feel the salve of his glory. He is inviting us into his kingdom, and that is the very opposite of selfish.
I’m not sure why donuts have sprinkles, or why my children don’t stay in their own beds at night. I don’t know what God’s ultimate plan is for my life or why I stay up until the wee morning hours pondering such things. I only know that God is so glorious that it makes my heart want to rip apart in little shreds. I want for people to know of Him, and sing to the rafters, and dance with joy. I feel complete and full and happy. I suppose this is me, praising Him.
That God. He’s a sneaky one.