Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. (Psalm 150:6)
In my previous post I referred to a passage in 2 Chronicles 20 and wrote about what we can learn from it about how to pray when we are under attack from an enemy or an illness. The story begins with news that a vast army is bearing down upon the kingdom of Judah. The way King Jehoshaphat responds to this crisis is a great model for all of us in how to pray. He turns immediately to the Lord and he places his trust in God alone. But before he petitions God for help he first offers praise.
Praise is an essential component of King Jehoshaphat’s prayer and he continues to praise the Lord as he and the people of Judah wait upon God to act. Continual praise is essential in prayer for healing, as well, which I’ve learned over the past months. There are several reasons for this. The first is that praise reminds us God alone is our Savior – and he is mighty to save, as Scripture tells us over and over again. The Creator of the universe has power and authority over everything, including whatever is making us ill. When we begin our prayers for healing with praise, we are reminding ourselves of all that God has done in the past and that he can certainly act again on our behalf. Praise makes way for hope.
Second, praise also helps us remember that we belong to God: it is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3) We can count on him to save us and protect us. Our part is to place our trust in him and it is so much easier to do that when we are continually recalling his attributes, character and mighty deeds – those done on our behalf and on behalf of his people down through the centuries.
Praise is something that is offered to God continually in heaven, so as we praise him, now, we join our voices with the cherubim, seraphim and all the saints who have gone before us and who now stand before his throne, night and day, offering praise. I offer praise throughout the day, and especially when I’m outside. The natural world seems to be proclaiming God’s glory at all times of the year, but especially now. I see in tree branches “arms” raised in praise. Scented flowers and blooming shrubs also seem to be offering praise as well as the insects that dance around them. When I take my morning walk with Daisy, our sweet beagle, and I offer praise to the Lord, I often notice a rustling in the leaves on the trees I walk past. I fancy the breeze is caused by the wings of angels who gather around me as I offer God praise. If we allow our imagination to take flight we will sense the entire created order joyfully praising God with us.
To the person who is not used to offering praise to God it may seem at first to be a rather dull activity. For me, it began as a rote exercise a couple of years ago. However, as I began to offer it more frequently and included favorite verses of Scripture, hymns and poetry, I began to feel more and more joyous. That is because offering praise unleashes joy. This is the third reason praise is essential in prayer for healing. Those who praise God in heaven are not bored or tired. They are filled to the measure with joy. This joy is not mere happiness. It is an experience of the presence of God almighty, a presence that satisfies every longing we have and fills us so completely we know we lack for nothing (Psalm 23:1) and we begin to see ourselves as God sees us – redeemed, holy, precious — and healthy.
The Rev. Carol Arnott, co-founder of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (now known as Catch the Fire), wears a tiny timer around her waist during the day which is set to go off every ten minutes, reminding her to stop and worship the Lord with praise. She says it took about two weeks to get used to this schedule, and sometimes she stops and offers praise out of obedience, rather than excitement, but regardless of how she feels, she experiences the presence of the Lord continually and profoundly. She finds she can offer praise, in her heart, while in the midst of other activities. Click the photo of Carol Arnott, below, to hear her describe how this changed her life and how miraculous healings have been experienced by people committed to praising the Lord continually and seeking him with their whole heart.
My friend, Cynthia, has our healing team begin our time of prayer for healing with an extended period of praise. She’s learned that offering praise before petitioning for healing often leads to an increase in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So we begin by singing praise music, favorite hymns and reading psalms of praise. When we move to a time of petition on behalf of the person for whom we have gathered to pray, the presence of the Lord in our midst is palpable – as well as our joy and expectation that the Holy Spirit will move powerfully among us. Praise helps keep our focus on the Lord and creates in the person for whom we are praying an openness to receive all that he has to give. Praise is also essential in helping us to listen for God’s word (instead of focusing on our own thoughts and desires) so that we follow the direction the Holy Spirit wants to take in healing prayer.
Next time: More about pressing-in for healing.