The Power of Praise

Praise is a great parenting tool! While a grumpy, complaining person is focused on what's wrong, a praiseful person is open to good as ever-present. Sing your praise through a psalm you write, just as David did!

By Caryl W. Krueger

Categories: Fatherhood/Motherhood, Gratitude (Thanksgiving), Psalms

Praise is a great parenting tool! A parent's praise for good work done lifts the spirit of a youngster. A child's praise for a successful family activity affirms the value of sensitive parenting. But the highest form of praise within the family is praise to God. The admonition to praise God appears 461 times in the book of Psalms alone. In Psalm 31, it states, "Praise is comely for the upright" - and here "comely" means "proper" or "in order," leading to power.

Why does praise have power, power to heal family challenges? While a grumpy, complaining person is focused on what's wrong, a praiseful person is open to good as ever-present. Remember that Jesus praised God even before the healing outcome, as when he said at Lazarus' tomb(John 11:41), "Father I thank thee that thou has heard me." It can be a beneficial and enjoyable project for the family to write psalms together, but first, it's helpful to have a few facts about psalms. No book gives us more clues about praising God than the Psalms. The common meaning of the word psalm is song, but in Hebrew, the actual book title is "book of praise." King David is credited as author of many, collector of others, and responsible for saving many written much earlier. (And some in the book of Psalms were written long after David's times.) These songs of a chosen people chronicle their triumphs over every adversity - in fact it is said that there is no problem that is not solved in a psalm. The New Testament writers quote the Psalms 93 times. While much of the Bible relates what the characters say to each other, or what God says to them, the Psalms are unique in that they are the words of humankind addressed to God. So that is a clue for your psalm writing since it is vital that youngsters learn to talk to God in a praiseful manner.

The 150 poems were in the oral tradition, then used in ceremonies and festivals, finally written down, and often accompanied by typical instruments of the day: the lyre, sticks, trumpets, and cymbals. Imagine - you could put a simple musical background to your psalm!

There are many unique (and sometimes confusing) words in the Psalms, some referring to the author, or who should be singing, others such as Higgaion or Shiggaion which seem to indicate a reverent pause. You could put one of those at the end of your masterpiece! This month, gather the family to write a psalm of praise to God.

Psalm writing is distinctive in four ways:

  1. A psalm relies on rhythm, rather than rhyme. This makes writing one much easier! Often the first two lines are rhythmically identical in length. An example that has translated with good rhythm is Psalm 54, which begins:

    "Save me O God, By thy name."

    If you read that Psalm together, you can almost feel the rhythmic "rock and roll" of the lines.

  2. The short lines usually have parallelism, which means that the same thought is expressed in two different ways, making the point more clear. You can see this in Psalm 49 with these lines:

    "Hear this all people! Give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world."

    Making the same point twice does make it memorable!

  3. Often a statement is followed by its opposite - this is called antithesis. Note this in Psalm 1: 6.....

    "For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish."

    Establishing the contrast between right and wrong is a good teaching tool.

  4. And finally, there is expansiveness - called cause and effect. This shows the result of action, as in Psalm 3: 4.....

    "I cried unto the Lord with my voice and he heard me out of his holy hill."

    That's a good message - talk to God and you'll get an answer!

Now the age of your children will determine if you include any of these four points, but the important thing is that a youngster feels comfort in talking directly to God - just as the Israelites did centuries ago. Each family member can decide on something to share with God in a psalm of praise, whether or not it contains the four elements: rhythm, parallelism, antithesis, and expansiveness. It is the heart-felt message that counts! Here is an example written by a grade schooler in a psalm-writing session I conducted:

God you've done good,
So thanks to you. (Rhythm)
You helped me remember
The multiplication was easy. (Parallelism)
I often flub up but
I got it right (Antithesis)
I knew I was your child
Reflecting your wisdom. (Expansiveness)

See how simple that is! Subjects in addition to school work could be sports, pets, relationships, chores, safety - whatever concerns the youngster or the parent. As Edyth Armstrong Hoyt says in her book on the Psalms: "These are pictures painted by words." So now I invite you to join David in painting a picture of praise. Send them to us and we will try to publish some.