At Evangelical Training Camp (ETC) this summer I learned a lot of things. One of the important things is how amazing it is to praise Jesus. It’s something I’ve not been good at. It seemed contrived and insincere when I tried. “Oh Jesus, you are so great, so good.’ I felt like I was brown nosing the Lord to stay in his good graces. It just didn’t work for me and I figured Jesus already knows how great he is. Why does he need a lowly sinner like me telling him? He doesn’t need that affirmation.
Well, as with many things, I was wrong with a capital W. Wrong. Jesus doesn’t need us to praise him. Jesus wants us to praise him. What the Lord has done is beyond explanation. Just look at our beautiful planet, your beautiful children, your beautiful self. God is BIG. Huge, beyond our comprehension and he loves us like crazy. Imagine how much you love your child and multiply it by a gazillion. Then maybe it will be close to Jesus’ love for us.
So I learned about praise that week. I learned that praise music is good. Very, very good. As in getting chills and crying good. Singing about how great God is at the top of one’s lungs in a room full of other people singing at the top of their lungs is a wonderous experience. (In fact, you can have that experience at our parish Arise Mission September 26 & 27 – shameless plug).
I also learned that there are seven words in the Hebrew language for our one English word of praise. A gentleman named George Burnash wrote about them and a speaker at ETC talked about them. Click here to read his original notes.
The first word Mr. Burnash talks of is Halal which is where “hallelujah” comes from. It means “to be clear, to shine, to be clamorously foolish.” A speaker at ETC told a story of going to see Pope Benedict and being so excited that he climbed on some chairs and, as the Pope drove by, yelled “Holy Father, I love you!” Clamorously foolish. So beautiful. Praising Jesus comes from our hearts not our minds. It’s ok to look silly. Close those eyes, rock and sway, hold up your hands to Jesus and sing your brains out. Jesus gets a kick out of that.
The second word is Yadah. This means to worship with extended hand. When I arrived at the camp and we were singing our praise, I noticed people holding up one or both hands as they sang. I asked what that means. It’s a way to reach to Jesus, to lift up our hands to his name. Then I summoned up my courage, closed my eyes, reached to Jesus and oh my gosh is that a powerful way to pray. I get it now and I’m learning to be more comfortable with it.
Towdah is similar to Yadah. I think of it as not so much reaching but offering. My hands and arms are open. I am giving thanks for “things not yet received as well as things already at hand.”
Shabach is to “shout or address in a loud tone.” Consider Psalm 47:2 “All you peoples clap your hands; shout to God with joyful cries.” How fun! It’s praying in capital letters. It’s enthusiasm, joy, and exuberance.
There’s even a word for bowing down, kneeling to God in adoration: barak. There are times when all we can do is drop to our knees in praise. And for those of us who aren’t prone to loud exultation, this is our way to praise quietly in our hearts.
The sixth word Mr. Burnash shares is Zamar meaning to “pluck the strings of an instrument, to sing, to praise.” This is where those awesome pianos and guitars and violins and trumpets come in creating the accompaniment for our voices.
Finally, there is Tehillah derived from Halal and meaning “to sing or to laud” (I know, you have All Glory, Laud and Honor running through your head now.) Many of us think we can’t sing. But here’s what I realized: it doesn’t matter. Every voice is beautiful when praising Jesus. He loves the sound of our voices and since he’s the one we are praising that’s all that matters. When we truly lift our voices in praise, we all sound good. Listen sometime. Or better yet, attend Arise and listen. The voices are glorious.
So I’ve learned that praising Jesus isn’t contrived or insincere or unnecessary. It’s beautiful and there are many ways to do it. Currently I’m fond of tehillah in my car with praise music blasting from my radio while I sing along in a halal sort of way and sometimes I may put out a hand in yadah. I’m sure I look foolish but boy does it feel good to sing my praise to the Lord.
And if you’re looking to sing, sing, sing here are four suggestions:
Sing Your Praise to the Lord by Amy Grant
Lay Me Down by Chris Tomlin
10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) by Jonas Myrin & Matt Redman
Agnus Dei by Michael W. Smith
When you come to the Arise Mission, I’ll be happy to look foolish with you
Parish Life Coordinator