Psalm 145:1 I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Prayer and praise have an important point in common: they are both addressed to God. It might seem counter-intuitive, but we are all too capable of leaving God out completely in both of those activities. Jesus spoke of a Pharisee who “prayed to himself,” (Luke 18:11) We might dispute translation on that verse, but He also talked about people who pray to be heard by people more than by God. (Matthew 6:5) In one sense God hears everything we say, but what He listens to is our hearts, and sometimes our hearts are far from Him even while we are going through all the right motions. (Isaiah 29:13) In terms of praise and worship, that would seem to be addressed to God by definition just as much as prayer, but I have been to church services where there was zero focus on God. All the songs, all the activities, were focused on humanity rather than our Creator – and some of those churches were in “Bible-believing” denominations! Such churches are no more than clubs, existing for the members and serving only to make the members feel good. God has nothing to do with such churches, and especially in recent years they have done a great deal to bring shame on the name of Jesus Christ. David had his spiritual head on straight, and his prayers, his praise and worship, were focused clearly on Yahweh. He invited others to join him and he wasn’t embarrassed to be seen and heard, but other people weren’t his focus. For all his failures, that focus on God made him a man after God’s own heart indeed, (Acts 13:22) and we would certainly do well to follow his example.
Growing up in church as I did I have certainly seen and heard a wide variety of churches and Christians. Personal style can vary a great deal and still be pleasing to God. I must not insist that only my style is acceptable! I am to be open to being enriched by others and their styles, but I must always keep my focus on God and not on the style. If I am critical in my heart of others and yet fail to keep my own focus on God, I am a self-righteous hypocrite. I am to love God first and foremost, with all that I have and am, but I must not forget to love my neighbor as well. If I am properly focused on God then I will be all the more aware of the people He created and loves, and love them as I love myself.
Father, this is a strong Word. Show me when and how and with whom to share it. Help me keep this church properly focused on You. I see people all the time who have trouble maintaining their focus. Help me be gracious and gentle, yet unyielding toward them, not giving in to their being self-centered or man-centered but consistently pointing them to You, so that they may escape the traps of the devil and walk in the glorious liberty of Your Spirit, (2 Corinthians 3:17) for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!