We know that to PRAISE is to exalt the Lord’s Glory. We extol who he is and what he is like, and we applaud his works that draw attention to that. We also know that to REJOICE is to celebrate the Lord’s Glory. We express joy in who he is and in what he has done (and is doing) for us. When we mix the two together – exalting his Glory plus ‘doing joy’ – we have a powerful offering to the Lord: CELEBRATION PRAISE.
It can start with celebration
That’s what the psalmist does in Psalm 66. Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious.
First, he calls for a shout of joy. In fact, he would like the whole earth to join him in a thunderous joy-shout to the Lord. The point wouldn’t be the level of loudness, but the number of hearts joining the Lord’s own celebration of his Glory! Then he adds praise to the celebration shout, songs that make his praise glorious. Not just any songs with a Christian theme, but songs that exalt his Glory – in this case, the focus is the praise of his glorious name.
It can start with praise
I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I whom you have delivered. (Psalm 71:22-23)
Here the admiration of the Lord begins with praise songs exalting God’s faithfulness. Then the psalmist adds celebration to his praise. He injects shouts of joy into his songs of praise, celebrating what the faithful Lord has done: he has rescued him!
Giving thanks is, in itself, a celebration of God’s goodness. But, as with praise, the joyful thank offering can move to a stronger level by adding ‘doing joy’ into it. So, in Psalm 95:1-2, the singer mixes joyful shouts with his songs of thanksgiving to the Rock of salvation.
A shout (or joyful noise) is a favourite joy expression. But, Always Joyful mentions others: Clap, wave a flag or banner, jump, dance, twirl, sing, laugh, or try another creative joy-expression.
Joy is the deep gladness, contentment and pleasure of being loved by the Lord. Ours isn’t a shadow of God’s joy. It doesn’t change, stretch or shrink with our mood or with life’s circumstances. It’s the actual ‘real’ fruit of his ever-joyful Spirit. So, our joy will never max out. There’s always more beyond current experience. And yet, even though it’s (what Peter calls) a glorious joy, it’s just a preview of the unimaginable level of joy in the Lord waiting for us at Home.
However, celebrating (expressing his joy) now is a choice we make. In 1 Thes 5:16 the Spirit urges for the choice to become habit, and the habit an always joyful lifestyle, blending ‘doing joy’ into all of life. That includes adding it to our praises of the Lord to give him Celebration Praise.
Going back to Psalm 66
After the singer’s Celebration Praise, most of the remainder of his song exalts works of the Lord (that draw attention to his Glory): powerful works that overcome the enemy, split the sea, manage nations, preserve lives and give an abundant inheritance. I love the way he climaxes his praise of God’s works by exalting him for answering prayer! But God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer (19, 20)
Pick up the psalmist’s focus on the Lord’s Glory as the One who hears and answers prayer, and offer him Celebration Praise.
- Start by praising Exalt his Glory as the loving, kind, compassionate, faithful God who hears when you pray and who answers your prayers in love and wisdom. Then add celebration. Express joy (with him) over him being that kind of Lord, and for what his answers have meant to you.
- In a separate prayer session, return to the same focus, but this time start by celebrating the fact that the Lord hears and answers prayer. Then, add praise. Allow the aspect of Glory, or the work(s) of God you were celebrating, to set the praise focus. Exalt that truth about him.
- Practice bringing Celebration Praise into your prayer times with others. It will affect the group’s level of joy and passion in praying.