It’s not always easy to praise God.
There are moments when it feels more natural to protest God rather than praise Him.
We don’t feel like praising God when our closest relationships are more frustrating than fulfilling.
Or how about when we get yet another medical bill in the mailbox?
Or even when we feel we are so far from where we thought we’d be by now and we wonder if we’ll ever not feel behind?
In those moments, it feels completely unnatural and counterintuitive to praise God. But, it is those very moments when we are faced with a vital question.
Do we praise God for our present circumstances or for His unchanging character?
The truth is that many of us have a relationship with God (and with praise) that is far more circumstantial than it is enduring. We praise God when our feelings or experience provoke. When we’re angry and frustrated with how our lives are going, our praise moves from loud to mute.
This common experience is at the heart of @Bryan & Katie Torwalt's new song, “Everything that Has Breath (Praise).”
In the song, the Torwalts declare,
“We love to bring You praise
If it’s face down before You
Or a victory shout
With our hands raised to heaven”
The song echoes the words of many of the psalms. In Psalm 145, we read David’s declaration. “I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever.” Earlier in Psalm 40, David spoke of God giving him a new song with which to praise Him.
“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.”
As I mentioned above, though, this kind of praise is something that’s not easy. I can only speak for myself - I don’t always “love” to bring God praise. On countless occasions in my life, praise has been a battle! This is a reality that I don’t think receives enough attention within the body of Christ.
Worship has a cost and praise has a price. It can be a sacrifice to attend a worship service on a Sunday when it is easier to stay at home or attend another event. It can be especially sacrificial and costly when we’re in the middle of struggling with doubts or discouragement. Participating in worship in those moments means investing the time and energy to engage those difficult feelings and thoughts enough to be able to praise in the midst of them.
A sacrifice of praise on those days can mean we choose to not be driven primarily by our feelings. We turn on Air1 or our favorite worship playlist when we’d rather listen to something which indulged rather reframed those feelings.
Katie Torwalt spoke directly to this reality when talking about the story and message behind this song. “Praise is our overflowing response to the revelation of God and all His goodness. Sometimes praise comes pouring out of us; and sometimes, like David, we command our soul to praise…As we sat down to write about praise and bringing Jesus something that ‘costs us something,’ we were reminded again to bring our sacrifice of praise in all seasons.”
The Torwalts sing about this in the bridge of “Everything that Has Breath (Praise).”
“We refuse to bring an offering
That doesn’t cost us anything
Cause you’re worth everything
Let everything that has breath”
As I was listening to this song recently and they began to sing those words within the bridge, I was reminded of a moment in the life of King David.
In 1 Chronicles 21, David committed a blatant sin by rejecting an explicit command of God. A plague was sent against the people and David saw an angel with a sword prepared to move against the people of Jerusalem. David cried out to God begging for mercy for the city, as it was his sin that had led to this judgment.
An angel sent a message to David, calling for an altar to be constructed and a sacrifice to be made. David went to the owner of the land where God called for the altar to be built and offered to pay full price for the land. The land owner protested, offering to give the land (along with the animals, wood, and wheat) for the offering to David for free.
David replied, “No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the Lord. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!”
On the surface, this new song from Katie and Torwalt could be seen as another call to worship for all of God’s creation. The truth, however, is much deeper than that. This call to praise is an honest reminder that true worship and heartfelt praise are often sacrificial.
Whether we’re worshiping through a crisis or our worship is an act of confession and repentance, worship wasn’t meant to be free. The way we worship today is often missing a sacrificial element.
Listening to Air1 doesn’t cost me anything. Playing my favorite worship song on YouTube is free. But, what God has done for us through Jesus’ death on the cross was far from free. What God is calling us to do as his followers will be far from free, also.
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer with the best last name in the world. Scott’s writing helps you laugh, challenges you to think, and invites you to grow. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani, an award-winning attorney, and they are the parents of three growing savages. You can learn more about Scott’s newest resource, The Start-Over Guide, at scottsavagelive.com.