Notes for a sermon with the St. James Anglican congregation, Kingston, Ontario August 31, 1980
by Robert Brow (

In the synagogue "there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, 'Woman you are set fee from your ailment.' When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God" (Luke 13:1-13).

But does God really need our praise? What if the woman had just said "about time too !" and gone off grumpily. When ten lepers were healed, one of them came back and praised God, the others just went about their business.

If you look at our Book of Common Prayer, you will see that an important part of what we are doing here is "to set forth his most worthy praise" (p.4). When I said "O Lord, open thou our lips" you responded "And our mouth shall show forth thy praise" (p.6). We went on to sing the Te Deum "We praise thee, O God . . . All the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting  . . . The glorious company of the Apostles praise thee."

Among Presbyterians their Westminster Confession tells us that "the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever." But does God really need us to tell him how great he is?

Before we can answer that question we need to distinguish praise from flattery. Flattery is buttering up someone to get what we want. We do that with other humans, and some think you can do that with God. But obviously God cannot be bribed. C. S. Lewis said that to understand praise we need to begin with some examples of pure praise, where no flattery is possible. When we see a stunning sunset and say "Look at that beautiful sunset," we are not looking for some advantage from the sunset. Praise is the proper response to beauty and glory.

If you hear a superb concert performance, there is something wrong if your companion says "Oh, it was OK I suppose." Or when you praise a brilliant winning goal scored in hockey, what if your friend says "that's what he is paid for, isn't he!"

Failing to praise is bad enough with created things and human performances, but missing out on the praise of God is a disaster for anyone. C. S. Lewis said that "Praise is inner health made audible" which means that a person is spiritually sick if he or she cannot praise God. So let me suggest three simple things that praise does deep down within us.

PRAISE CLARIFIES OUR MIND - What we praise indicates our mind-set. When members of the Nazi parti gathered in a huge parade to salute and praise Hitler it clarified their commitment to his program, and strengthened their vision of what life was about. There is nothing wrong with us praising a great actor, or film star, or sports star, or even our own children. But if that is not balanced by the supreme praise of God (who after all created them and their abilities) then our minor praise quickly takes our life off center.

THE PRAISE OF GOD SWEETENS OUR HEART - Have you noticed that people whose hearts are full of praise have a serene peace and beauty in all they do. I am not thinking of people who keep saying "Praise the Lord" at inappropriate moments People who cannot praise become sour, grumpy, anxious. And it is written all over their face and body language. The secret is to spend a few minutes praising God every day, and you can then enter into the worship (worthship) of God in a service like this. The poison in your system begins to dissolve as praise sweetens your heart.

If you view yourself as an unattractive, unlovable person, try a praise diet for a few weeks and see what happens. Everybody will notice the change in you. God does not need our praise, but he knows that we need it, and that's why he rejoices in it.

THE PRAISE OF GOD STRENGTHENS OUR WILL - Most of us are weak-minded. We can't stick at what we need to do. We quickly turn aside to empty, unhelpful things. But when you join with others in praise, you find yourself renewed and strengthened to do what is worthwhile. When an artist has been discouraged but then is able to attend a superb art show, there is fresh inspiration to go back and paint again.

So God does not need our praise, and yet to our astonishment he delights in it. He loves us, and like a loving parent he wants the best for us. He knows that without praise we will be inadequate, ugly, miserable people. To satisfy the longings of his heart for us, he tries to encourage us to praise him.

PRAYER - To get us started in private praise, we are going to have three minutes of silent praise. In the first minute I suggest you talk to God as Creator and loving Father.

Now take another minute to praise God the Son, as your Friend and Savior.

Then we can praise God the Holy Spirit for the wisdom and inspiration he gives us.

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