By Melissa McLaughlin
Have you ever found yourself in an unexpected, unwanted situation and watched your mind and emotions spiral into a pit of ceaseless churning negativity?
Have you ever prayed long and hard for something, only to witness that prayer go unanswered and as a result then began to question God’s goodness or God’s love for you?
Have you ever gone through tough times and found yourself wondering where is God in all of this?
If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, you are in good company. The experience of unwelcome twists and turns, unanswered prayers and difficult seasons are part of life, even for the most committed followers of Christ.
Maybe you prayed for your loved one’s healing and here you sit weeping at the funeral. Maybe you sought the Lord for guidance about the new job or new business venture and though you followed God’s leading, you are left numbly staring as it falls apart before your eyes. Maybe you prayed for a friend to surrender his or her life to Christ and yet you stand on the sidelines as they barrel forward on a path of self-destruction. The list goes on.
These are painful, sorrowful, troubling trials for everyone, even for those who have trusted their whole lives to Christ.
So where do we go from here?
In moments like these, one small change in my prayers has made a big difference. Praising over pleading.
Slowly, but surely, I am learning to praise the Lord when the hard times fall. Please understand, I am not praising the Lord BECAUSE of the difficulties, but IN SPITE of the difficulties.
Why? Simply put… God is worthy of my praise in life or death, in good times or bad times, in joy and in sorrow. No matter my circumstances, God is still God.
God is still the Creator of the universe with all its vastness, beauty, majesty, intricacy, masterful design, loveliness and life. He is the Giver of all good gifts. God is the One who gave each of us life itself. Then through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ, He gives each one of us the opportunity for eternal life. I cannot “will” my heart to beat or “will” my lungs to send oxygen to my body. Every beat of my heart, every breath that I breathe is by His mercy, power and sustaining grace alone. God alone is the Creator, Sustainer and Provider of my life.
God’s character has not, nor ever will change. God is still the Great I AM. He is all-seeing, all-knowing, ever-present. God is sovereign, just, righteous, holy and true. God is also forgiving, kind, merciful, gentle, faithful, loving and good.
Furthermore, God is interested in our ultimate good. Though He provides countless blessings in this life, the greatest blessing is being close to Him now and forever. God will allow difficult experiences and seasons in this temporary life, to bring us to Himself for all eternity. Being in close relationship with God is always the greatest gift He can ever give.
Whenever I am feeling particularly unloved or unlovable, I remind myself of this Bible verse and abiding truth:
Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
No matter what our circumstances, feelings, experiences or culture may tell us, God has already proven His love for us through Jesus Christ and Him crucified. When Jesus laid down His life for us on the cross, we were saved from hell, our sins were forgiven and we are assured our place in heaven forever. There is no greater gift of love!
So, I invite you today to power up your prayers with praises!
Praise God for the gift of life!
Praise God for the gift of food, water and shelter!
Praise God for the gift of clothing, shoes and warmth!
Praise God for the gift of family and friends!
Praise God for the gift of your church family!
Praise God for the gift of opportunities, education and jobs!
Praise God for the gift of finances or provisions!
Praise God for the gift of speaking, listening, reading, writing, walking, driving and more!
Praise God for the gift of His truth, revealed in the Bible!
Praise God for the gift of His Son, Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again!
Praise God that Jesus defeated sin, hell and death!
Praise God that Jesus reigns!
Praise God that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live in the hearts of all who believe in Him and confess Him as Savior and Lord!
Praise God that His Holy Spirit is within you, leading and guiding you every step of the way!
Praise God that this world is not our home, heaven is just up ahead!
Praise God for what He has already done in your life and the lives of your loved ones!
Praise God for what He is currently doing and will do to bring about His plan for ultimate good in your life and in the lives of your loved ones!
Praise God that He is for us!
Praise God for who He is – for His power, goodness, truth, love, mercy, grace and faithfulness!
Praise God that One so great, would love us, mere dust of the earth!
Praise God for the ability to praise Him IN SPITE of your circumstances.
Praise the Lord not BECAUSE of the difficulties but IN SPITE of the difficulties!
Why? Because no matter what, God is still worthy of praise.
Jesus is Lord of all, Jesus is Lord of all,
No sin is too big, no problem too small,
Jesus is Lord of all.
Jesus is King of Kings, my Lord is King of Kings,
Presidents, princes, paupers will sing,
Jesus is King of Kings.
Jesus Christ is Lord of all,
King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
You know he’s Lord of all.
Jesus is coming soon, Jesus is coming soon.
Just look in your heart and see if there’s room.
Cause Jesus is coming soon.
This song is one of my prayer battle tools. It is simple and easy to sing and rolls right off my tongue, even through the tears, even through the fears, because this song is true though I breathe my last breath! Jesus is still Lord! And I’m so glad! This abiding joy comes from the Lord and cannot be shaken.
A few years back, I had a friend who was going through a heartbreaking situation and I mentioned this powerful prayer tool of praise. When I asked if she had tried praising the Lord, she said, “Yes, I keep asking God to help me.”
I attempted to clarify that while it is wise and completely appropriate to ask God for help, we must then move from pleading in prayer to praising in power.
When we shift from pleading to praising, we acknowledge to ourselves and to God that He is more powerful and more beautiful than our earthly sadness and distress. We remind ourselves that God is still God and is moving and accomplishing things we cannot see or could never imagine.
When we forget to praise the Lord, we allow Satan to trap us in our thoughts and detour us into a place of never-ending, constantly swirling hopelessness. When we are trapped in this place of negative pleading, we cannot remember who God is, we cannot remember what God has done and we lose confidence that He is still working things out for our ultimate good.
Though we can and should request God’s assistance in every area of our lives, our prayers are empowered mightily when we turn from pleading to praising. When we praise God in the bad times, we are given the precious opportunity to prove our faith in Him and to bring Him a true sacrifice of praise. In addition, through the process of praising God, we thwart the goal of Satan to keep our minds and emotions focused on our problems instead of on our God.
Power up your prayers today! Magnify the Lord, not your discouragement! No matter the sorrows you feel or the hardships you bear, choose praising over pleading and see what the Lord can do! Sometimes, the biggest thing God needs to change is our outlook or perspective. Praising over pleading keeps our spirits centered on God and gives Him an open door to sweep through our hearts and minds with His sweet Presence and steadfast love.
What helps you switch from pleading to praising in prayer? Please share your tips. For further reflection on praising the Lord through difficulties, please read my blog post entitled, The Joy of Brokenhearted Praise.
As I write these final words, I am praying even now for each person who reads this article, that the Holy Spirit will cause you to remember a scripture and song to anchor your heart and mind in praise of our great God, come what may! May Jesus Christ be Praised now and forever! Lord, I Lift Your Name on High! How Great is our God!
Hebrews 13:14-15 – For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.
Photo ©Melissa McLaughlin