One thing that has changed in churches throughout the past couple decades is the transition from the use of the word praise to the use of the word worship. I know that in all the teams I have led, I make sure to use the word worship when referring to the songs, time, service, etc.
There’s nothing wrong with the word praise, but it’s just a glimpse into worship. According to dictionary.com, the word praise means the act of expressing approval and admiration. It's an act of worship.
Worship is reverent honor and homage paid to God; expressing that He is worthy. This worship does not always come out as praise. When you’re going through a difficult time, you most likely will not be expressing your approval or admiration of God. You’ll be crying out to Him and telling Him your confusion or frustration, but through it all, when worshiping, you’ll be proclaiming that He is worthy even when you don’t understand.
The Book of Psalms gives us this beautiful picture of worship, encompassing every emotion, and every type of worship. The Psalms aren’t just showing admiration, but so many, especially if you’re reading Book One, give us a picture into David’s heart which is full of lament. He seems to go from one trial to the next, but he never gives up trusting God or proclaiming that God is still in control. He continues to worship even when it’s hard to praise.
In addition to the psalms of praise (which we’ll call hymns) and psalms of lament, there are also psalms of thanksgiving, wisdom, and royal psalms. To learn more about these, read the blog 5 Types of Psalms. This variety gives a great picture of worship. God already knows our heart, so we should just come before Him honestly whether it be crying out, declaring His wisdom, or giving thanks.
I want to encourage you to remember these different types of psalms and the different emotions of worship the next time you are in a worship service or listening to a worship album. The songs or prayers may not be all praise and admiration, but will still be a picture of worship!
If you do a search or read several commentaries, you’re going to come up with a variety of answers on how many types of psalms there are in the Bible. This is one of those subjects that are interesting yet non-essential to the Christian life. There’s no need to get into heated debates about how many types of psalms exist!
In the Psalms (Book One) A Prayer Journal simplicity was key. I wanted to make sure the lay reader and studier of the Bible could determine the type of psalm within their personal devotional time and not have to endure extensive research. Therefore, I went with five broad categories of the types of psalms: hymns, lament, royal, thanksgiving, and wisdom. I will talk through each below. I hope this information is helpful as you read through Chapters 1-41 of Psalms!
When you hear the word hymn, your mind probably jumps to the classic hymns and hymn style that is sung in the church today. Actually, when we refer to a psalm as a hymn, it just means that it’s a general type of psalm and doesn’t fit in the other categories we’re going to discuss. Honestly, as I was reading through and studying the Psalms, this was my process-of-elimination category. If the psalm didn’t fit anywhere else, then it was probably a hymn. These psalms were sung at a variety of worship services and usually just general praise to the Lord.
1 Lord, our Lord,
The majority of Psalms Book One consists of lament psalms. These come from a point of sadness or complaint to the Lord. The psalmist is often crying out to God for help. This makes a lot of sense when you read the preface to so many psalms and know where David is coming from and what he is enduring when writing the psalm. The lament type of psalm is extremely important for us to understand because it is a great reminder that we can worship God no matter what our circumstance: the good, the bad, or the sad.
1 Listen to my words, Lord,
This type of psalm is the least common in Book One. There are only four to be exact. But, even though they are rare, I think they are pretty easy to determine. These psalms were sung in the presence of kings and were often prayers for the king. To oversimplify, the key word you’re looking for is king. Wondering why these exist? Remember, most of the Psalms, all in Book One actually, were written by King David.
6 Now this I know:
This is a type of psalm that is pretty easy to determine. They are psalms full of praise and celebration, thanking God for all that He has done! Oftentimes, you’ll see the key phrase give thanks. The only reason this psalm can be confusing is because some psalms fit into a few categories. Sometimes, David starts in lament and switches to thanksgiving as he worships the Lord. When determining the type of psalm, you can put it in both categories or choose one.
1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
The final type of psalm are those that seek the wisdom and instructions of God and His Word. This may be another process-of-elimination category for you if you are having a hard time determining which are the wisdom psalms. There are some that state obviously Your Word and some that simply don’t fit in any other category so you know they are wisdom psalms.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
Being a teacher was hard. I was disappointed because I loved working with the high school kids at church and I loved writing and planning lessons. I didn’t expect that most days as a teacher would be a struggle to find joy, a struggle to persevere, and a struggle in wondering if I made the right career decision.
Sometimes, I attempted to vent and talk with people, but they couldn’t really understand. To them, teaching meant a secure job and summer vacation. I just needed to get over it and take the paycheck. Because of this, I didn’t often share my struggles with anyone.
But, God knew. Every day we would have a nice chat. He would listen to my venting and wonderings and I would sit and listen to Him and seek His wisdom and strength. I would grab a blanket, my Bible, and one of my many journals and settle in on the couch and start reading and writing. I know this time in my life is what has made me so passionate about prayer and prayer journaling.
Prayer is powerful. Prayer is healing. Prayer is a sacred privilege of communication with Almighty God. Have you experienced it? Has your life been impacted by leaning on God in any and every situation? (Philippians 4:6) If it has, I want to encourage you to remind yourself of that and not minimize the power and beauty of prayer. Remember, prayer is all about God and the gift of communicating with Him.
Unfortunately, sometimes the word prayer is minimized and misused for gossip or excuses. Have you ever heard someone say, “Did you hear what happened to so-and-so? Did you hear what they said? We need to pray for them.”
Friends, that’s not sharing a prayer request, that’s sharing gossip. In those times, we shouldn’t stop and pray for that person, but rather pray and ask God for forgiveness for falling into temptation.
Another instance when prayer is minimized is when it’s used as an excuse. “I’ve prayed about it and God told me to (fill in the blank).” For example, last week, I prayed about it and God said I should have cake and cookies for every meal (not with every meal, for every meal). If I say, “I prayed about it” that validates it as truth, right? Wrong! Just because you put the word prayer in front of your sentence or desire does not make it true.
The cake and cookies was a silly example, but let’s stick the word prayer in front of a couple other sentences. “I prayed about it and God told me I don’t need to serve,” or “I prayed about it and God said I don’t need to read my Bible anymore.” Honestly, those sound just as silly! Let’s face it, there are some things God wouldn’t say no matter how hard or often you prayed.
My challenge to you is to not only spend more time in prayer, but be more conscious of when you use the word prayer. Don’t minimize its value or sacredness! Be careful if you are sharing a prayer request. Ask yourself if it's necessary to share or if you just feel the urge to share it with someone. (The latter is gossip).
Also, if you don’t want to do something, just be honest with others. Don’t pretend like God told you to do or not do something. Oftentimes, there are many right answers to a situation. Don’t stick the word prayer in front of your decision to gain more clout. In addition, when you’re praying, make sure you are listening to what God is telling you, not simply listening for what you want him to tell you.
If you are someone who struggles to pray, I strongly encourage you to start a routine. Get a journal and find a special place to pray each day. Don’t let anything interrupt that time with you and God!
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." James 1:2-3
We had a women’s event at church this weekend called Lemonade, and the theme was “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I’ve heard this saying hundreds of times, but for some reason, as I was planning and prepping for the event, I kept mixing it up and saying, “make lemons out of lemonade.” I consider this a happy accident because it really got me thinking of how we view the lemons in our lives.
At the very beginning of the book of James, he says, “whenever you face trials of many kinds.” He doesn’t say if, or maybe you will, or when you possibly. He says whenever, in other words, trials are inevitable. They will come no matter what so how are you going to react when they come? If we keep reading, we know that we are supposed to persevere, consider these trials as joy, and stay faithful. Make lemons out of lemonade!
But, you know what? Life isn’t all bad. Sometimes, we already have lemonade and have developed a habit of looking past the sugar and water and only seeing the lemons. We focus on the sour things in our lives and disregard all the good that God is doing. Do you do that? Do you tend to focus on the lemons in your life? Maybe the circumstances in your life don’t need to change, maybe you do.
Here are three bad lemon habits that you might need to break so you can focus on the lemonade in your life.
Maybe twenty good things happened to you today, but you’re only focusing on the one bad thing that happened. It’s all you can think about so you end up forgetting about all the good things that have happened. Take some time to physically make a list of all the good things in your life or even that day. Seeing this list will be a reminder that the good outweighs the bad and it will help redirect your mind to the good.
Psalm 31:19 “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.”
Maybe there’s a situation in your life that has fifty different outcomes and one of them is bad. Do you assume that one bad solution is going to be the result or do you realize there are so many other possibilities? Maybe you need to write down all the good outcomes or maybe you just need to replay all of them in your mind. Trust that God has everything under control and he doesn’t have the worst thing planned for you.
Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Are you having a bad day? Is it because it’s a legitimate bad day or did one bad thing happen that you’ve chosen to dwell on all day, therefore resulting in a self-driven bad day? Maybe one bad thing happened that you keep replaying in your mind and it’s blinding you to everything else. Spend time in God’s Word. Focus on the truth of Scripture and distract yourself from that one bad thing that you are allowing to ruin your day.
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
If you see any of the above in yourself, I encourage you to stop turning your lemonade back into lemons and break these habits with the help of God! You’re never too old, too young, or too far off to get his help. Start developing a habit of looking for the good in your life!
I can't believe it's been a year. A year since we experienced one of our highest highs to almost immediately experiencing one of our lowest lows. We've learned a lot. We've grown a lot. But, let's be honest, it still hurts. You can quote all the Bible verses you want to us, but that doesn't magically rewrite history or erase memories from our minds. Rest assured, we still trust God whole-heartedly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, and we still have faith that his ways are higher than our ways and he has a plan through all of this (Isaiah 55). The fact is, we still live in a sinful world where hard things happen, and yes, we have to persevere through them, but we have to remember that it's okay to mourn.
One thing that has stuck out to me this year is that others are quick to rejoice with you, but fumble around, or simply have radio silence, when it comes to mourning. And, that's understandable. When someone is going through heartbreak, you don't want to say the wrong thing so maybe you don't say anything, or maybe you want to somehow mend their heart with your words, so you end up saying something that results in putting your foot in your mouth.
In the book of Romans, Paul tells us, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn" (12:15). In this passage, he is giving instructions to the Lord's people on how to care for one another and love one another, and in that, we are called to both rejoice and mourn. Rejoicing is the easy part. It's easy to send a meal, gift, or communicate via text, phone, or card. It's more difficult to join in mourning or to know exactly what to do, but we should still try.
In our experience of mourning, we observed varied responses and reactions. Like I said, some were helpful, and some were not. Let's take a moment to look at them so we know what to do or not to do when we want to walk with someone else through their mourning.
The Similar Storytellers: Something similar happened to my cousin's friend's uncle. Does listening to this story help you feel better?
In this scenario, someone is trying to help and remind you that you are not alone because others have endured a similar situation. I think this is helpful in the long run, but giving these stories immediately isn't that helpful. The person mourning is trying to wrap their mind around what they are going through. They don't really need to be given other disconnected stories, especially when sometimes, they're only "kind of" similar.
The Blame Gamers: What did you do wrong for this to happen? Shouldn't you have known better?
I think this one cuts the deepest. I think people, in their own obscure way, think they are helping when they ask you these questions, but it does not help in the slightest. "Let's add a little guilt and shame to your sadness and mourning..." Even Jesus, in John 9, tells his disciples that the man's blindness was not a result of anyone's sin. It was because we live in a fallen world. That still holds true today. Hard things happen, and it's not because of anything we did or didn't do. It's just life.
The All-Knowing: I guess you didn't have enough faith. God is trying to teach you something, and let me tell you what that is because I have a direct line to him, and you don't.
Oh, the self-proclaimed, all-knowing. Help us show them grace when one day, they are mourning! This response confuses me because I don't even know if they're attempting to join in mourning or they just want to boast about how close they are to God, how much time they spend in prayer, or how many Bible verses they know. All I know is, If faith was all that was needed to heal, then the healing would be more dependent on the level of our faith than in God's overall plan and sovereignty.
The Silent Ones: I'm going to give you space because I don't know what to say.
I completely understand this response, but I've learned that a simple text that says "praying for you" goes a long way. Sometimes, people just need a reminder that they're not alone while they're mourning. This has challenged me and convicted me to look at how I react when others are mourning. Just be brave and send or say something simple. Maybe just open the door of communication to let them know they can contact you if they need anything.
The My Schedule Mourners: I'm going to let you mourn on my time frame, and I'll honestly mourn with you, but when I say you're done, it's time for you to move on because I've used up my quota of grace and patience.
This is a hurtful and awkward situation. Everyone grieves on their own schedule, and grief comes in waves. You don't know what will trigger someone's grief, especially when it's still near the situation, and honestly, you don't have the right to tell someone when they should be done. Also, just because someone is trying to continue with their life doesn't mean everything instantly snapped back to normal.
The True Mourners: The ones who are wiling to cry with you and for you. Their heart hurts for you, and they do their best to try to understand what you are going through.
Finally, there are some who know that what they do won't heal the hurt, but they just want to do something to help. They admit that they don't fully know every emotion and heartache that you are experiencing, yet their heart hurts for you. They wish they could heal your pain, but they know they cannot, so they'll just be there to pray for you and cry with you.
Jesus gives us a perfect example of how to be a true mourner in John 11. I encourage you to read the account. His friend Lazarus has died. Jesus knows the outcome. He knows he will raise him from the dead. Yet, when he sees Mary, Martha, and the others weeping and mourning, his heart aches for them. So, before raising Lazarus from the dead, he stops, and weeps and mourns with them. Remember, he knew the end of the story. He knew that what he was about to do was going to help, but he chose to mourn with them and acknowledge their pain.
I pray that this is a challenge to us as we encounter others who are mourning. What we do will not help them or heal them, but we can be there and be even the smallest bit of an encouragement and hope. When we're tempted to say too much or not say anything at all, let's remember Jesus' example of how to mourn with those mourn.