“From the lips of children and infants, you, Lord, have called forth your praise.” Matthew 21:16
At least three times a day, Braden, my four year old will stop what he’s doing and say to me, “Mommy, you are beautiful, and I love you, and you are a princess.” He will occasionally add something like, “and I’m glad your heart isn’t dead” but the message is mostly the same. Moments like these are ones that keep me going and help me to wipe down the toilet for the fourth time that day. These moments are the reason we endured nine very uncomfortable months of pregnancy, either a c-section or a delivery that includes something named the “Ring of Fire”, sleepless nights, diaper blowouts, and breastfeeding after our babies grew teeth. The moments themselves are healing to the soul, but I had a revelation the other day about Braden’s praise.
Yes, that’s exactly what it is: praise. Merriam-Webster defines praise as an expression of approval. Braden, who spends 95% of his day as a tiger or T-Rex, pauses briefly, and opens his heart to tell me how much he loves me. The one who makes his food, calms his fears, comforts his hurts, and cheers for him when he sings on the preschool stage.
Isn’t this what we are supposed to spend our day doing in front of our Father in Heaven? The One who provides our food, calms our fears, comforts our hurts, and cheers for us as we succeed and fail in this life. Whole books have been written on the topic of praise, but there are three things I have learned from Braden on the topic.
First, we need to believe that God hears us! See 1 John 5:13-15. I will own up to the fact that I choose to ignore many of the screams, cries, and whines of my boys during the day. However, it is impossible to ignore Braden when he comes up to me with these words. Over all the chaos and noise of my house, I hear him. No matter what I’m doing, I will drop it, get down on my knee, wrap my arms around him, and tell him how I feel about him. “Braden, I love you and you are handsome, and you make me laugh, and you have the sweetest heart, and you are my prince.” In the same way, no matter what God has on his plate (famine in the Horn of Africa, war in the Middle East, cancer at St. Jude’s), He always hears our praise, and he always responds with a bent knee and words of love through the whispers of the Holy Spirit and the scripture in our bible that sit too often on a shelf.
Second, our words can be simple. Braden doesn’t put much thought into his words in those moments. He speaks out of his heart. A Shakespearean sonnet, it is not. Yet I still hang on every word and I am blessed. God as well, loves our words of praise. They are pleasing in his sight (Psalm 19:14). I have met many people who don’t pray or praise because they don’t know how. There are times in the bible (such as 2 Samuel 22) where people praise God in poetry and long-winded songs. However, there are also times when we are encouraged to remember that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and always present so we can let our words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2). God knows our heart and our meaning even if all we can get out is “thank you.”
Lastly, don’t withhold your praise until you have the perfect time to say it or the perfect place to say it. Has your child ever needed to tell you something and you tell them to wait until you finish the phone call? They literally look as if they might explode. I hope you have had such a moment in your life when you couldn’t hold back your praise from God. For me, one of those times was when I found out I was pregnant with William. I immediately fell to my knees on the bathroom floor and thanked the Lord profusely for his blessing. I couldn’t wait until I was in my more hallowed, more sanitary prayer space. My favorite example of this is when King David “dances before the Lord with all of his might” (2 Samuel 6:14) in front of his whole kingdom, leading his wife to tell him he humiliated himself. She didn’t understand, but God did, and that’s all that mattered.
I hope that in my own life I can be more like Braden. No, not in the way he acts like a tiger, but in the way he is persistent and unfettered in his praise. May the way we praise be one specific way we can follow Jesus’ advice and become like little children so that we may enter the gates of heaven (Matthew 18: 2-4)!
For what do you feel called to praise the Lord right now?