Some years ago, our pastor at the time did a lengthy sermon series on the subject of praising God. I remember thinking that I hadn’t realized how much there was in the Bible on that subject!
These days, I often find myself considering the time I spend listing my blessings in my gratitude journal as a time of praise. And while I should be grateful to God for what He’s doing in my life at the moment, I believe praise goes a step beyond that.
Luke 1:46-55 is a record of what Mary prays after learning she’s been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. As I was looking at it recently, I noticed several lessons I can learn from Mary about praising God.
I praise God by celebrating His glory. In verse 46, Mary says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord…” Magnify means to praise highly, to celebrate in praise, to render or esteem glorious. Praise is all about God. As I’ve mentioned before, Psalm 145 is one of my favorite praise passages because it talks all about God’s awesome attributes as well as His mighty works.
God alone can give me joy. I can’t get true joy from my husband or my children or my church family. The joy that seeps deep down into my spirit only comes from a relationship with my Savior. Mary says in verse 47, “And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.”
Humility precedes my praise. Mary had no thoughts of her own importance or worthiness for the role she’d been called to fulfill. She says in verse 48, “For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden…” Her focus was on the power of the one who had chosen her. “For He that is mighty hath done to me great things…” If I want to truly praise God, I have to recognize my human weaknesses and acknowledge His greatness and power.
I praise God both for who He is and for what He does. Mary mentions God’s might, holiness, mercy, and strength in this passage. She also praises Him for what He’s done – scattered the proud, put down the mighty, exalted those of low degree, and filled the hungry with good things. Thinking about those characteristics that are only God’s (He is perfect, unchangeable, all knowing, etc.) can keep us busy for awhile! Add to that the ways He’s cared for and guided us in the past, and we have much for which to praise Him.
Focus praise on God’s faithfulness to His promises. Mary remembered the promises of God to Israel, and rejoiced in that He kept them. Verses 54 and 55 say, “He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.” In the same way, we have seen God keep the promises in His Word to us. A wonderful Bible study is to find verses that detail a promise of God and think about how He’s proven true in that way in your own life.
I love the following quote related to Mary’s prayer that I read in a commentary.
“The intended effect of all His dealings is that we should think more nobly – that is, more worthily – of Him.” ~MacLaren
We serve a God who is worthy of our praise, both for who He is and for what He’s done. Let’s praise Him today!