When do we praise God, and what do we praise God for? Does that praise come easily to us, or do we find that we need coaching? This is one big question that might come to mind as we reflect on the psalms we are studying for Sunday, October 30: Psalm 149 and Psalm 150. [Some notes on these texts are here.] Here are a couple of additional questions we might ask ourselves or discuss in class:
The language of “praise” often seems related to, or to overlap with, other worship activities. What does “praise” mean to us? What does it include? Or, not include? How is “praise” different from “thanksgiving,” do we think? How is it different from “rejoicing”? Or “celebration”?
Psalm 149 refers to “the assembly of the faithful.” Does praise seem easier or better with others, in a group? Or, individually? Why is that, do we think?
Psalm 149, and even more Psalm 150 refer to music and musical instruments. Does praise seem easier, or better, or different, with music? Why is that, do we think?
What really “feels like” praise to us? Why is that, do we think?
[More theoretical, maybe] Does praise have a purpose, do we think? If so, what is the purpose of praise? What does it accomplish, or what function does it fulfill, and why is that important? Can we think of times when praising God has turned out to be really important for us for some reason? What were those? What made it so important?
Do we need to be feeling good (happy, relieved, successful, etc.) to praise God? Or can we praise God when we are feeling bad (sad, concerned, failing, etc.)? What difference do our feelings make to our praise of God – or, does praise of God make a difference to our feelings?
Overall, we could use our study of these psalms to take a long look at praise: what are our own praise activities, how do they seem similar to, or different from, the praise called for in these psalms, and what role praising God plays in our own lives, both in and beyond formal worship occasions. Then, does this long look inspire us to make any changes in our own praising of God?
Image: “Der Plausch am Weg” [the chat on the way], Oswald Achenbach, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons