Prayers of celebration, in the form of praise, abound in scripture. God is praised for His mercy, goodness and creative genius. The Psalmist David wrote, “One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They will tell of the power of your awesome works,and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. All you have made will praise you, O Lord; your saints will extol you. They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.” (Psalm 145:4-12)
It is difficult to separate celebratory praise from prayer. Surely it is possible to praise God as a proclamation to others, but much of our praise is raised as prayer in the act of celebration. In others words, praise is the language of thanksgiving to God.
Praise is also celebratory in nature as well as in content. Have we not shouted “Thank you God!” when a police officer let us off with a warning, or a favorable lab report arrived in the mail? Are not collective “Hallelujahs!” heard on high school and college campuses when passing grades are posted (and yes, there is “wailing and gnashing of teeth” too). We whisper our confessions, but shout our acclamations.
Could it be the reason our prayers of praise appear so spontaneously is because they come in a moment of welcomed relief? The prayer of praise at having received a police warning follows our prayers for mercy as the officer slowly approaches our car window. The lab report is the culmination of days of waiting and the collective prayers of friends and relatives who have waited in agony for an answer. And the passing grades come after months of study and all-night dorm room vigils. Praise is the language of thanksgiving, but it also the outpouring of emotional release from our worst fears.