The Power of Praise

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; … to give unto them … the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”
—Isaiah 61:1-3

ISAIAH 61:1-3 OUTLINES the commission of the Holy Spirit. In applying this prophecy to himself, Jesus omitted the expression referring to a declaration of the “day of vengeance.” (vs. 2) He knew that personally he would not then participate in this phase of the prophecy, since the ‘day of vengeance’ would not come upon the world until this end of the age. Another expression in this commission of the Holy Spirit speaks of giving the ‘garment of praise’ for ‘the spirit of heaviness,’ and this is the privilege of all the Lord’s people as they have opportunities.

The garment of praise can be spoken of as an adornment of thanksgiving. It is in contrast with this beautiful adornment that the text speaks of the spirit of heaviness. This is an expressive way of describing a state of mind. It is a lack of buoyancy—a fear of something impending, a weight, upon our spirits.

It was this sort of feeling that the psalmist had when he said, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?” (Ps. 42:11) It was the way Elijah felt when he lay down under the juniper tree after his victory at Mount Carmel, and he said, “Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” (I Kings 19:4) Jacob had the same feeling the night before he was to meet Esau, after their separation of many years. (Gen. 32:7) The two disciples walking to Emmaus experienced a similar sense of frustration over the fact that their Lord, the one whom they believed was the Messiah, had been taken from them and crucified. To the resurrected Jesus they said, “We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” (Luke 24:21) Epaphroditus, Job, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all experienced the spirit of heaviness.

It is a similar sort of feeling that businessmen get today when they see business dwindling and difficulties multiplying. Indeed all mankind to some extent are afflicted with the spirit of heaviness when they contemplate world conditions with any seriousness. Jesus explained this, saying that men’s hearts would fail them for fear as they look ahead to the things which are coming upon the earth. (Luke 21:26) It is that depressed attitude of mind which results from fear of the unknown future.

We all know something of the spirit of heaviness and how it distresses us. It is those who feel this burden of spirit, yet trust in the Lord, that are promised deliverance from it by putting on the garment of praise. In this suggestion from the Lord of an antidote for the spirit of heaviness, he reveals the power of praise.

The Lord’s people know much about the power of prayer, and in prayer there are reservoirs of power. James wrote that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16) Prayer is the means by which our hearts and minds make contact with our God. Prayer is the expression of our soul, spirit, and very being. Paul wrote, “He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:27) Through prayer we claim the promises of God, and they become veritable realities in our lives.

The power of prayer is certainly deep and strong, but the power of praise is also great. In our prayers we sometimes petition God for things which are not in harmony with his will, so our prayers are not answered. But when we praise God, we give evidence that we are in harmony with his will, that we are content with what he appoints, that the assaults of the enemy upon our peace have failed, and that we are in the condition of heart and mind that God can use. Paul wrote that through Christ we should offer “the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.”—Heb. 13:15

The spirit of heaviness is like a chain binding us, but the spirit of praise breaks the chain and sets the spirit free. An impressive illustration of this is seen in God’s gracious response to Jehoshaphat as recorded in II Chronicles, chapter 20. Jehoshaphat the king, and the people of Judah, were in great straits. The Ammonites and Moabites had, with others, formed a coalition to crush them. The king was afraid, as well he might be. At times it is impossible not to be afraid. We should always remember that “perfect love casteth out fear.”—I John 4:18

What did Jehoshaphat do with his fear? We read in the third verse of the chapter that he set himself to seek the Lord. He proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. The people gathered in a great prayer meeting led by the king. In verse six we have the king’s prayer. First he acclaimed the glorious characteristics of God—a prayer of praise to Jehovah—“O Lord God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?”

Here was an acknowledgment of God’s majesty and power—by implication a prayer of praise. In verse seven the prayer continues in an acknowledgment of what God had been to Israel and Judah—“Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land, … and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?”

Then the king, continuing his prayer, recalled what God had promised on behalf of his people. Having praised God for what he had done for Israel, with thankfulness he anticipated the fulfillment of his promises to continue caring for his own. He said, “If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, … and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.” (vs. 9) What a beautiful expression of confidence in God’s ability and willingness to help!

Then follows the king’s plea for the help which Israel so much needed, “O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.” (vs. 12) Here is an expression of submission and expectation. What a wonderful prayer from a king!

How meaningful the words, ‘Our eyes are upon thee.’ They denote humility before the Lord, a full submission to his will, and an earnest watchfulness to see what he would have us do; thankful for the assurance that he is abundantly able to care for all our needs, and to conquer all our enemies. David wrote, “Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God”—prompt to obey, ready to serve.—Ps. 123:1,2

We so often hesitate to take our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord at their word. Jesus endeavored to encourage in his disciples and in ourselves implicit trust and confidence, faith in the promises. Did not Jesus assure us, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” ?(John 16:23) He also said, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”—John 14:14

Sometimes we pray, but the answer does not come. The reason may be that we have not gone far enough. Prayer must include the full committal of oneself to God’s will. It was only when, through their king, the people of Judah acknowledged their need, and turned their eyes to the Lord, that they were assured of victory. Through one of his servants, a Levite, the Lord said unto them, “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. To morrow go ye down against them: … Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you.”—vss. 15-17

Judah trusted in what God had said, and the people arose early in the morning and went forth to meet the enemy. The king exhorted them to believe their God, and to help strengthen their faith he prepared a band of “singers unto the Lord, … that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever. And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, … every one helped to destroy another.”—vss. 21-23

When they began to sing God’s praises, he began to deliver. God had no problem as to how to deliver his people from their enemies. Peter wrote, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations,” or trial. (II Pet. 2:9) God was merely teaching the people of Judah to exercise a stronger faith in him, to trust him fully. “Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust.” (Ps. 40:4) When they entered fully into partnership with the Lord in their trouble, and were willing to obey him, trusting him regarding his own part in their deliverance, and did all they could do by praising him for his promises, then deliverance came. His purpose in permitting the trouble was fulfilled.


The attitude of Paul and Silas in prison in Philippi gives an impressive illustration of the wonderful power of praise. (Acts 16) They were unjustly imprisoned, ill-treated for doing good. Their feet were made fast in the stocks, and their backs were bleeding. What could they do? What they did do was to put on the garment of praise.

We read that “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God.” (vs 25) The prisoners heard them—prisoners who no doubt were curious about these newcomers. The remark of Paul, “We are all here” (vs. 28), suggests that there were others in the same dungeon with them. No doubt these—criminals, as they probably were—were puzzled because they heard prayers, and heard Paul and Silas sing a duet. It was a song of praise to God, and the prisoners heard it. The jailer also heard it. And God surely heard, and his answer was swift and complete.

Doubtless Satan also heard this song of praise to Jehovah. He may have been congratulating himself on having stopped the work of these two ardent ambassadors of Christ, silencing them from continuing their witness of the resurrection of the one whom he had seen die on the cross. But when he heard them pray, he would not be so sure of final victory. When he heard them sing praises to their God, perhaps it occurred to him that he would be defeated. When these two disciples put on the garment of praise, the earthquake came and delivered them, and the jailer got the Truth; and out of that experience there was added to the church at Philippi.


One of the impressive things about Peter and the other disciples is recorded in Acts 2:46,47. Here we are told that they continued “daily with one accord in the temple, … breaking bread from house to house.” We read that they “did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God.”

On another occasion Peter and his companions were preaching Jesus, and were arrested and beaten. But in Acts 5:41 we read that “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” Later Peter wrote, “Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.”—I Pet. 4:13

One of the things which impressed the people in the city of Jerusalem was that no matter what they did to these men, they still praised God. This made them unconquerable, and rendered all the efforts of the enemy against them powerless. They wore the garment of praise. “Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion.”—Ps. 65:1

Jesus also wore the garment of praise. “In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” (Heb. 2:12) Let us turn our thoughts back to Gethsemane and Calvary. We have stood with reverent awe as we have reflected upon our beloved Lord and Master and the faithfulness with which he carried on his ministry. From one standpoint he was fighting our battles, meeting our foes, and bearing our sorrows.

Indeed, as the prophet foretold, our iniquity was laid upon Jesus. He endured our punishment, he died for us, and we are touched by his every word. He said, “Now is my soul troubled.” (John 12:27) “My soul is exceeding sorrowful,” he said, yet we have been unable to enter into more than the merest fraction of any real understanding of that sorrow of heart and heaviness of spirit, when all God’s billows rolled over him. (Matt. 26:38) But even so, Jesus went to Gethsemane and to Calvary wearing the garment of praise.

Consider again an account that is so familiar that we may easily miss its meaning. It was the night before the crucifixion, in the upper room where the Memorial Supper was instituted. We read that at the close of the supper, “when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” The margin reads a “psalm.” (Matt. 26:30) There is no definite statement as to what psalm, or psalms, Jesus and the disciples sang on that occasion. Authorities say that it was the custom for the Jews, at the beginning of the Passover feast, to sing Psalms 113 and 114. Psalm 113 commences with the word “Hallelujah,” meaning, “Praise ye the Lord.” Psalm 114 commemorates the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Before the close of the feast, the Jewish ritual prescribes the singing of Psalms 115 to 118. We will not consider the whole of these psalms, but let us in spirit go to that upper room and listen to some of the words of our Lord as he raises his voice in song. As we listen, let us remember that he was singing, with the cross before his eyes, knowing that it was only a few hours away.

“Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield. The Lord hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; … We will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the Lord.” (Ps. 115:11,12,18) “I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. … The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell [Hebrew, sheol, grave] gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. … Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. … What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? … I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, … I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people. … Praise ye the Lord.”—Ps. 116:1,3,4,7,12,17-19

In these psalms we hear repeated the overtones of ‘Praise ye the Lord.’ What a picture this gives us of the Lord going forth into the darkness of Gethsemane and Calvary with a song of praise upon his lips and in his heart—singing and giving thanks unto his Heavenly Father! If Jesus could face the most terrible experience that has ever touched a human soul, and meet it wearing the garment of praise, should we not wear it ourselves, and thus be victorious as we follow in his steps?

If Paul and Silas could wear that same garment of praise, with bleeding backs, and feet fast in the stocks; if the early disciples, after suffering mockings and scourgings and threatenings from the priests and rulers, could go out from their presence rejoicing; if an Old Testament saint, with no knowledge of God’s revelation through Christ which has come to us, could rise to that level of faith and confidence in God that enabled him with all Judah to sing a song of praise while the enemy faced them; why is it that we are sometimes so slow to put on that garment of praise? Why, indeed, do we not wear it continually, and, in the strength it provides be truly victorious in the doing of our Father’s will?

What joy to the heart of God it must be to see a company of his people so in harmony with his will that whatever trials he permits to touch them only make more evident, more vocal, more impressive, their spirit of trust and their spirit of praise! Throughout the Bible, God reveals how much he values the praises of his people.

The voice of praise from the people of God must mean something to the world—at least to individuals in the world. We look out on the world today with all its chaos, perplexity, unrest, anxiety, and discouragement, and everywhere there is the spirit of fear and heaviness. There is an antidote for this in the song of praise upon the lips of God’s people—that song which finds expression and amplification through the Divine kingdom plan for the blessing of all the families of the earth!

Jesus has said to us, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14), and this is what the Truth is as it shines out into a world of darkness, chaos, and confusion. The consecrated people of the Lord who bear this light, who sing this song of praise, are often confronted with the same distressing circumstances as the world, and are perplexed by the same problems, yet they are always thankful to the Lord, and continue their song of praise to him.

What a witness this must be to observing ones in the world. “All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee.” (Ps. 145:10) As the ‘saints’ bless the Lord, giving praise for his goodness and his great kingdom plan to bring peace and joy to all mankind, it must, and does, make some want to know the secret of such a transformed outlook and life. Indeed, in the day of their “visitation” the whole world will praise God.—I Pet. 2:12

What better contribution can we make to the comfort and help of those about us than the spirit of praise? The great thing about it is that often the spirit of praise is contagious. Praise is faith and trust made vocal. To wear the garment of praise helps to give us a true perspective. It gives us the spirit of courage. It keeps us in better health, and makes us easier to live with. It multiples our influence for good. It makes us helpful to others. Above all, it brings joy to the heart of God.

But one may ask, Is it possible to be in the attitude of praise when one does not feel like it? This is a problem! But let us remember that praise is not an effervescent feeling, so that one necessarily wants to sing. Neither is it lightness of spirit, nor a smiling face in sorrow. True praise is a sincere acknowledgment of all the perfections of God in all his ways, and regardless of how his ways may touch us. It involves loving submission and obedience to the will of God. In this connection, think of Jesus in Gethsemane.

Jesus was sorrowful, weighed down “with the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6), yet in his heart he praised God. We praise God for what he is and what he has promised to do, not for how well we feel, how prosperous we are, or what we are able to accomplish. Nor is praise to God merely the singing of hymns, or repeating the words, “Praise the Lord.” We praise God when we do the best we can to enlighten others with respect to his glorious character, revealed so resplendently through the Divine plan of salvation.

We praise God not for any wisdom of our own that enabled us to see and know him, but for the fact that he opened the eyes of our understanding to see and appreciate the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 13:11) It is not, or should not be, subject to the whims and moods of the every day vicissitudes of life.

We should therefore wear the garment of praise every day, and throughout all the experiences of life as we meet our daily responsibilities, letting it become a witness, a testimony of our trust in the promises of God. We cannot always be singing, but we can reflect the praise of God in our quiet, restful acquiescence to the will of God. We all realize the value and power of prayer. Let us become more acquainted with the power of praise.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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