Sometimes words and phrases evoke emotions in people beyond what they mean. A friend recently blogged about how the word “worship” has a negative meaning for her. Although understanding what she meant – and empathizing a bit – I didn’t think too much more about her post until a while later when I recalled my own issues with the phrase “Praise the Lord!”
Honoring God is a good and right action. Affirming God’s goodness and provision is both biblical and warranted, something I do often – though not as frequently as he deserves. However, I’m quite sure the actual words “Praise the Lord!” have never passed my lips. For I cringe every time I hear it, not because of the words themselves or the meaning behind them, but because of my baggage that I’ve tied to those who use – and abuse – the phrase “Praise the Lord.” The spontaneous reaction I have to that phrase is disdain.
Some people exude a fake faith: those with pretend perfect lives, no hardship, and a perpetual smile. They get a flat tire and the first thing out of their mouth is “Well, praise the Lord!” Now I understand the importance of not walking around with a perpetual frown. But life isn’t always good. Bad things do happen. And while I have confidence God will somehow, at some time, turn everything icky into something better, I stop short of proclaiming, “Praise the Lord!” at the first sign of trouble.
Then there are the thoughtless who use it to fill the space between sentences and to insert whenever their thoughts pause as they search for their next words. More than once, I’ve mocked preachers for doing this: “Open your hymnals, praise the Lord!…to hymn number 113, praise the Lord, where we’ll sing the first, third, and fifth versus, as Sister Marquette – praise the Lord – plays the organ. Now everyone rise – Praise the Lord! – and sing….” Ick. Get me out of here. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not.
Last are those who spout this platitude with mindless repetition. They say it more often than I utter “um,” “well,” and “so.” (Sometimes I do this all at once, as in “Well, um, so….”) No matter what is said, these folks respond with “Praise the Lord.” And no matter what they say, they tack on “Praise the Lord!” to the end. Sometimes they even say it when it makes no sense. Someone asks, “What’s the price of gas?” and they respond with, “Well, praise the Lord!” Then when asked why they said, ‘Praise the Lord?’ and they deny ever doing so.
I’m so scarred by this that even when people say, “Praise the Lord” at the right time and for the right reasons, I still shudder.
Yes, we do need to celebrate God, but instead of just saying, “Praise the Lord!” let’s actually do it in a way that truly honors him.
Can I get an Amen? (Next Sunday I’ll share my thoughts about “Amen.”)
How does hearing “Praise the Lord” affect you?
Join me on the journey!
Sign up for my weekly newsletter about biblical spirituality, and I'll send you a free e-book, How Big Is Your Tent?