If you’ve been around modern worship, the ccm movement, or even a more non-traditional worship environment for any length of time you’re sure to be familiar with the phrase “7 Ways To Praise.” Some of you may remember Carman, a ccm mainstay in the late 80s/early 90s, known for his diverse stylistic approach, penned and recorded a song called 7 Ways 2 Praise that covered this concept.
We know that a lifestyle of worship and/or praise is so much more than just the songs we sing or even the motions we go through in our worship gatherings. That being said, there are seven specific expressions of praise used to convey different “shades” of praise throughout the Bible. When we look at the language that these words were originally written in we see that our English translators basically just popped the word PRAISE in when they could have been a LOT more expressive and accurate.
Think about that! Each time you see the word PRAISE, throughout the Psalms for example, it might be one of seven different word pictures (meanings).
Going through these in an interactive teaching style makes a great “worship teaching” for children, youth, and most of all for adults! Whenever I do this teaching, there are always a good number of people who come up and thank me for the information and convey something to the effect of they never realized that all this was in the Bible.
It’s not something that we’re going to build an altar to, base our doctrine on, or even make a denomination out of, but it is something that can enrich the lives of your congregants. And if you deliver it in a casual, interactive way, something that they will take home with them and apply in their own repertoire of outward worship expressions.
The key is to get your people to engage in what you’re doing. The simplest way to do that is to have them act out each expression of praise. Sounds threatening, right? Maybe in some environments, but the key is to just approach it casually and have good examples on hand so that they can also visualize the expression of praise.
I suggest just going down the list and hitting each expression for just a few minutes. There’s SEVEN of them so be mindful of your time frame! With a little creativity and good illustrations this could be a great one Sunday message in between series or at a camp or retreat or even for your worship team!
1) Yadah (yaw-daw’) 3034:
This means to show reverence or praise with extended hands. The word pictures associated with the root words for this type of praise is shooting an arrow or throwing a rock. It literally means to extend the hands, or to shoot and arrow.
Scriptures to reference: Psalm 42:5, The Dedication of The Temple in 2 Chronicles 7 uses this expression of praise (visualize Levites blowing the trumpets and calling everyone to worship and the “praise” that everyone is expressing is through standing and lifted hands).
So when we share this with our people we get them to visualize a small child who wants to be picked up. They extend their hands high above their heads in a sign of surrender and desire to be held. You could also use the image of throwing or shooting your praise outwardly to God instead of holding it in. Have your people lift or extend their hands.
2) Towdah (to-daw’) 8426:
This word is very similar to yadah, but has a slightly different flavor. It means to show agreement with by extending the right hand. In today’s society the closest thing we have is a handshake to seal a deal or pact. The idea is that it is usually associated with sacrifice (specifically things given up to show thankfulness to God).
Scriptures to reference: Psalm 50:23 (the thank offering NIV, KJV uses the phrase praiseth)
When we share this, we get them to visualize offering our thanks to God (and our agreement with His promises) by visualizing the extended hand. You could use a handshake, if so have people imagine they are shaking hands with God. Or you could have people lift their hands (similar to the yadah, but instead of surrender the underlying notion is thankfulness and agreement).
3) Barak (baw-rak’) 1288:
This flavor of praise is one that we commonly see around altars. It means to kneel down. It means to bow low as a sign of adoration and reverence. It carries with it the idea of humbling yourself to a place that is lower than the recipient of your worship (God).
Scriptures to reference: Psalm 95:6 (expresses this idea literally); Psalm 103 (uses the phrase “bless the Lord” to convey this expression)
This one might be the most physically “uncomfortable” expression to have people do, but you can have people stand up and bow or kneel right where they are. I also like to have people think about a royal court of years gone by. Have them answer what would be the first thing you’d do before approaching the throne to have an audience with a king or queen. You would bow low as a sign of reverence and deference to their power. The same applies here: we bow and kneel to outwardly express our awareness of God’s greatness.
4) Tehillah (tel-hil-law’) 8416:
This type of praise is singing, but not just any type of singing. It’s the singing that bubbles up from our hearts. It’s a spontaneous type of singing. These songs are unrehearsed and unprepared. They are straight to God.
Scriptures to reference: Psalm 22:3 (these are the types of “praises” that God enthrones or inhabits, which is interesting because it’s so specific: God literally lives in the SPONTANEOUS praises of His people!); Psalm 33:1 (this type of praise is “fitting” for God’s people, or it literally makes them “look good”); When Isaiah talks about trading garments of ashes and mourning for garments of joy and praise, the word praise their literally means SPONTANEOUS praises!)
This is also a tough one to get people to just do because of the spontaneous nature of it. But you could have everyone on the count of three to stand up and just blurt out a praise to God! That would illustrate it. It would be coordinated, but each person would be “praising” spontaneously.
5) Zamar (zaw-mar’) 2167:
This literally means to pluck the strings, to celebrate in song and music. Basically it’s probably the most common form of “praise” we have across the world in our churches. It’s just singing songs put to music. What’s neat about it though, is that it can also refer to JUST PLAYING, as well. It is usually translated as “sing praises.”
Scriptures to reference: Psalm 150 (this psalm illustrates a picture of instrumental worship).
A fun way to illustrate this is to have everyone clap together (playing their five fingered instruments!). There’s not much needed to illustrate this form of praise though, because it is so prevalent in our churches. Our regular Sunday Setlists are filled with ZAMAR.
6) Halal (haw-lal’) 1984:
This might be one of the most “fun” forms of praise because it requires one to step outside of “dignity” for a moment. It means to be clamorously foolish. To boast. To shine. This is the kind of praise that David exhibited when he danced for joy at the return of the Ark of The Covenant to Israel. It’s also the form of praise that prompted his wife to ridicule him for his lack of dignity.
This is also where we get the word Halellujah from. It literally means “Praise the Lord” but even more literally it means to BE CLAMOROUSLY FOOLISH unto the Lord! This includes dancing and laughing and leaping and twirling before the Lord, but it also (and probably more accurately) includes the state of the heart before God. A heart that is turned towards God and not afraid to BOAST in and of God is a “halal” heart. Halal is not only demonstrative praise, but can also be the force behind any of these other forms of praise. You can sing or shout or even play an instrument as a halal.
Scriptures to reference: This word appears over 100 times in the Old Testament. 1 Chronicles 16:4 (there were actual appointed musicians to “halal” before the Lord); Nehemiah 12:24 (an example of call and response halal)
7) Shabach (Shaw-bakh’) 7623:
Are you ready to get loud? Shabach means to address in a loud tone. It’s typically associated with freedom or triumph. But it’s more than just a loud shout, it’s the idea of putting everything you have into it. An attitude of wholehearted praise.
Scriptures to reference: Psalm 63:3-4 (We typically look at this psalm as soft cry of thirst in a dry place, but the words in these verses literally mean to SHOUT praises!)
This is pretty simple to illustrate. Ask people to stand up and shout a phrase (Hallelujah or Praise the Lord works great) together on the count of three! Encourage them to view it as a wholehearted expression of praise. One of the best comparisons for this is the spontaneous, electric cheers and yells that fans at a sporting event utter when something good happens to their team.
Well, there ya have it! You could distill this into a quick and easy message to help your people visualize different expressions of praise. I’ve had great success teaching this message to students, youth and college, and adult gatherings. If you’re really bold and your leadership sees the value in TEACHING your people expressions of praise, you might even be able to do a 2-3 week series on praise!
Another good idea is to cover this message in small groups, where people can interact with one another and discuss each expression more in detail.
Hope this blesses you!