The English word "praise" comes from the Latin pretium, "price," or "value," and may be defined generally as an ascription of value or worth. Praise may be bestowed upon unworthy objects or from improper motives, but true praise consists in a sincere acknowledgment of a real conviction of worth. True praise is illustrated in Revelation with the adoration of God and of the Lamb, which is inspired by a sense of their worthiness to be adored (Re 4:11; 5:12).
Overview of praise in the Bible
Praise is among the major themes of Scripture, such as God, man, sin, and the work of redemption. Surprisingly praise in the Old Testament arose out of a religion and a nation under almost constant stress. Praise is also prominent in the New Testament, in spite of frequent persecution, for example, in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which was written in prison.
Praise is difficult to define apart from the other concepts of worship, adoration, and thanksgiving. The most definitive Hebrew word is שָׁבַח, H8655, which can be translated. “to praise” or “to glorify.” Another word is תְּהִלָּה, H9335, which primarily means “psalm,” but usually is used to indicate “psalms of praise.” The Greek of the New Testament reflects the root meaning of the word as “value,” and the one word uniformly used in its various forms is αἰνέω, G140. The concept in these words is to give praise to what is worthy of praise. This may be done man to man, God to man, but overwhelmingly in Scripture, man to God. There is infrequently a warning against “praise,” as when a man is satisfied with the praise of men when he should be living for the praise of God (Matt 6:1-4; Luke 6:26).
The emphasis, therefore, is man’s praise to God, and the frequent use of the “name” of God is instructive. In the Hebrew, the “name” stands for the character and attributes of the person named. A change of name indicated a change in character, as illustrated by Jacob’s becoming Israel or Cephas’ becoming Peter. “The Lord’s name is to be praised” is a phrase repeated in Scripture, especially in the Psalms. The glory and majesty of God and all His works are to fill men’s hearts and find expression in their word and witness. This becomes so overpowering to a man’s mind and heart that he must break out in some utterance.
Frequently, poetry is demanded—more frequently, song. Thus words of praise are expressed over and over again in song. Men of like mind and heart, yearning to express in some way what God is and what the name of God means, will join together in common praise, because together they can express more than what can be expressed individually. An act of common worship may be antiphonal, giving wider scope to the act of praise, as one part of the antiphonal group may continue to raise questions as to why God should be praised, thus offering opportunity for the response of praise. Others find satisfaction in having those trained in song to praise God, recognizing that art may better express what they cannot say for themselves. It is the glad expectancy for those who praise God that not only do the angels of God now praise Him, as does all His creation, but in that far-off day they may give fullness to their desire to praise God by joining such heavenly choirs.
Interestingly, praise is frequently spoken of in Scripture as a duty. If a man is not inspired to praise God in the normal inspiration of the hour, he is nevertheless commanded to praise God. Failure to do so is to withhold from God what rightfully belongs to His glory. There is nevertheless a sound psychological principle. The very act of praising God in obedience to the requirement to praise may create the emotion that befits true praise. This is akin to the commands of Scripture to love. It is in the act of loving that a person “feels” more loving. A “dryness” in desire to praise God may call for obedience to the command to praise.
“Speaking in tongues” has for a part of its apologia the inability of a man to express in normal speech what he wishes to say in praise. Rightfully, Martin Luther|Luther advised that the Bible first of all controls what constitutes proper praise and then instructs where one is lacking sufficient praise. The Bible, especially the , makes clear what the praise of God should be and what the praise of God can be.
Praise for men
Praise for God
In the Bible it is God who is especially brought before us as the object of praise. His whole creation praises Him, from the angel|angels of heaven (Ps 103:20; Re 5:11) to lower beings that are unconscious or even inanimate (Ps 19:1-4; 148:1-10; Re 5:13). But Scripture is primarily concerned with the praises offered to God by man, and with the human duty of praising God.