Allay your fears, be still, concentrate

Hermese

Let Nothing Cripple Our Praise

‘When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.’

Luke 13:12-13 (NRSV)

These verses are taken from the story of Jesus healing a crippled woman. He was teaching in the synagogue on the sabbath when he observed a woman crippled and bent over, unable to stand up straight. In compassion (my addition as this is not in the text), Jesus declared her healed, reached out, and laid His hands on her whereupon she was healed instantly. She immediately stood up straight and began praising God.

This is quite a story for at least three reasons:

  1. Jesus, a guest in the synagogue of another, dared to commit this act of healing on the sabbath, a day when, according to Jewish tradition, no work should be done.
  2. Jesus, a teacher, dared to interact with one who was crippled in an age when such afflictions were considered the wage of the sin of either one’s parents or oneself.
  3. Jesus, a man, dared to commit this act of healing for a woman, in an age when women and children enjoyed a lesser status.

The leader of the synagogue was indignant for, in one fell swoop, this teacher who should know better disregarded the law and practice of God’s people. Of course, included in the indignation of the synagogue leader, was the fear of what other leaders: Pharisees, Scribes and high priests, would say if they learnt of this act that had been committed in a synagogue under his charge. Jesus, as He typically did, promptly and effectively silenced the objection of the leader. The result? The entire crowd rejoiced at the wonderful things He was doing.

Friends, my question to you now is this: what is holding up your praise? There are two moments at which the people in the story according to Luke burst into praise: the woman at the moment that she was healed, and the people after Jesus had silenced His opponents.

So, what is impairing your praise? What is crippling your praise? Are you waiting to be healed? Are you waiting for your circumstances to change? Are you waiting to see the result of God’s work in your life? Are you so buried under your personal concerns or consumed by the trials of the world that your praise of God is muted at best and absent at worst? When was the last time you burst into praise just because? Friends, God is always at work, lest you forget that He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121). God’s word does not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11). The word of the Lord endures forever and while we fade away like the grass, His word does not (1 Peter 1:25). So, again, I ask, what is crippling our praise?

I acknowledge that there is much that consumes our energy. There is much that consumes my energy: the state of crime in my country, Trinidad and Tobago, the inflationary trends the world over, the impact of global warming, the wars that continue to be fought, the attacks on places of worship, the racial, political and other tensions ripping people apart. These are just some of the concerns. Let’s not mention my personal concerns, the ones I deal with daily, that stare me boldly in the face. All the same, I cannot allow these afflictions to have me so weighed down that I forget to praise my God.

You will have your own concerns – health (physical or mental), financial, familial, professional – but yet, I encourage you: let nothing upset you. Let nothing disturb you. Let your mouth always be filled with laughter and your tongue with shouts of joy (Psalm 126). Let the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart always be acceptable to the Lord (Psalm 19).

Now, does this mean that God does not want to hear our concerns? Does this mean that God is a fairweather God, interested only in hearing our praise of Him? Friends, of course not! Why do you think the woman who was crippled went to the synagogue? She understood that we are always to present our case to God. Why do you think Jesus saw her? Because God sees us in our need, whatever it may be, howsoever long we might have been shackled by the burden. He needs to hear our cry, He wants to hear our lament. He wants to hear us humbly confess our need. None of this is beyond the capacity of God. At the same time, He also longs to hear our praise.

Friends, praise serves a number of purposes:

  • Purges: Praise purges our spirit of the poison of the world: our personal concerns as well as the cloud of darkness smothering the world.
  • Refreshes: Praise refreshes us and restores us. It is not possible to continue to be weighed down after we praise. Does it mean that our concerns disappear after we praise? Not at all. What it does mean, though, is linked to the next purpose that praise serves.
  • Allays our fears: Focussed on the goodness of God and turning our eyes toward Jesus, the things of the world grow strangely dim. Our focus is on God’s omnipotence, His sheer power, and the insignificance of our personal concerns and the concerns of the world in the face of God’s greatness and sovereignty.
  • Insulates: Praise insulates us from the enemy. Praise keeps the enemy at bay. The devil’s grip on us is crippled in the face of praise to God. His sole objective is to keep us focussed on the grimness of our circumstances to the point that we lose hope in God. Praise, however, counters his objective and places us on the offensive.
  • Secures: And, if praise insulates us, it also secures us. Praise becomes a God-inspired hedge of protection that revives the Church and keeps the enemy at bay.
  • Encourages and Equips: If we are secure, then we are encouraged, and in that encouragement, we are equipped to go out and continue to face our storms and the storms of the world with the blessed assurance that victory awaits us at the end of the race.

There is much that praise does, but praise does this only for the one who prays. Prayer cements our relationship with God. As our prayers go up, the reinforcement we need comes down and fills our hearts so that we can live in eternal praise to the Holy and Undivided Trinity.

Friends, let nothing cripple our praise. And, as we prepare to praise, I offer you this prayer of Teresa of Avila:

Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, all things will pass away. God never changes; patience obtains all things, whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices. Amen.

Teresa of Avila

Armed with praise, I pray you

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