The Purpose of Our Praise
Yael Eckstein | September 2, 2022
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but people are tested by their praise. — Proverbs 27:21
We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.
Many of you probably are aware that observant Jews pray three times a day — morning, afternoon, and evening. But you might not know what we say when we pray.
For each of the three prayer times, the central prayer is called the Amidah, which literally means “the standing prayer.” It’s also called shemoneh esrei, which means “eighteen” because it was originally made up of eighteen blessings. (Interesting side note: Many centuries ago, a nineteenth blessing was added but the original nickname stuck.)
The shemoneh esrei or Amidah prayer opens with three paragraphs of pure praise of God. We praise Him as “great, powerful, awesome, God most high,” and on and on. We praise His control over all Creation. We praise Him for His covenantal love of Abraham and his offspring. We praise God for His control of life and death.
After these opening paragraphs, we recite a long list of requests — for wisdom, health, prosperity, and much more.
But did you ever wonder why we praise God so much? Does God really care about praise? Do we feel we need to butter Him up, so He’ll answer our prayers?
The Purpose of Our Praise
Proverbs helps us answer this question. We read, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by their praise.”
Just like a crucible separates the impurities from gold and silver, listening to what someone praises lets us know what they really value most. Someone who excessively praises nice cars or fancy clothes probably cares a bit too much about material possessions.
We don’t praise God for His benefit. God doesn’t need to be flattered or reminded how great He is. The purpose of our praise for God is that we let Him know that He is our highest value. Just as important, we remind ourselves that He must be our top priority.
When we declare that God is our highest value, we are also acknowledging that all His blessings upon us are to be used for His purposes.
We don’t praise God so that He will give us what we want. We praise God so that we will be ready and equipped to do what He wants.
Pay attention to what you find yourself praising. What does this say about your values? Use your praise for God’s purposes.