Praising God and Captain America

By Chris Bennett  /  

(There are no spoilers in this blog...)

I often use the Lord’s prayer as a guide for my own fellowship with God. I mean, think about it, it’s the one place in the New Testament where believers are specifically told how and what to pray. As Jesus said, “Pray then like this” (Matthew 6:9). So it only makes sense to obey him. Now, I don’t pray it word-for-word. I take more of a thought-for-thought approach. So this morning, when I arrived at the part in which we are to praise God for his holiness, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,”  I began to thank him for being distinct, perfect, and wholly different than all of humanity. That’s what holiness means. He’s not the same as you or me. He’s way better than us. And because he’s way better (perfect, even), he is worthy to be praised. It is entirely appropriate for us to praise him. 

Think about it. We praise when our favorite team scores a touchdown, right? It’s in that moment that our team has distinguished itself as superior to its opponent, at least for the moment. We praise Captain America for his heroic exploits (at least I did when I was recently at the movies). Because he prevailed over the bad guys, he is distinct from them. Better than them. Holy…in a sense. We praise and laud whatever it is that amazes us, captivates us. And when something amazes us, it has set itself apart as better, thus we praise it. Our praise always says that whatever is receiving our praise is holy to us. 

Praying in such a way helps to remind me that God is greater than anything I face in my life. Not only that, but it also reminds me that God is better than any opponent in my life. 

Then Psalm 148 came to mind. So I turned to it and began to pray through it, verse by verse. It's a short song that begins with the words, “Praise the Lord!”  Then the psalmist turns his attention to every corner of creation, noting the praise that flows from every corner and creature. The heavens, the heights, and the host of angels praise him. The celestial bodies and the molecules of our atmosphere praise him. 

Then the Psalmist explains that the captivating awe of the creation was intentional. God made it that way to get us thinking about him in all his glory. If you find the cosmos as strikingly beautiful and wondrous as I, just imagine joyous, confounded astonishment when we see him “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). Praise, even though it is a command (Psalm 148:5), will also be a compulsion. We will not be able to help but praise the Lord. This is why, I think, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus’ lordship over the universe. Even the most hardened rebel will not be able to resist praising the glory of God (Philippians 2:10-11).

Then the psalmist moves on to the creatures that indwell the earth. They, too, will praise God. But they won’t be alone. They will be joined by the weather patterns. “Fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind” will also glorify him. Even the kings of the earth will praise him. Presidents, prime ministers, and kings from every continent on earth will exalt the name of Jesus. Even the United States Congress. Drug kingpins will glorify him. Gang leaders will glorify him. Heads of terrorist organizations will praise him. CEOs will praise him. Every power-broker on the planet will, with tears streaming down their faces, praise God for his holiness. 

But I love the way that the Psalm closes. Though everything praises him, there will be a special people who will especially enjoy his glory. His covenant family. Those who are loyal to him on the earth. Those who “are near to him” will cheer the loudest. 

Of course, we live in a broken world and much of what I described isn’t happening. Power-brokers largely live for their own glory. Weather brings mayhem and destruction. The cosmos, though extraordinary, seems to remain a silent bystander. Believers look at it and think, “How could there not be a God?”  Agnostics think we’re off our rockers. But one day, the cosmos will usher in the king of glory and every eye shall see him on that day. As the Apostle John so hauntingly said, “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him” (Revelation 1:7).

But then I begin to apply this prayer to my own life. It seems to make sense to me that if all creation is to praise him, then I should, as well. I am, after all, a part of the creation. But even more than that, if God commands that every corner of creation to praise him, then every corner of my life should, too. Every compartment of my life should yield to him.

So I throw my hat in the ring and say:

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord in my study! 
Praise the Lord at my dinner table! 
Praise the Lord in my car!
Praise the Lord at Ridgeway Middle School (where our church gathers)! 

Praise the Lord with my friends!
Praise the Lord with my wife!
Praise the Lord with my children!
Praise the Lord with my staff!
Praise the Lord with those who offend me!
Praise the Lord with strangers!
Praise the Lord with my neighbors!

Praise the Lord when I feel insecure!
Praise the Lord when I fear!
Praise the Lord when I’m worried!
Praise the Lord when I’m offended!
Praise the Lord when I’m angry!
Praise the Lord when I’m tempted to lust!
Praise the Lord when I want to gossip!
Praise the Lord when I feel exploited!
Praise the Lord when I’m tempted to hate!
Praise the Lord when I succeed!
Praise the Lord when I fail!
Praise the Lord when I feel prideful!
Praise the Lord when I feel like a loser!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, praise the Lord!

Our God is holy. That means he’s better than whatever awes you and he’s better than whatever steps on you. Praise the Lord!