One day, a baker approached a Jewish Rabbi and asked, “Rabbi, people often compliment me on my work. They tell me I’m such a wonderful baker, that they love my bread, that no one bakes bread like me. And I appreciate their praise. But if they came to me all the time insisting on taking up my time to compliment me, I would never get anything done! Does it not irritate God, or is He so insecure that He needs us to come to Him 24 hours of the day praising Him?”
The Rabbi replied, “God listens to our prayers day in and day out, but not because He needs it. He tolerates all of our prayers—complaints, praises, and requests—because in His great love, He knows that we need it.”
One of the great blessings of the Christmas season—if we can manage to pause and reflect—is the opportunity to turn our hearts towards joy and praise. For many people, this is the most difficult time of year. Expectations of gifts and festivities drive us to overwhelming busyness. Darkness covers us for the majority of the 24-hours in each day. We long for the company of family and friends who are far away or have left us behind. Sometimes the happiness that we think we ought to feel only provides a stark contrast to our reality.
But being joyful and choosing praise are not actions that emerge from our feelings. We are joyful and we give God praise in order to put Him first in our hearts, even in the midst of our trials. When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned and persecuted for proclaiming the Gospel, he and his companion sang praises to God. God didn’t need their praise, but Paul and Silas needed to praise God.
In the midst of adversity and discouragement this December, how can you make the choice to praise God? Often in these times, gathering together in community with other believers can be a transforming act that turns our hearts back to God and increases the depth of our joy. This week, be intentional about finding time to spend in prayer and praise with other believers.