To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us--and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
~ Thomas Merton, Thoughts on Solitude
Singing songs of praise is such a powerful experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s during one’s personal devotions or during a corporate service, praise opens up our hearts to experience God’s presence in powerful dimensions.
Many years ago I had the honor of spending time with students, older and younger, at a college in India. I enjoyed all of the students but it was the ladies who were challenging me the most. They had no idea that while they were asking me for prayer, I was longing for their faith, trust, and joy.
These women are etched upon my heart and memory to this day, especially one particular gal. She had approached me with tears streaming down her face, asking for prayer. As I stood there intently listening to her story, praying under my breath for some words of encouragement, she asked to pray for one thing. It wasn’t for deliverance from her persecutors, it wasn’t for understanding as to “why her”, it was simply a request for boldness.
Following her simple plea, she began to tell me about her and her husband. They are pastors and they are spreading the “Good News” of Jesus around many surrounding villages and, on more than one occasion, during the last several months, her husband and she had been severely beaten. As a matter of fact, her husband had recently been left to die. While he recovered, she was fearful it would happen again. She simply wanted boldness to keep telling others about Jesus, despite the threat of death.
If that’s not amazing enough, there’s more … I would have never known had she not asked for prayer that she was facing such difficult circumstances. She walked around the campus with a smile on her face and a song on her lips. During services her hands were lifted high and she was one of the most joy-filled people I met. Following my feeble prayer, I asked about her smile and her ability to sing and praise God during such persecution. She very quickly responded with, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
And then it clicked. This passage that I had read so many times before finally had a depth to it that it had never had. Her joy was not found in any temporal thing, or a person, but she knew her Lord. He was faithful to provide all she needed for that day and that day alone. Her praise opens the door to experience God’s presence in powerful dimensions. Her ability to praise God allows her to walk into the darkest night and keep on singing. Like Paul and Silas, her praise sets captives free.