Praise Works

While praying morning prayers this weekend, a verse from Psalm 8 struck me. Psalm 8:2 says “Out of the mouths of children and infants you have brought praise, to confound your enemies, to destroy your vengeful foes.”

I had an interesting dream in November of 2006. I found myself in an old house. It was well lit and comfortable, but not sumptuous. The hardwood floors were enhanced with slightly worn, but still beautiful rug runners, and the detailed, but not ornate woodwork was smoothed and darkened by years of loving touch. It was dark outside. Indeed, it was perhaps empty outside. As I stood in the hallway, demons began to assault the house, coming in the doors and windows, sometimes singly, sometimes in a mob.

Fortunately, I had my handy-dandy demon-slaying arsenal with me, consisting of such items as:

  • A shotgun with silver buckshot
  • A high-powered water gun loaded with holy water
  • An assortment of crosses
  • Stakes (wooden stakes, not meat steaks)
  • A bible
  • Candles, bells, and other movie-exorcism tools
  • Grenades
  • A single-use rocket launcher
  • A Desert Eagle .50 Caliber semi-automatic handgun
  • A crossbow
  • A giant glowing sword

Don’t ask how I managed to have all these things at my disposal, it was a dream after all.

As the demons entered, I began blasting away with my various weapons. As I hacked away at the attacking enemies, I began to feel frightened when I realized that my weapons had little or no effect. Perhaps you recall that ever-so-lovely movie “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”, in which Robert Patrick plays a liquid-metal robot? It was somewhat like that… I’d blast a giant hole in a demon, and it would take a step back, “heal” itself, and resume the assault.

Throwing away my physical weapons, I congratulated myself for thinking to engage the enemy with spiritual weapons. I quoted the words Jesus and the Apostles used when they cast out demons, prayed powerful prayers of command and defense, and generally did all of the things you’d expect someone to do in a dream with a comic-book movie flavor. These memorized anti-demon prayers and scriptures were hardly more effective than my rocket launcher.

I began to fear in earnest. The house was under assault, the enemies were in the door, my armor was in tatters, and my weapons were of no effect. Not knowing why, I fell to my knees, and prayed from the heart “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

Immediately, the demons fled into the nether, the door slammed shut behind them, and all was again light and warmth and peace. I awoke with a fresh understanding:

Of all the weapons we possess, praise is perhaps the most powerful.

This spirit of praise and implicit trust in God gives power to all our efforts. It is not coincidence that James wraps his instruction to resist the devil as he does, where he writes:

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. So submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:7)

As the church (the “house” of God) finds herself under assault, it is critical that I keep my focus on the Lord, his goodness, and his greatness, rather than the enemy, and upon praising God and submitting myself to him, placing myself under his authority rather than attempting to “use” his power.

In the interest of full disclosure, there is some confusion about the translation of Psalm 8, particularly with verses 2 and 3. Biblios, via their parallel translation reference for this verse demonstrates some of the problems translating this from the Hebrew. There’s much less disagreement, however, that Jesus quotes this verse, and I’m going with his interpretation, which seems to come from the Greek version of the psalm.

Matthew 21 (From the USCCB and Compare translations)
Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And he said to them, “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of thieves.” The blind and the lame approached him in the temple area, and he cured them. When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wondrous things he was doing, and the children crying out in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant and said to him, “Do you hear what they are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; and have you never read the text, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nurslings you have brought forth praise’?”

One thought on “Praise Works

  1. Pingback: I finally noticed Psalm 63 | Euphemos

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