Another bad sermon recently — this one telling us we need to praise God as a way of overcoming our difficulties. Not that everything this guy said was bad. One really good point he made was that by the way we speak, we actually end up praising our problems much of the time. That’s a true thing.
But at a very basic level, rather that offering his people An Invitation to Praise, I think he was teaching his people An Imitation of Praise — almost a form of denial that he called “faith.”
What we see in the psalms, though, are people who are brutally honest about what they experience, what the feel, and what they want from God. The reason they are able to walk through that experience and end their prayer in praise, is because they believe He will hear their cry. Not because He heard them go through the motions of praising Him (i.e. doing what they were “supposed to do”).
As Dallas Willard has often said, this kind of approach teaches people to profess things they do not actually believe in their hearts. It is rooted in self-effort, trying to make ourselves say praise-like things when we truly have no praise in our heart. We end up congratulating ourselves for being disingenuous. I don’t think that’s what God had in mind.
Bringing our brokenness, our bad day, our hurts and disappointments, as well as the events that take us by storm — bringing all these things to God as a child would bring a broken keepsake to a trustworthy Mom or Dad in hope of being comforted and restored — this is an act of praise. And that is why we have so many beautiful psalms of lament in our Bible.