Hebrews 13:15 English Standard Version (ESV)
15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Praise is an essential part of prayer– God is worthy of our continual praise and worship. He is eternally good and thoroughly righteous; all-powerful and all-wise. The author of Hebrews reminds us that we are to offer a sacrifice of praise–continually– to God.
This is more than just a simple “Praise the Lord” uttered when we are at church or surrounded by fellow believers. A “sacrifice” of praise implies more than just a gift or even an acknowledgement of God’s worthiness and majesty. It implies cost, and hardship; a giving up of something precious in the act of worship.
Sometimes, the sacrifice is small–giving up our right to take credit for God’s mercies; being thankful (instead of jealous) of our neighbor’s success. Other times, the sacrifice is painful– praising God in the aftermath of a daughter’s rape, or a spouse’s betrayal, or acknowledging God’s goodness after a diagnosis of cancer or dementia.
God isn’t looking for false and empty worship–He wants us to be real. Sometimes, the sacrifice isn’t eloquent, polished, or “pretty”; it comes with tears, tormenting questions, and anguish. Sacrifices are poured out, broken, or burned up– dreams that have been dashed, hopes and plans that have been abandoned, heartaches that crush the soul.
God wants these sacrifices– but not because He is a cruel God who wants to see us crushed and hopeless. God wants these sacrifices because only when we are ready to put them on the altar can He make the exchange– Beauty for ashes; eternal hope for temporary dreams; trust and security for our doubts and fears.
In the same verse (Hebrews 13:15), the author describes the sacrifice of praise as the “fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” The Hebrews to whom he was writing were making a huge sacrifice in just uttering the name of Jesus. They were beset on all sides– from the Jews who did not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah; to the Romans who were using them as scapegoats for troubles within their Empire. In the midst of their troubles, God did not ask them to slaughter their enemies, or to create a separate society and live only to themselves. He didn’t ask for impossible deeds of daring–though many endured persecution and became martyrs for the Cross of Christ. God asked for the sacrifice of praise. God’s ways are not our ways– his weapons are not our weapons, and his words are not our words– God’s words are more powerful than any weapon or plan that we could ever imagine.
The practice of praying the various names of God and titles of Jesus and the Holy Spirit– Almighty, Father, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Counselor, I AM, Savior, Redeemer, etc.–is the essence of praise. In times of trouble, God’s attributes may seem hidden, but when we acknowledge what we do not see, we are harvesting the fruit of our faith and putting it on the altar.
Stand back– God has been known to set both the sacrifice and the altar on fire!