If you want to receive, you have to ask.
In Psalm 34, David is praising God because he and others within his circle have experienced God’s goodness and faithfulness, including divine protection and deliverance from fear, want and troubles. But this Psalm shows that we are not passive recipients of this goodness. There’s a relationship involved, and we have our part to play.
Verse 1 starts with: “I will bless the Lord.” So let’s just hold the phone right there and pull on the word “bless.” It actually means, when used as a verb as it is here, to “confer or invoke divine favor upon; to ask God to look favorably upon.”
If I don’t want or need something, I don’t ask for it. For example, if I’m not in the mood for a cup of coffee after I’ve settled in for a flight, then I’m not going to ask for one from the flight attendant as she navigates the beverage cart down the aisle. However, if I need directions to a location that I am unfamiliar with, then look out—I’m going to ask anyone and everyone until I know the way. In other words, I will go in search of the answer.
All of this is to say that gaining God’s attention requires an “action” from us. So to claim that “I will bless the Lord” really means that I will “ask” God or go in search of Him to favorably look—or invoke His divine favor—upon me or on my situation. The responsibility is on me to actively ask or, to say it another way, to actively bless.
This part of the verse is completed with three additional, seemingly simple words: at all times. As in, “I will bless the Lord (ask God to look favorably upon me) at all times.” Of course, it’s this concept of “at all times” that can stump us in our daily living. How so? Because at all times means not just the good times but also the bad times—the ticked-off times, the my-spouse-just-left-me times, the job-offer-fell-through times, the my-kid-lost-her-soccer-game times, the basement-just-flooded times…. The list of potential scenarios goes on and on.
So when we make the claim “I will bless the Lord at all times,” we are signaling a commitment to remain in a state of “blessing Him” or of asking God for His divine favor in any and all situations and around the clock.
Verse 1 goes on to explain exactly how to do that: “His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
No matter what—in good times and bad, in happiness and despair, in plenty and want, when your business is thriving and when your business is struggling, at baby showers, weddings and funerals—we praise Him.
So, here’s the Salt and Light that I want to leave you with:
1) To truly enjoy a blessing, you have to take action. You may want to eat a perfectly cooked filet mignon with a side of sautéed spinach or, in my case, a favorite treat of organic dark chocolate, but these fine entrées don’t automatically jump from the plate to our mouths. You and I have to be intentional to pick the food up with our forks or fingers and put it into our mouths to start the process of enjoyment, digestion and nutrition. In the same way, we have to be intentional about putting the words in our mouth that ask God to bring His goodness to our lives and praise Him for it.
2) Just as importantly, we need to be intentional about when we speak those words—which is all the time. Now, we all seem to know one person who no matter what seems to be in a constant state of praise, i.e., the Pollyanna or the Unsinkable Molly Brown of the Christian faith. Away from public view, though, who knows if they really keep it up? I am convinced that there may be a total of 20 people on the entire planet that are that way all the time! I would love to tell you that it comes naturally for me, but it definitely does not. When something does not work out the way I had planned or hoped, praising God is not my go-to response. I might rage a bit or I might feel sorry for myself or I might get anxious or fearful. Perhaps you’re that way too. Let’s be serious—it’s hard to be cheery and grateful and quick to thank God when you’re face to face with a major disaster or even some small annoyance that throws everything off.
So, yes, it takes work on our part to bless Him and to continually praise Him. It’s easy to do at a worship service on Sunday but it’s crazy hard when real life slaps you in the face on Monday.
But here’s the good news: We can, like David is doing in Psalm 34:1, commit to this ideal state of always blessing and praising God—in doing so, we can begin to grow in our ability to achieve it. We just have to be purposeful about it: No matter what happens throughout your day and evening, be sure to pause often, reflect on God’s goodness and praise Him out loud. And through His grace and strength, we can do it—continually!