We are instructed to offer a “sacrifice of praise” in Hebrews 13:15. Usually I gloss over that line. Yeah, yeah, praise and Thanksgiving, blah blah blah. Yet, it deserves more consideration than a shrug of the mind.
“Sacrifice” has multiple meanings depending on the context. Between God and Man, it most often describes a bridging action from man to God which recognizes power (of God, of Law), the deviation from Law (due to intentional action or omission), and the need for the disparity between what is good and holy and what is not. Traditionally, we could not approach God directly. Nothing that is not “clean” or “holy” may. So, the regulations surrounding different forms of sacrifices described in Jewish Law serve to clean the pathway between God and Man so that we may approach Him.
A Christian’s understanding of Jesus as the Messiah means that Christ became the consummate sacrifice meeting all criteria of the Law, permanently. Our individual requirements for guilt or thanksgiving sacrifices have been met, leaving us to offer only “sacrifices of praise.”
All we are asked to do is say “thanks be to God.” Yet, every time we complain about our circumstances, every time we submit to envy or jealousy or self-pity, we do not offer praise. In these negative acts, we shunt praise and prevent it from coming to our lips or hearts.
God does not want us to pretend that suffering is not part of life. He suffered Himself. He wants us to bring our suffering to Him in prayer, however, and not idly grouse and moan to others.
When we speak or think words of praise, we create space within which God can work. When we do not praise, we close ourselves off and prevent His actions.
If we come to him in prayer, acknowledging Him in our suffering and with our praise, we give Him permission to heal and strengthen. Praise is not merely an acknowledgement of faith or of God’s greatness — although that alone would be sufficient reason for praise — it is also our permission to Him for His work in our lives.