God's word encourages us to pray. Scripture often blends the mandate of prayer with the model of praise for "total praise."

The Bible uses many synonyms for praise. They overlap and include words such as praise, thanksgiving, gratitude, and worship.

Those words are interchangeable. In our contemporary culture, praise can be many things. Praise is applause, cheer, a shout, and praise is a form of prayer. Praise has a horizontal dimension, for example, praising one another. And it has a vertical dimension as we praise God.

One of the reasons, if not the reason the body of Christ gathers corporately, is to worship and praise God. In Psalm 107, four times, it is said, "Oh, that men would praise the Lord." Another translation of the same verse says, "Oh, that men would thank God for his goodness."

So, we come together to celebrate God's goodness. In Psalm 107, the people who were to tell of God's goodness were those he had redeemed from the hand of their adversary and gathered from a foreign land. They were to come together and tell the story of God's redemption.

May I remind you today that if you are a believer, grateful that God has delivered you from something, you won't mind singing to his glory? You won't mind telling the story of your redemption.

Jessy Dixon penned these words, "I am redeemed bought with a price; Jesus has saved my whole life. If anybody asks you just who I am, tell them I've been redeemed."

How can you not sing his praises in the land of the living if God has been good to you? So, praise is a priority in our relationship with God, as is prayer.

God says, "Men ought always to pray" [Luke 18:1]. In other words, prayer must be persistent to be effective. The context of this verse is Jesus talking to his disciples. He says, "Men ought always to pray and not faint."

This verse teaches that you will lose heart and become discouraged if you are not persistent in your prayer life.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we ought to pray without ceasing. The Apostle Paul is not saying to get on your knees 24 hours a day or that you go around talking out loud to God 24 hours a day.

The text speaks of believers having a mindset of prayer. It is an orientation, a way of thinking that says, I want to maintain uninterrupted contact with God. And then the Bible turns around and says, "You don't know how to pray" [Romans 8:26].

In other words, prayer is a discipline to be learned and developed because you find the ability to navigate the challenges of this world in your prayer life.

Jesus got up early in the morning daily and went to the mountains, where he prayed to the father. His disciples noticed as they followed him around that prayer was the key to His power.

They never asked him, "Lord, will you show us how you walked on water?" They never asked him, "Lord, will you show us how you changed water to wine?" But they did say, 'Lord, teach us how to pray'."

So, prayer is not so much you starting a conversation with God as it is you giving the second word. Prayer is you answering God. It is you realizing God has already spoken. God has already moved in my life. He has already given grace.

God has already made a way out of no way and has opened doors that no man can shut. He has already shut doors that no man can open. When I pray, I respond to what God has already done in my life. Prayer and praise are responses to God's goodness.

Men ought always to pray and praise because God has already blessed us. In other words, I look around in my life and see God did this and God did that. God has spoken, and my response is Amen!

Be encouraged!

Rev. Chestine Sims Jr. of White Hall is pastor of Union AME Church at Little Rock. The community is invited to join the church for worship in person and on Facebook live at 10:30 a.m. Sundays.

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