Ben White's Adventures with softened hearts

Hezekiah Walker, Moana and Me Say “We Are Worshippers”

“Every praise is to our God” is the title and refrain of Hezekiah Walker’s do-you-need-a-little-joy-right-now? jam. I love this song! But it does have some weird language that trips me up a little, and I think might trip you up even more if you are not used to church music.

Every praise is to our God
Every word of worship, with one accord
Every praise, Every Praise, is to our God.

This song is my jam

The weird phrasing of this sentence reveals something great about humanity. We have praise. We are all worshippers. What we worship is our choice, but we all do it. So our praises don’t begin happening when we are in our church meetings and it’s “time for worship.” When we gather as a worshipping community, that’s when we start consciously channeling our worship toward God. Every praise is to our God only then, maybe, instead of to all the other things we would or have been worshipping. Only occasionally is every praise to our God. There are lots of words of worship, but in our church meetings we are getting together (that’s the “one accord’ part) and sending our praise in one direction.

I think we’ve been singing “Every Praise” by Hezekiah Walker in Circle of Hope since it came out, because I thought it was a lot older than 2013. I had never seen the video though until my cell mate shared the YouTube video link in our cell WhatsApp.

Please listen and watch this video. It brings me so much joy every time. These people doing the flash mob at Birmingham, Alabama’s Five Points South Fountain are having so much fun; and they are so strange! Why are they dancing? Why are they so happy? I don’t know if the bystanders in the video are planted there or that’s their authentic reaction, but the drama of the reactions adds to my joy. We Christians are peculiar people. Our joy in the face of despair is inexplicable. As a white guy, I’m glad to have brothers and sisters like these to lead me in it. Black triumph over historic oppression and such dehumanizing difficulty is not a novel insight, but it shouldn’t go without saying. However, the people worshipping with one accord in this video are all triumphing over millions of difficulties (and that’s not an exaggeration) to sing and dance together to Jesus.

[Gasp] We are worshippers

But back to this human capacity revealed in this old timey language. “Every praise is to our God.” You are a worshipper!

It reminds me of Disney’s Moana (another joy bomb if you need one), when she realizes that her longing for the water is actually not just her strange self not fitting in to the stay-put-on-the-island sensibility of everyone else she knows, but actually her people were once voyagers. She sings “I’ve been staring at the edge of the water/Long as I can remember/Never really knowing why.” She feels like an odd ball, she can’t please her parents or her village because she has this strange desire to explore out beyond the waves. But then she discovers a hidden history of her people. They were once sea traveling voyagers. She hears in a vision, “We read the wind and the sky when the sun is high/We sail the length of the seas on the ocean breeze/At night we name every star/We know where we are.” The moment after the vision, she gasps. “We were voyagers!”

That’s the moment Hezekiah Walker is offering us but it’s for worship. That longing inside of you for more? That need to adore, to lift up, to belong to something bigger? Even that obsessive love that you can’t get out of your mind — when you are driven crazy? Yes! It’s because you are a worshipper!

Our praise works best with a decided direction

So is every praise to our God? NOT AT ALL! Our praise is all over the place. This is not surprising since we ARE worshippers. It’s not even necessarily wrong. Dribbling praise all over the place since we are so full of it ought to be expected.

You have experienced your own copious praise when you have fallen in love, when you became obsessed with that band in high school, when your child was born, when your favorite show comes on and you have your ritual snacks ready. Our culture has lots of other examples too. Military sacrifice might be the strongest. How about the innocence of children at Christmas? Then there’s always sex which might produce the most various unhealthy forms of worship.

Worship does not require God. Your devotion and service will happen regardless, but every other thing to which we give our praise will mostly consume it hungrily with little to no reciprocation. God receives your praise and the energy comes back to you. God is the opposite of a black hole, if there were such a cosmic object. As much as black holes suck everything in, God reflects everything out.

Everything that ever was is God’s continuous creation. All of reality as we know received its trajectory from God. It feels good to direct our praise at God, because God gave us this capacity and God gives us back all we give in the only reliably satisfying relationship available to humanity.

There are so many ways to praise

So let every praise be to our God — and here’s the great thing — all those other things I mentioned on to which our praise might have dripped are also ways to praise God. When we direct our praise through them toward God, all things can be praise. The context of our relationship with God in Christ straightens out their bentness as a byproduct of our doing them as praise. Money, sex, dinner, birds, sweat, baby hair, fireplaces, sweet fruit juice, Gm7, the color green, trolleys in the snow, EVERY praise is to our God!

Dancing and singing together in direct worship is the most concentrated form. I need that kind of praise or all these other modes of praise shrink. Giving my praise to God with Hezekiah Walker and his friends is one powerful way to get lined up. Doing it with my piece of the body of Christ, Circle of Hope, is another way. I am so grateful for the vaccine and the way we have been able to begin meeting together in person.  What other opportunities might you share? Put in the comments.

3 Comments

  1. Joseph Rogers

    I spent a few weeks back in the early 70s collecting signatures on that area to get Gus Hall and Angela Davis on the ballot for the Presidential election. That was something of an amazing trip. Love the video.

  2. Giovonna Clifton

    This is a very interesting explanation of this songs meaning or rather what you perceive the phrase Every Praise to be . I do see your your angle but I must say it just hits different and is pretty much perfectly understood in the black church community. If you grew up with a praying Grandmother or Auntie or Mama.The phrase , the action ,the idea the teaching of In all things give praise and thanks is at the root of the Black Christian Experience and Church. As is the idea of full body worship. I think I’m feel particularly insulted at you calling the people strange and picking apart the song. …. I do recall this song being sung at Circle and that was awkward for me too. …🤦🏽‍♀️

    • Ben White

      Oops, I’m sorry to not be clear enough. Please forgive me for the insult. I LOVE these people, AND how strange they are. I meant to say that we Christian’s are strange to find so much joy in the Lord. “Strangers and pilgrims in the world” kind of thing. I get how a white guy saying it would be taken another kind of way. Again, please forgive me, Gi. I have learned a lot from the Black Christian part of the family, especially about worship. There’s a lot more to learn, of course, but I think we should keep trying with gospel songs, what do you think? Can we ever pull it off?

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