Praise is a universal language. I've experienced this as I've gathered with believers in European cathedrals, thatched huts in Africa, windowless concrete buildings in India, and open fields in Thailand. And in that universal language, there's one word that you recognize no matter where you're from: hallelujah—praise the Lord.
Hallelujah comes from two Hebrew words which, put together, mean to brag about the Lord or to honor and admire Him. It's a concept found all over Scripture. Psalm 150 in particular provides a framework for this kind of praise by answering four big questions:
1. To whom is praise conveyed? The psalmist said it over and over: the Lord. You are to praise God singularly and exclusively, without any rival or competition. Just as a groom is jealous for his bride and doesn't want to share her with anyone else, so we, as the bride of Christ, are to give Jesus our total admiration and adoration (see Exodus 20:5). God does not want angels, saints, or preachers worshiped, and He certainly doesn't want us to worship ourselves. He and He alone is the One to whom praise is directed (see Isaiah 42:8).
2. Where does praise take place? Psalm 150 mentions two places in particular: God's sanctuary and His mighty firmament (see v. 1). The sanctuary refers to the temple in Jerusalem, and His mighty firmament refers to the expanse of the heavens. It's a way of saying God's praise takes place everywhere—both on earth and in heaven. When you think about it, worship is the one activity on earth that mirrors what's going on in heaven. Because of that, praise ought to fill our lives just as it fills the halls of heaven.
3. Why should praise occur? Verse 2 gives us two reasons: "Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent greatness!" In other words, we praise God for what He does, and we praise Him for who He is, no matter what He does. That second reason supersedes all other reasons. We don't praise God for what we can get out of Him or because it makes us feel good; we praise Him for who He is, regardless of what we're currently experiencing.
4. How is praise to be expressed? The psalmist mentioned two ways: with instruments man has made (see vv. 3-5), and with the breath God has given (see v. 6). Music was always important to God's people in their expression of praise, and so it is for us. There's power in song, and I think God intended that to be. And every one of us has a good reason to sing and praise Him. It's the highest use of the breath He's given us.
In the end, having an encounter with the living God through meaningful praise will change and transform you. It's a declaration based not only on what He's done, but on who He is, regardless of what He's done. So who is He to you? Is He your Lord? Is He your Savior? Is He central to your life?