Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change The Way You Worship

Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change The Way You Worship

by Chris Tomlin, Darren Whitehead


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What happens when we praise God? What are the benefits of praising Him? Do you know what praise actually means? In Holy Roar, Chris Tomlin and Darren Whitehead share a fresh perspective from the worship practices of the ancient world. They take readers on a praise journey that answers questions and provides valuable insight. After reading Holy Roar, you will:

  • Grow an understanding of praise with Darren's unique insights.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of how to worship.
  • Be inspired as Chris shares how those insights take shape in the stories behind some of your favorite worship songs, including "How Great Is Our God," "We Fall Down," and "Good Good Father."

Holy Roar is for:

  • Readers of all ages interested in growing their faith
  • Pastors, worship leaders, and small group teachers leading believers

In the ancient world, something extraordinary happened when God's people gathered to worship Him. It was more than just singing; it was a declaration, a proclamation, a time to fully embody praise to God for who He is and what He has done. In fact, in the Psalms, seven Hebrew words are translated into the English word praise, each of which represents a different aspect of what it means to truly praise God.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400212262
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 10/23/2018
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 767,941
Product dimensions: 5.63(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

With 12 albums, 16 #1 radio singles, a Grammy Award, 21 Dove Awards, and two platinum and five gold albums to his credit, Chris Tomlin is among the most well-known and influential artists in music. His songs include “How Great Is Our God,” “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone),” “Our God,” and most recently, “Good Good Father,” to name a few. It is estimated that each week 20–30 million people sing one of Tomlin’s songs in worship. He also cowrote the bestselling children’s book, Good Good Father. More than anything, Chris loves being a husband to Lauren and a daddy to Ashlyn and Madison.

Originally from Australia, Darren Whitehead founded Church of the City in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2013. Each weekend around 6,000 people worship at one of the five locations across the metro area. Darren holds both his masters and doctorate degrees in ministry, with his dissertation research focusing on Millennial engagement in the Western Church. He lives with his wife, Brandy, and their three daughters, Sydney, Scarlett, and Violet in Nashville, Tennessee.

Read an Excerpt




Yâdâh, yaw-daw': To revere or worship with extended hands. To hold out the hands. To throw a stone or arrow.

May the peoples praise (yâdâh) you, God; may all the peoples praise (yâdâh) you.

— PSALM 67:3

It's true; in my youth, I was prone to poke fun at those who were expressive in worship. On a rare occasion, when someone dared to branch out with a raised hand in our otherwise stolid service, I'd lean over to one of my mates, or whoever might be sitting beside me, and I'd ask, "Do they need to go to the bathroom?" We'd get a good chuckle from the experience, then go back to singing our hymns, eyes fixed on the pages of those old hymnbooks. Hand-raisers, see, were outside the norms of our church subculture. They were too emotional, the folks on the edges.

As I wrote in the introduction, I followed my friend to a more expressive church in my early adulthood, and after a time, I became a regular attendee of that church. It was a church full of hand-raisers, kneelers, and dancers, and as much as I enjoyed their freedom to express their emotions in praise and worship, I clung to some of my more reserved tendencies: Keep your eyes on the words. Don't get too emotional. Don't be a distraction. Why didn't I feel the same freedom as the rest of the congregation? What was holding me back?

Freedom doesn't always come overnight, I suppose.

I wouldn't find the freedom to express myself in praise to God in a congregational setting — at least, not at first. Instead, God overcame my inhibitions in the privacy of my 1982 cherry-red Mazda RX-7. It was one of my first cars, one with a CD player and a distinct sense of cool. And cool as that car was, it surprised me when a friend gave me a CD to play while I drove around town, one that I prejudged as anything but cool.

The album was one of the first by Hillsong, and it was entitled The Power of Your Love. These were the days before the Hillsong craze, before they'd written so many of the songs sung in churches around the world. In fact, it was before the modern worship movement was in full swing. I'd never heard of Hillsong, so I asked what kind of music they played. It was a collection of worship songs and choruses, he said, and my response was less than pious.

"Church music? Why would I want to listen to that in my car?" I asked.

"Trust me, mate," he said. "You need to check this out."

He was a good friend, and I trusted him; so on his recommendation, I began listening to that CD. I listened and listened, and over the weeks that followed, something happened, something I didn't expect. I found myself in my car, not reaching for my old music — INXS, Midnight Oil, or Red Hot Chili Peppers. Instead, I began craving that early recording of Hillsong choruses. Those songs ambushed me, and as I listened, I found myself drawn into the presence of God. He was there, in that music, in my car, and it was in that expanding reality that I finally broke.

I was listening to The Power of Your Love on an afternoon just like any other. I pulled up to a stoplight, and in that moment, while waiting for the light to turn green, I was overcome by the goodness and power of God. Without a second thought, I took my hands from the steering wheel and lifted them. It was the most natural expression, and in that moment, I knew it: I'd become one of them. I'd switched teams. I've been a hand-raiser ever since.

Is there any more natural expression of excitement, wonder, or awe than raising your hands? Is there any more natural expression of excitement, wonder, or awe than raising your hands? Whether it's the excitement that comes when your favorite sports team scores a goal, the joy of receiving an unexpected promotion, or the elation that comes with a declaration of victory in battle, aren't we prone to expressing enthusiasm with upshot hands? It's almost a primal instinct, something coded in our DNA. And regardless of the language you speak, the color of your skin, or your country of origin, haven't you felt this urge?

In the same way, the Hebrew people showed their excitement and enthusiasm for God in praise and worship by raising their hands. This posture of worship is expressed in the Psalms by the Hebrew word yadah.

Yadah is one of the seven words translated in the Old Testament as "praise," and it's found over 111 times in Scripture. It is defined as a word meaning to "extend hands" or "to throw out the hand," and it is used to describe the act of shooting an arrow (Jeremiah 50:14) or throwing a stone (Lamentations 3:53). In the context of praise, yadah describes those moments when the Hebrew people were so overcome by the glory of the Lord that their hands shot upward in response.

In Psalm 145:10, David wrote,

All your works praise (yadah) you, Lord; your faithful people extol you.

In the psalm, David declares that God's people could not help but raise their hands in praise for God's faithfulness; they could not help but yadah the Lord.

In Psalm 67:3, the psalmist penned a song of praise for the people. The text reads,

May the peoples praise (yadah) you, God; may all the peoples praise (yadah) you.

The psalm was certainly written for the Hebrew people, but doesn't the text imply a broader meaning? All the peoples, whether Hebrew or otherwise, raise their hands to God in praise. The people of Israel, the people of the early church, you, me — all of us who are part of the family of God will yadah our Father.

In Psalm 44:8, the psalmist wrote, In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise (yadah) your name forever.

Yadah is not constrained to a particular time in history. Instead, the people of God will yadah for all eternity. Forever and ever. And though we've not yet reached the far shore of eternity, some three thousand years after this psalm was written, aren't God's people still praising him with raised hands?

Yadah — it's an active posture of praise expressed by those who adore God. It's an act of praise for all the people of God, whether charismatic, conservative, nondenominational, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, or Presbyterian. What's more, it's an eternal verb, one that transcends time and place; and one day, we'll come to see that it transcends our own corporeal bodies too. One day, we will yadah our God forever and ever. Shouldn't we start practicing now?


Holy Is the Lord

I was reared in a tradition of good, conservative, and Bible-believing folks who were buttoned up. We were not a people known for expressing emotion, especially in worship. So it should come as no surprise that I remember the scandalous moment a woman broke our house worship rules.

She was a middle-aged woman standing in a sea of four hundred congregants, and as the congregation moved into the chorus of some hymn we'd sung on hundreds of Sundays, she raised a single hand. It was an expression of adoration, of praise, but to the rest of the congregation it was alarming, a red flag, an indication of some sort of holy protest. The tension was palpable as a deacon crossed the sanctuary and asked her to lower her hand, to not make a scene, to conform.

We were not charismatic. We were not Holy Rollers. We were not people of raised hands.

Some years later, I attended a youth gathering where we sang songs with simpler melodies, songs of praise we called "choruses." Onstage, the leader led a song by the great worship pioneer, Dennis Jernigan. He built through the first verse, and as the chorus reached its crescendo, I felt the coming of a new freedom.

And with our hands lifted high,
we will worship and sing.
And with our hands lifted high,
we come before you rejoicing.
With our hands lifted high to the sky,
when the world wonders why.
We'll just tell them we're loving our King.

Swept up in the chorus, I raised my hands for the first time, and in that simple act I began to understand — my expression of worship affected and reflected the posture of my heart toward God. In this simple act of lifting my hands, it felt as if I was lifting my heart, too, and it was the most natural act of praise.

Years passed, and I became a worship leader and songwriter in my own right. Following the lead of those like Jernigan, I made it a practice to incorporate postures of worship into my songs. Yet did I fully understand the power of the hand raised in praise? In May 2003, I traveled to Sherman, Texas, for a worship gathering called One Day, hosting over forty thousand university students. There, I saw this expression of praise come to life.

In the months before the One Day, I'd been working on a chorus — one I thought God had put on my heart specifically for this gathering. I lifted the chorus straight from the pages of Isaiah 6:3 —"Holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory"— but I couldn't seem to find the right lyric for the verse. I approached my friend Louie Giglio, and he suggested I take a look at Nehemiah 8. "There's something there," he said. Following his lead, I opened the scriptures, and there, I found my missing lyrics. The verse flowed, almost without effort.

We stand and lift up our hands for the joy of the Lord is our strength.
We bow down and worship him, now.
How great, how awesome is he!
Together we sing,
Holy is the Lord, God Almighty!
The earth is full of his glory!

On that afternoon in May, I waited backstage to lead worship as notable preacher John Piper took the podium. If you know Dr. Piper, you know following him is no small task. Still unsure which song I'd lead after what was sure to be his incredible sermon, I listened for any cue. I was on my knees in the backstage grass, asking God, "Please don't let me mess this up." John stood at that podium, surveying the crowd and letting the tension settle. A moment passed, and in his smooth baritone, he began.

"I have a word for you from Isaiah 6. 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.'"

I listened as he spoke of the majesty and glory of a holy God, and I knew it. God had given me the song "Holy Is the Lord" for this gathering, this day, these people. Dr. Piper finished his sermon, and I took the stage with the band. I looked over the crowd, this mass of forty thousand university students, knowing I was about to field-test a song. I strummed the opening chords and sang the first verse. I sang the verse and chorus, eyes closed in worship. When I circled back to the verse, I opened my eyes. That's when I noticed it: a wave of hands lifted in the sea of people. It was a collective act of praise, a natural expression of gratitude to a good and holy God.

One: The Hands of Praise


But just as the lifting up of the hands is a symbol of confidence and longing, so in order to show our humility we fall down on our knees.


Read the following verses:

Psalm 28:2
Psalm 63:4
Psalm 88:9
Psalm 134:2
Psalm 141:2
Psalm 143:6
Lamentations 3:41
1 Kings 8:22

Personal and group reflection questions:

1. Based on the above verses, how common do you think the practice of lifting hands in worship was in the ancient world?

2. Do you regularly praise God by lifting your hands? If so, think about or describe the first time you remember lifting your hands in worship in a public setting.

3. Read the quote by John Calvin. Do any words or phrases stand out to you? How do these words impact the way you think about praising God?

4. How do you think lifting hands represents confidence and longing?

5. What are we communicating to God when we lift our hands?




Hâlal, haw-lal': To boast. To rave. To shine. To celebrate. To be clamorously foolish.

Let them praise (hâlal) his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.

PSALM 149:3

A couple of years ago my wife and I were invited to a Jewish wedding. I'd never been to one before and had no idea what I was getting into. There were differences in the ceremony — that much is true — but the culmination of the wedding was just like any other. There were vows, a kiss, and a pronouncement. There was a new union — husband and wife.

After the ceremony, we made our way to the reception where the real fun and games began. A huge banquet awaited us — a spread of food and drinks as impressive as any I'd ever seen at a wedding. There was grand music and dancing, and everyone shouted and laughed in celebration. And though I was the Gentile of Gentiles in the room (how else would you describe a Christian preacher at a Jewish wedding?), I quickly found that participation in this party was not optional.

I was watching the rowdy festivities when, without warning, two yarmulke-wearing men in their mid-sixties sandwiched me between them. Seconds later, I was swept into a dance with these two strangers, and after a few moments, as if on cue, both men threw their heads back and laughed with such energy that it seemed to come from their very souls. These guys knew how to have fun, but even more importantly, they knew how to draw others into their party. They knew that the cosmic union of souls, the coming together of two people in holy matrimony, was a thing worthy of foolish, near-nonsensical celebration. The celebration was for everyone, Jew and Gentile alike.

The wedding was an amazing experience, and those men personified a word I'd read in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. It was a word of praise, a word used again and again throughout the book of Psalms — halal.

Halal is the primary Hebrew word for praise. It's the word from which we derive the biblical word hallelujah. It's an exuberant expression of celebration, a word that connotes boasting, raving, or celebrating. It carries with it the notion of acting in a way that is "clamorously foolish." True halal contemplates laying aside your inhibitions and killing your self-consciousness.

In the Old Testament, the word hilul (which comes from the same root word) is used in two places outside the psalms. In both the book of Judges and the book of Leviticus, it is used to describe the way the people might celebrate a harvest festival. There, they'd dance on the grapes, expressing the harvest's juices for use in wine making. Imagine their enthusiasm as they danced and danced, as the hems of their robes were dyed purple. This dance carries with it the idea of halal.

Halal is used throughout the psalms. Psalm 69:30 reads, "I will praise (halal) God's name in song." Psalm 22:22 reads, "I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise (halal) you." In Psalm 109:30, the psalmist wrote, "With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng of worshippers I will praise (halal) him." But though these psalms were written in the first person, they were often sung corporately. Because psalms of halal were not static declarations, because they were meant for corporate celebration, let's consider the shape of that celebration using Psalm 149:3. The text of the psalm is simple:

Let them praise (halal) his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.

Imagine the Hebrew people gathered together. There, tens of thousands of Levites and musicians faced the Israelites, and together, they formed a sort of praise pit. The Levites and musicians played, and as their songs rose, a combustible energy built and built and built until some spark of God ignited the praises of the people. In that moment, the worshippers began to shout, laugh, and dance. They jumped around, hands raised. To the outside observer, they might have appeared drunk or foolish, but they were most sober in their celebration of God; they were incarnating halal.

The concept of halal is so embedded in the notion of praise that it serves as a capstone to the entire book of Psalms. In Psalm 150:6, the writer concludes, "Let everything that has breath praise (halal) the Lord."

The God of the universe made us to praise him with abandon, like foolish but fun-loving children. Sometimes I wonder if God looks down on North America, if he sees our dignified, carefully orchestrated worship experiences, and wishes we'd cut loose. I wonder if he wishes we'd celebrate him the way those two Jewish gentlemen celebrated at that wedding I attended. I wonder if he wishes we'd join the party, that we'd step out onto his great dance floor and risk being undignified.


Excerpted from "Holy Roar"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Bowyer & Bow, LLC and Darren Whitehead.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

About this Book, 9,
Introduction, 12,
One: The Hands of Praise, 17,
Two: The Fools of Praise, 31,
Three: The Music of Praise, 43,
Four: The Expectation of Praise, 55,
Five: The Posture of Praise, 69,
Six: The Songs of Praise, 83,
Seven: The Shout of Praise, 95,
Conclusion: The Practice of Praise, 109,
Appendix, 120,
Notes, 123,
Acknowledgments, 125,
About the Authors, 127,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

'I can't think of two more powerful voices to call us to a vibrant life of worship than Chris Tomlin and Darren Whitehead. Holy Roar is just that . . . a soul-igniting resource for churches and for people everywhere.' — Louie Giglio, founder of the Passion movement

'Chris and Darren have written an inspiring, insightful, and practical book on worship.' — Max Lucado, New York Times bestselling author

'It's essential that we worship God with understanding, and therefore this is an important book. Read it. It's time to join the holy roar!' — Matt Redman, Grammy Award–winning singer, songwriter, and author

'As I turned each page, my heart was freshly inspired again to worship our great God with everything I have.' — Michael W. Smith, Grammy Award–winning singer, songwriter, and author

'In this book Chris and Darren will open your eyes to all that you have at your disposal when it comes to worship.' — Levi Lusko, bestselling author and pastor of Fresh Life Church

'Holy Roar is packed with fresh insights and illuminating stories. This book will change the way you worship.' — Greg Laurie, bestselling author and pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship

'What an amazing invitation to uncover the transforming language of our personal praise to God.' — Nathan and Christy Nockels, singers, songwriters, and founders of the band Watermark

'If there's a textbook for Praise and Worship 101, this is it. I highly recommend this book to the church leader and churchgoer alike.' — Matt Maher, Grammy Award–nominated singer, songwriter, and author

'I believe this book will help the greater church become rich in understanding, as the Holy Spirit leads us to live authentic, purposed, and worshipful lives.' — Darlene Zschech, worship leader, singer-songwriter, and pioneer of the modern worship movement

'I believe this book will play a major role in the church's understanding of worship in years to come.' — Banning Liebscher, founder and pastor of Jesus Culture

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