One Hebrew word has found its way into English usage apparently without much regard to its meaning. It appears frequently in the Psalms (104:35 105:45 106:1,48 111:1 112:1 113:1,9 115:18 116:19, 117:2 135:1,3,21 146:1,10 147:1,20 148:1,14 149:1,9 150:1, and 150:6). Another is “Amen” which is now used to express appreciation instead of agreement or verification, i.e. saying “I agree”, or “Let it be so”. “Hallelujah” has also become popular through George Friderich Handel’s oratorio, Messiah. The use of it in churches as a term of praise to God is misguided, because the word is a command or exhortation, not an expression of praise.
When a worship leader (song leader as in the Psalms) says “Hallelujah” the response should be “I praise you Yahweh”. What is happening is that worshippers are simply passing on the exhortation. Imagine a military drill officer saying “Attention!”, and the troops under his command responding “Attention!” instead of standing at (coming to) attention.
The proper answer to “Hallelujah” is “Hallaltika ***“, meaning “I praise you ***” and the worshipper may replace the “***” with the appropriate name of God. Hopefully, instead of mindlessly repeating the word “Hallelujah” the worshipper will respond in their own language with phrases like “I praise you Jesus”, “I praise you Father”, “Thanks so much Holy Spirit”, or “I praise/love/adore you Lamb of God”, and the leader should also join in the offering of praise.
As a result of this misunderstanding there are many hymns which contain the phrase “Praise the Lord” and few which have the praise “I praise you Lord”. Understanding the intent of the Hebrew word makes for a much more meaningful conversation between the leader, the worshipper and God.
For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding (Psalm 47:7)