Friday, February 10, 2012

Why You Need To Praise God

An imaginary reader1 writes in, asking the following question in reference to my post about thriving:
When you are talking about prayer, what do you mean by "praise & adoration"?
Good question!

1. The Most Important Prayer

Praise and adoration is the most important way to pray.

Yes, I see you rolling your eyes. Miss Biddle down the street told you that if only everyone prayed the Rosary we would have bunnies everywhere, and your Baptist neighbor Mr. Hill sternly informs you that the only prayer that matters is the Salvation Prayer where you first accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

You have a million people telling you that their favorite way to pray is the absolute best way to pray in the whole bleeping world.

But I'm right.

Because Jesus said so.

Our Father in Matthew 6
Our Father in Luke 11
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive
everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.

This is Jesus' carefully crafted masterpiece on prayer. Its short-and-sweet appearance is just the icing on a very deep cake. For today, what you need to know is that these phrases are arranged from the most important to the least important2.

And what's right at the top?

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

That is praise and adoration.

2. How do you DO praise and adoration?

Mostly, you do it by doing it.

You can start with thanking him. Thank Him for creating the world, thank him for not making you shovel snow out of the driveway yesterday. Especially remember to thank him for answered prayers. It's like thanking your aunt Hilda for the $50 in your birthday card, so that there will be another $50 next year.

Or, you know, if you've achieved higher levels of sanctity than I have, you might just thank him because you're purely grateful, without any hint of self-serving-ness about it.

Move on to telling him how mind-blowingly amazing he is. Pull out a thesaurus, make a list, get ideas from the Bible3, steal lyrics from praise songssing praise songs. If you run out of words and are just sitting there being in awe of Him, awesome.

Lifting your hands also fits in with that whole "incarnational theology" thing that some people are into.4

3. But what about ...?

...But what if I don't feel any of these things? Isn't that lying?

Do you only make your kid say "Sorry for slapping you upside the head and then kneeing you in the groin" if he feels sorry? If so, you're a jerk and you're doing it wrong. Mature, decent adults say "thank you" for a present they don't want, because the gift-giver deserves the thanks, even if they suck at picking out presents.5 God deserves your praise, whether you feel like giving it to him or not.

...But isn't it vain or self-serving of God to ask for praise?

No. It's vain and self-serving if we ask for ridiculous amounts of praise, because we aren't that awesome and we don't deserve it. He is, and He does.

And we probably get more benefit from it than he does, anyhow.

...But I feel so awkward about it!

Yeah, cause all of the greatest things in life - sex, marriage, friends, kids, work - they all go incredibly smoothly right from the start.

Oh wait, no they don't.

They're all as awkward as bleep when you first get started. That's life. The only way to get over the awkwardness is to keep doing it until it gets easier.

...But how long and how often do I need to do this?

The Our Father is a daily prayer, so "every day" is a good bet for how often. Jesus does not, however, say how long you have to do it for, so let's not set too many rules about it. If you need some sort of guideline to get you started, I'd guess I spend about 5-10 minutes of my prayer time on this, most days. (On an occasional bad day, all I have time for is a quick, "I love you, God". And there's probably people out there who praise God for 30 minutes straight, so maybe I'm doing it wrong.)

1. I'm not letting the lack of a reader who actually asked me that question get in the way of me answering it. ;)

2. "The Lord's Prayer is the most perfect of prayers. . . . In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired." [CCC, quoting Aquinas] If you are not fully convinced by this Our-Father argument, consider also that when Jesus was asked what the most important thing to do was, his answer was basically "love God with all your being". (see Matthew 22:37 and Luke 10:27). There are many ways to show love for God (serving people, studying the Bible, etc.), but the most direct way to show your love for God in prayer is to tell Him (with words or without) that you love Him and how great He is. This is the essence of praise and adoration.

3. Some places to start: Psalms 98, 100, 113, 117, 146, 147, and 150. Acts 13: 16-39, Ephesians 1:3-10, Hebrews 7:26, Rev 4, and Rev 15.

4. See 1 Tim 2:8 and Nehemiah 8:6.  The latter also mentions praying with your face to the ground before the Lord... if you haven't tried that, you should.

5. I find the fake it till you make it principle applies here, too. If I don't "feel" it, saying it anyway goes a long ways towards getting me to feel it.

No comments:

Post a Comment