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More on learning to praise God… – Part II of II

May 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Praise

Q: Dear Father John, Can you give any help on how to learn to praise God? I enjoy going to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and would really like to learn how to praise Him. I don’t feel my words are adequately expressing the praise I really would like to give. Thanksgiving is easier, but I would be grateful for some advice on the praise side.

A: In the first post on this topic we covered the essence of praise and the value of praise. Now we will cover ways of praise.

If you have read this far, you have probably already realized that, in spite of your question, you already do praise God. The desire to praise him is already a prayer of praise. But you desire to praise him more fully, more adequately than you have been able to so far. As long as you accept the simple fact that you will never be able to praise God fully (he is infinite, we and our words and gestures are finite), I will offer some suggestions that may help you fulfill your desire to do so better.

First of all, join your own words and desires of praise to those of Christ. Jesus, as true man and true God, can praise the Father fully. And when we unite our prayers to his, our imperfect and finite prayers are swept up into his infinite and perfect prayer. This is really what the Mass is all about. Read over the Eucharistic Prayers of the missal, and then, during Mass, really listen to the words of the priest and unite yourself to them. In this way, your praise will be magnified and elevated through its contact with Christ’s own praise. Something similar happens during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In the Sacrament, Jesus continues to offer himself to the Father for us; his incarnation, with all of his activities and mysteries, is somehow present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. When we kneel in adoration in his presence, our lives are linked to his life and lifted up, with him, to the Father. This is an expression and mode of praise.

Second, use prayers from the Bible and make them your own. The Our Father, in the first place, begins with praise and adoration and ends by covering every aspect of P.A.S.T.A. It really is the model of prayer. If you haven’t read the section in the Catechism on the Our Father (in Part IV), I highly recommend that you do so. You will discover dizzying depths of meaning in those few words, and they will become for you more powerful vehicles of praise. But many other prayers of praise can be found in the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit put them there precisely because he knew we would need help to express our admiration and awe (as well as our confusion and sorrow) when we address the Lord. Look for instance at the first part of Esther’s prayer and Judith’s prayer (in the Books of Esther and Judith, respectively), and flip through the Psalms (for example, Psalm 18[19], Psalms 103 and 104 [104-105]). We have a library of inspired praise at our fingertips.

Third, if you like to write, you may want to compose some of your own “psalms of praise,” expressing in your own words your appreciation of those characteristics of God that have most moved you. Even if you are not a writer, you may surprise yourself if you try this exercise. Each one of us has an individualized experience of God, and composing your own prayers of praise can help bring that experience into greater focus, thus giving great glory to the Lord. If you simply don’t write, you may find it useful to memorize a few hymns, songs, or poems that resonate in your heart, and use these as prayers of praise.

(On that note, I would like to ask our readers to share some of their favorite hymns, poems, or prayers of praise. Although our experience of God is individualized, we are also all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and so we can learn a lot from each other and benefit from each others’ experience.)

Fourth, use litanies. Many Christians don’t understand the purpose of litanies – which seem like long lists of mechanically repetitive phrases. One of their purposes, however, is precisely to meet the need you expressed in your question. So often we just don’t have adequate words to express what is in our hearts. And so, we place those inexpressible sentiments inside the words of a litany, trusting that the Holy Spirit will do the work of a good interpreter: “In the same way, the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, since we do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). I personally like the Litany of the Sacred Heart and the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Finally, don’t be afraid of silence. Gazing with delight in your heart at God’s beauty and magnificence is in itself a prayer of praise that gives God great pleasure and deepens our relationship with him. In these times, often simply repeating the name of the Lord, “Jesus,” is praise enough. As Pope Benedict XVI put it in a homily on July 4, 2010: “Let us not be afraid to be silent outside and inside ourselves, so that we are able not only to perceive God’s voice, but also the voice of the person next to us, the voices of others… [W]e must be attentive, always keep our ‘interior eyes’ open, the eyes of our heart. And if we learn how to know God in his infinite goodness, then we will be able to see, with wonder, in our lives – as the saints did – the signs of that God, who is always near to us, who is always good to us, who says: ‘Have faith in me!’”

May praise be your song in a special way during this Easter Season of our King’s eternal victory.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published two other titles: "Meditations for Mothers" and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently resides in his Order’s General Directorate in Rome, where he is continuing his writing apostolate. His blog contains questions and answers on the spiritual life at www.RCSpiritualDirection.com. His online retreats are available at www.RCSpirituality.org.

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  • faithful123

    What an inspiriing and insightful article! I truly never gave it thought, in our weak state of humanity known as concupiscence we are not fully able to give praise to our all knowing and ever present unconditionally loving God. Heck,

    we humans often find it hard to give any praise to each other; so how could we

    possibly adequately praise our God!

    Definitely another reason to give others as to why we attend The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! In such attendance; we imitate our Lord’s sacrifice of Calvary – when he gave of himself for others; and we ‘give of our weak lives’ to Him that

    He might come to live within us (Luke chap. 9 v 23 – 24) “our” prayers, and our

    praise are heard through God’s ONLY beloved son! Yes! I understand.

    As far as giving praise goes, our God gave us the example in our Lord God

    incarnate Christ Jesus who gave us a few clues on how to praise the Father.

    First, Jesus said: “I can do nothing except what the Father tells me” High

    praise indeed to the Father! To us, he spoke: “not all who say “Lord Lord”

    will enter into the Kingdom but only those who do the will of the Father.”

    Another insight to me: So often we just don’t have adequate words to express what is in our hearts. I’ve been called ‘shy’ or ‘timid’ in my youthful days.

    I was noticeably quiet around others; letting them do the talking. Allowing

    them to ‘tell me’ how I should be or could be better. Though they called me

    quiet; they really never gave me much of a hard time. Seems I was ‘liked’

    better than when I suddenly understood ‘in Spirit’ and tried to share with

    these others. As you wrote “Let us not be afraid to be silent outside and inside ourselves, so that
    we are able not only to perceive God’s voice, but also the voice of the
    person next to us, the voices of others” It is ‘ok’ to be quiet.

    Listening to others words is the highest form of praise to them BUT taking

    it a step further — we need to discern the words of the others in our life path,

    to hear or not hear God’s spirit speaking thru them. God is not looking for

    gushy praise (flattery) from us, he can see through such with ease. He is

    pleased more by our actions that imitate (even imperfect imitation) of His

    goodness.

    GOD speaks in whispers (so we praise Him when we speak softly but

    firmly) God does not really “multi task” but moves with a seemingly slow

    to our human mind purpose, God incarnate was meek (patient with all

    others) Humble (Humility and good humor at ourselves goes hand in hand)

    If we laugh first at us; our “enemies” have less ammo to aim at us. God

    incarnate came to serve not be served – but being humble — He did on

    occasion ask ‘us’ to help HIM. HIGH PRAISE indeed for us, by our God.

    (asking the woman at the well for a drink of water, allowing the woman

    to pour expensive oils over his head, letting Martha cook a meal for Him,

    and of course instructing his 12 apostles to do His work, and build up

    God’s kingdom.)

    So …from this article I gather ‘weak me’ will praise GOD Father and

    GOD son best; not by lots of words to others (speaking of personal

    relationship, or how much I know of how to be GOOD; as ‘the rich

    man’ spoke of following the commandments) GOD is MOST PRAISED

    just as our GOOD parents are most praised…when we take HIS

    WORD and ACT on it – in His GOOD name. His word is THE WORD

    made flesh… so IMITATING Jesus’ life is a great PRAISE to GOD,

    FATHER.

  • Jcbf19

    This is very beautiful, and very encouraging-thanks, Father!
    There is a non Catholic Christian musician/singer whose music lifts my heart, and most of his songs are Scriptural full of insight and inspiring to adoring Christ for me- Michael Card. One extensive work of his that I recommend is called something like “The Life”.

    • Rasuquo

      John Michael Talbot is also great. Try him.

  • ana

    “…but also the voice of the person next to us……” Sometimes During Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament,  I will spot a young person, ( I´m a grandmother, so almost everybody is a young person to me) deep in prayer, and I will tell Jesus that I unite my prayer to that person´s. I supose that is listining “to  the voice of others”. I´m grateful to Pope Benedict XVI  for putting it into words for me.

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