Maximize your prayer with Praise

Praying with Praise

Most people would define prayer as talking to God. Which you could claim is accurate, up until a point. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prayer is the interaction between God and us. “In prayer, the faithful God’s initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama1.”  Like human relationships, conversations are fundamental to building any relationship. How else do you get to know someone unless you strike up a conversation?

A monologue that you do by yourself to God is not prayer. If prayer is a reciprocal call, then it needs to be a conversation, a two way street of communication. So how do we talk with God to get to know Him and hear what he wants to tell us?

 

Before we get started

One key rule for prayer before we dive in: we need to be honest and transparent in our prayer. It’s hard to build any sort of lasting relationship if we are not honest about who we are. Think about it: God created you and he knows you better than you know yourself. This may be a little scary, but if it’s true, why should we hide from him? We’re not going to surprise him with anything. We need to come as we are, to be transparent about our needs and where we are.freindship

Let’s continue with the image of building a friendship. Let’s say you’ve met someone that you would like to have as your friend. If you are serious with your interest, the first and most fundamental thing you do is make time for that person in order to get to know them. If you don’t make time for them, you can’t be serious about the potential new relationship.

If you’re serious about getting to know God and building a relationship with Him you need to make time for Him. You need to commit to the relationship and commit to spending regular time with Him. How many close friends have you developed by getting in touch with them irregularly?

 

Praying with Praise

Okay, so we’ve committed to the relationship, and we’re now sitting down one-on-one in a coffee shop with this person. we’ve passed through the initial greetings, and are about to start our conversation. If you were sitting with your personal hero and role model, your conversation would be one of excited deference and respect. When it comes to God, how can we treat Him with the deference due to him, but not feel like we need to be stiff and formal? This is where praying with praise can come in and help us.

When we pray with praise, especially when we start our prayer with praise, it establishes the right relationship between ourselves and God.

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“Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS. It shares in the blessed happiness of the pure of heart who love God in faith before seeing him in glory. By praise, the Spirit is joined to our spirits to bear witness that we are children of God, testifying to the only Son in whom we are adopted and by whom we glorify the Father. Praise embraces the other forms of prayer and carries them toward him who is its source and goal: the “one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist.” CCC 2639

How great is that? Not only does praise help us recognize God as God, but it also binds together the other forms of prayer and carries it to God. Praise should be an integral part of our prayer routines. To get started praying with praise, let’s take look at two ways you can use praise during your prayer time.

 

The Psalms

The psalms are prayers of praise we find in scripture. The beauty of the psalms is they cover the whole gamut of human emotions: joy, despair, anger, contrition, thankfulness and more. Remember how we mentioned we need to come as we are to our prayer time? The psalms meet us where we are—no matter how we’re feeling—and lift us back to Christ.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the psalms the “prayer of the assembly,” a fancy way of saying the psalms are the prayer of the people.

“Certain constant characteristics appear throughout the Psalms: simplicity and spontaneity of prayer; the desire for God himself through and with all that is good in his creation; the distraught situation of the believer who, in his preferential love for the Lord, is exposed to a host of enemies and temptations, but who waits upon what the faithful God will do, in the certitude of his love and in submission to his will. the prayer of the psalms is always sustained by praise; that is why the title of this collection as handed down to us is so fitting: “The Praises.” CCC 2589

I think we can all relate to the statement above, specifically: “the distraught situation of the believer who, in preferential love for the Lord, is exposed to a host of enemies and temptations”. (CCC 2589) Life is difficult, and it is very easy to get weighed down by everything that is going wrong. The Psalms show us how, in the midst of our struggles, we can still give praise to God in an authentic manner which acknowledges our sufferings but still places our hope in God.

The psalms are sustained by praise. If we want to learn how to praise God at all times, even in situations where we don’t see how we can praise God, we need to enter into the psalms. They are the master class of praise through all the highs and lows that life can lead us through.

 

Praise and Worship

Praising and worshiping God through music is nothing new to the Church. For example, the Te Deum is one of the oldest songs of praise used in the Catholic Church and is typically attributed to St. Ambrose and St. Augustine in AD 387. The Te Deum is sung at special events such as the election of a pope and is often included in the Divine Office2. Since the early church, music has been a foundation for praising God.

Praise and WorshipWe may find that some of the contemporary music used at mass may not inspire us to praise God with our whole hearts. Worship music isn’t contained only to songs we hear at mass. Since the sixties, there has been an abundance of high-quality praise and worship music created.


Here is a list of some inspiring contemporary praise and worship songs as chosen by one of the lead worship leaders here at CCO:

Who you say I am – Hillsong Worship

Jesus I love you – Joe Zambon

The Way – Pat Barrett

Oh How We Love You – United Pursuit

Just as I am – Matt Maher

Because He Lives – Matt Maher

Come As You Are – Crowder

All of the links above take you to the lyric video for each of the songs. When you listen to these, read the lyrics! We want to engage as many of the senses as possible. After all, God created us with material bodies and the more we can engage our senses in prayer, the more we can enter into prayer.

 

Get Started

Think of it as warming up before exercise. You don’t have to do it, but when you do you can often get a better workout in. Same thing with prayer. Start with praise to get you into the right space for a better prayer time. If you are new to developing a prayer life, or at a period of life where time is limited, three to five minutes is all you need to get started.

With the psalms, the easiest (least brain power required) way to get going is to read the psalm of the day from the mass. Rather than just reading what is in the daily readings, pick up your Bible (the real one, not the digital copy) and read the entire psalm. This will allow you to get the full experience of the psalm, and not just catch snippets. You’ll find far more fruit when you pray through the entirety of the psalm.

PraiseAnother way is to start with the first psalm and to work your way through one every day. Now there are 150 psalms, so it will take you almost half a year to get through them all if you are consistent. This method can give you a good overview of the psalms, and then if you switch to following the rhythms of the Church through the readings, you may find you are more comfortable.

With praise and worship music it’s as easy as picking a song you like; one that speaks to you. Listen to it when you start your prayer time. Read the lyrics as you go, and if you are bold enough, sing along out loud! With praise and worship, you’ll find you go through songs faster than if you read the psalms. If you’re on a time crunch, this can be a very effective form of praise. If you are in the habit of praying for longer stretches of time, thirty minutes or more, listen to several songs and enter into praising God.

 

The fruit of praying with praise.

Praise establishes us in the right orientation with God, and binds together the other forms of prayer, bringing them to our Lord. Both the Psalms and praise and worship music are highly effective means of praying with praise. Prayer does not stop with praise. Praise allows us to enter more deeply into a prayerful state and sets us up for more effective prayer. In our next podcast episode, as well as blog post we will go into more depth on the following forms of prayer: verbal prayer, meditative prayer, and contemplative prayer.

Stay tuned for our next installment into our series on prayer in January, after our Advent series. 

 

 

 

  1. CCC 2567
  2. Wikipedia
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