Praise God! What does that mean?

9 Oct

Sometimes praise of God is vocal, active, singing, even dancing. But sometimes to praise God is realized when you sit still with him and become one with him.

In my work as a Catholic journalist, speaker and preacher, I have visited many parishes, prayer groups and conferences. Worshiping and sharing insights and ideas have been a great blessing for me.

Among charismatic prayer groups great emphasis is placed on praising God who, indeed, deserves our praise, gratitude and fidelity.

But what does it mean to praise God?

It means to acknowledge and celebrate God’s complete otherness, his presence in us and in our prayer. It means to be subject to him – with joy and love – and to embrace his will and his way.

We praise God in song – even in dance; we praise him in the liturgy of the Word and Eucharist; we praise him in reception of the sacraments – and we praise him in silence as we stand before him knowing that no words or thoughts can adequately praise. Our human mind and language are too frail and no match for what God deserves in praise.

Praise is prayer.

St. Ambrose wrote pointedly on praise and prayer – and I think we can apply what he says about prayer to our desire to praise and the way in which we can praise God faithfully (Liturgy of the Hours, Book IV, Pgs 346-347)

              If you praise God you offer him your vow and fulfill the promise you have made.

  • What vow? Your baptismal vow; your marriage vows; the vow you made at ordination; the vow to live a chaste life married or single.
  • What promise? The one you make in seeking forgiveness and reconciliation – to do penance and amend your behavior; the one you make in accepting your part in the mission of Christ – to love and to forgive, to share what God has done for you, to help the needy, to stand up for God and Church in the face of persecution – bloody or otherwise.

St. Ambrose continues:

(The Lord) urges you to pray earnestly and frequently, not offering long and wearisome prayers, but praying often, and with perseverance. Lengthy prayers are usually filled with empty words, while neglect of prayer results in indifference to prayer (See Mt 6:5-8).

God knows what you want and need before you know it. That’s why it’s useless to attack God with frantic pleas and empty promises. Just acknowledge his omnipotence, trust him, state your desire and then thank him in advance for whatever way he decides to answer your prayer. He’s a bit smarter than you are.

St. Ambrose also urges us to pray for everyone, stating that if we pray for everyone and everyone prays for everyone, everyone is praying for you. Not a bad trade-off!

One parting thought: You are praising God when you sit and listen to inspired preaching or when you sit and reflect on Scripture. Praise does not have to be lively, emotional, musical or loud.

Ultimately, for me at least, to praise God is to sit and bask gratefully in his love.

NOTE: St. Ambrose was a catechumen in Milan when the people elected him their bishop. He was baptized and then a week later consecrated bishop on Dec. 7, 374. He gave away his wealth and worked for the poor –and his life and witness influenced St. Augustine to become converted to Christ. (Bert Ghezzi, “Voices of the Saints,” Doubleday, Pgs. 12-13.)


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