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How can I better praise God?

March 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Adoration, Dan Burke, Meditation, Mental Prayer, Praise, Prayer

Dear Dan, 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.

Dear Friend, thank you for asking. This is a very touching question… a beautiful expression just in the asking alone.

The most helpful means to me in developing my own language of praise and adoration is praying the prayers of the saints. As an example, one of my favorite prayers during Lent is expressed in St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s version of The Way of the Cross. In his reflection at the second station he says,

My most beloved Jesus, I embrace all the sufferings You have destined for me until death. I beg You by all You suffered in carrying Your cross, to help me carry mine with your perfect peace and resignation. I love You, Jesus my love; I repent of ever having offended You. Never let me separate myself from You again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

The first time I prayed this I felt uncomfortable. I just didn’t feel that it was completely true. Yes, I love Jesus, but, I know that my heart is divided. I love him with what seems to me to be a deep love, but I am also very aware of my sin and the fact that my love is not always as whole-hearted as I desire it to be. So, it felt a bit disingenuous saying the words, “I love you Jesus my love.” It seemed more honest to pray, “I don’t love you as much as I should, but I want to love you far more than I do.”

My rescue came in the writings of St. Catherine of Siena. She relays how it is not possible for us to atone for even the smallest sin (if there is such thing as a small sin). She notes that even though this is true, with God’s grace working through us to love him, we are far more capable, by that virtue-amplifying grace, to repent and thus love God more completely. I realized that when I am expressing even the most meager half-hearted and poorly worded praise, that my words are reaching God in a way that has far more beauty and grace than I could ever muster on my own. It is something like little poorly skilled boy producing a painting that expresses his love for God. He works as hard as he can but from a human standpoint the painting is artistically pitiful. However, by God’s empowering grace, he receives, in the boy’s desire and his own amplifying grace, a painting that is more beautiful than Michelangelo could ever produce.

I was further comforted by the amazing words of a poem written by Saint Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart, O.C.D.

…How can you say you do not love God when your very desire of loving is love itself?

It is the sweet flame which escapes from the secret furnace of your heart…

With respect to praying with the saints, there are many good books available. One that I have found a particular blessing is Divine Intimacy. For every day of the year, following the Liturgical calendar, there are meditations and very beautiful prayers from Carmelite saints and other holy men and women. Praying these prayers and making them my own has been extremely helpful.

Another approach that I have found helpful is to personalize the treasure of our traditional prayers. For instance, I begin almost all of my meditation times with an adaptation of the Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love. When I first began this practice I simply prayed them as they are. Over time, I began to pray extemporaneously through the ideas and sentiments that they contain. That is, I made these acts my own either in the traditional form or adapted them to personal experience and the state of my heart each time I entered into meditation. This morning I prayed something like this for my act of faith:

Lord, I believe in you. Thank you for being present to me. I am grateful that you desire my presence in spite of my sin. Before the foundation of the world you formed me out of nothing in order to be in communion with me. You sent your son to help me understand that no matter the depth of my sin, there is redemption for me. I believe in your love. Therefore, I hope in you…

When I am feeling less able to express myself, I simply return to the traditional forms and pray them as my own prayer or I just sit in the quiet and gently repeat, “I love you Jesus my love. Grant that I might love you always, and then do with me what you will.”

For all of our devout friends out there, what approaches have you taken to improve your ability to praise God?

Dan

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • LizEst

    Here is a prayer:
    “Lord, I cannot offer you the praise that is worthy of you and, therefore, desire to praise you with that praise that is the love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a praise and love that is infinite and expressed in ways I cannot even imagine. If I could become that praise, I would do so eternally, and join this desire to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered throughout the world for all time and the Heavenly Liturgy offered forever. Amen.”

  • Hofgb

    That is a very nice picture of Mother Mary!

  • faithful123

    When I was a child, I thought like a child but… when I became ‘a (wo)man’ … (ie: fully mature)…

    I would think the greatest praise is to imitate the spirit that is God
    (God aka Love) Makes sense right? A child who loves mommy and daddy
    will imitate the actions of mommy and daddy. Or what praise a wife gives
    husband when she says “I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without
    the encouraging words you gave me thru the years dear.” and ditto the
    husband to the wife.

    And is that what our Lord said: A son can do nothing except what the the Father shows. High praise that was for His Father who art in heaven.

    I guess our Lord, who was God Incarnate, taught us the best way to praise
    God was in living God’s spirit to others. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    Everytime we ‘forget our needs and self’ for the sake of another…God does
    hear our praise of Him.

  • Heather

    I really love the prayer of St. Augustine that is also used in the consecration of the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a prayer that I have kept in my exercises and it brings tears to my eyes always because it rings so truly to me… especially as a sinner.

    Prayer of Saint Augustine

    “O Jesus Christ, you are my Father, my merciful God, my great King, my good Shepherd, my only Master, my best helper, my beloved friend of overwhelming beauty, my living Bread, my eternal priest. You are my guide to my heavenly home, my one true light, my holy joy, my true way, my shining wisdom, my unfeigned simplicity, the peace and harmony of my soul, my perfect safeguard, my bounteous inheritance, my everlasting salvation.

    My loving Lord, Jesus Christ, why have I ever loved or desired anything else in my life but you, my God? Where was I when I was not in communion with you? From now on, I direct all my desires to be inspired by you and centred on you. I direct them to press forward for they have tarried long enough, to hasten towards their goal, to seek the one they yearn for.

    O Jesus, let him who does not love you be accursed, and filled with bitterness. O gentle Jesus, let every worthy feeling of mine show you love, take delight in you and admire you. O God of my heart and my inheritance, Christ Jesus, may my heart mellow before the influence of your spirit and may you live in me. May the flame of your love burn in my soul. May it burn incessantly on the altar of my heart. May it glow in my innermost being. May it spread its heat into the hidden recesses of my soul and on the day of my consummation may I appear before you consumed in your love”. Amen.

  • Panicker Bharat

    Isn’t the Holy Mass the highest form of praise,adoration,thanksgiving and petition?

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Dear Friend: Of course the Mass is the highest expression of prayer and praise that can be offered in this life. However, the disposition of one’s heart is another matter. This latter matter (no rhyme intended) is the subject of the post.

  • faithful123

    My initial comment, I think, can be the answer to Panicker who asks ‘Isn’t the Holy Mass the highest form of praise,adoration,thanksgiving and petition?’

    I wrote: Everytime we ‘forget our needs and self’ for the sake of another…God does hear our praise of Him. I guess, I did put the cart before the horse…
    first: comes the consecration of the bread come down from heaven. When
    we ‘offer’ our weak selves to the Son; offer him all of our ‘self’ thoughts, ways
    and faults that might lead us to sin (again) after having repented. The son
    can do nothing except what He sees the father doing…and we don’t come to the Father except thru the son’ … So, it is the ultimate praise to God, Father
    to take into us the spiritual life of His ONLY begotten Son…

    and from that… we are transformed and able to live lives of authentic love.
    (authentic God) patience, kindness, self-less ways, no grudges or holding
    to wrongs done to us…It’s a slow transforming life ‘process’ of praise …

    Paniker is correct…first things first.

  • Gmadero

    Excelente, thank you.

  • Susan

    Wow, some beautiful prayers, but I can’t believe no one has suggested praying with the psalms! The psalms of praise are an amazing help to praising God with the communion of all those who pray them, through the liturgy of the hours and throughout time! I love praying the psalms for praise. I agree it is a beautiful question, and the sort of question that God truly plants in you!

  • Evarg

    How about a book of psalms? The psalms often focus on praising God. I sometimes write down my thoughts and I end up writing words of praise for God in prose or poem. Perhaps you should join a Charismatic Prayer group as well, they usually do praising at the beginning of their meetings and I really think it is one of the best things in this world, to be able to adora and praise our wonderful God and it puts everything into perspective if you are having a bad day.

    God Bless

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Dear Friend: Yours is a great point and I had considered it but the post was getting a bit long. The language of the psalms is very beautiful and should be consulted for anyone seeking to deepen their language of praise!

  • Roz

    In a wonderful book about St. Therese of Lisieux, Everything is Grace, Joseph F. Schmidt, FSC, he says this: “Therese was coming to understand that for her to love Jesus was primarily for her to receive Jesus’ love. To love was not a matter of her trying to love Jesus or to love others with her own love. She knew she could not do that,simply because her own love was mostly self-love.” p. 137 I have found this to be transforming – especially while in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

  • Maren

    Thank you Dan…your diection is beautiful!

  • Lflynn

    Thank you sharing this. I am on that same journey of prayer. I asked my pastor last Thursday,”How can I make my prayers more; I am tired and sometimes I feel like I am reading or saying words.” He told me to get enough rest, 🙂 and when this happens to me stop saying the words and say,”Here I am Lord!” and He will bring me back. I visioned this as I was lost and yelled for God to come get me, so we can be together, again. Thank you, again for sharing your experience.

  • Iowafarmwife

    I love the prayers that everyone has shared on here. In addition, I would also encourage anyone to read through the psalms. There a a number of lovely psalms that give praise to God, too.

  • Julie

    I learned by listening to and singing along with Chrisitan Praise Music. Some of them are beautiful prayers of praise!

  • Becky Ward

    Praise was difficult for me too………mostly because I wasn’t sure what praising God was supposed to look like. He’s GOD after all……..do we say, “Nice job with the rainbow there Lord!”?

    Gratitude and thankfulness come easy for me, through the advice of the saints and many others on this journey I have learned that the simple act of appreciating the goodness and beauty that comes to us in each moment can be an act of praise.

    YES!! Thank you God for that beautiful rainbow!! I am the only person here right now in this time and place that sees it as you have shown it to me……..just for me……………I believe that……….help my unbelief.

    Holding an infant as they fall asleep in your arms……….marveling at how they grow and how each finger, toe and other body parts are all where they are supposed to be and grow at the proper rate……………….and those first little smiles……….what a gift!

    I also find great beauty in fine craftsmanship of any sort……a piece of music, good teamwork, old fashioned clocks, etc. Just the fact that we notice these things pleases God………….and gives Him praise.

    Awe and wonder, and acknowledging Him as our Creator can be as effective as the time spent in meditation or with vocal prayer. He draws each of us to the ways that are best suited to who we are and what our relationship with Him is.

    Blessings!

  • Memlouise

    The Way of the Cross is available on CD featuring beautiful narration by Liam Neeson.

  • barbaradonlon

    I am told that Centering prayer is a deep & worthy form of praise to God any comments on this subject? Barbara

  • Matt

    Another power pray of praise is the Te Deum, one of St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross’ favorite prayers. It is a wonderful way to start your day –

    One version:

    We praise thee, O God :
    we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
    All the earth doth worship thee :
    the Father everlasting.
    To thee all Angels cry aloud :
    the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
    To thee Cherubim and Seraphim :
    continually do cry,
    Holy, Holy, Holy :
    Lord God of Sabaoth;
    Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty :
    of thy glory.
    The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.
    The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.
    The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.
    The holy Church throughout all the world :
    doth acknowledge thee;
    The Father : of an infinite Majesty;
    Thine honourable, true : and only Son;
    Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.
    Thou art the King of Glory : O Christ.
    Thou art the everlasting Son : of the Father.
    When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man :
    thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
    When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death :
    thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
    Thou sittest at the right hand of God : in the glory of the Father.
    We believe that thou shalt come : to be our Judge.
    We therefore pray thee, help thy servants :
    whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
    Make them to be numbered with thy Saints : in glory everlasting.

    [added later, mainly from Psalm verses:]
    O Lord, save thy people :
    and bless thine heritage.
    Govern them : and lift them up for ever.
    Day by day : we magnify thee;
    And we worship thy Name : ever world without end.
    Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.
    O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
    O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us :
    as our trust is in thee.
    O Lord, in thee have I trusted :
    let me never be confounded.

  • Richard

    I have found that just a prayerful glance at a holy image is “worth a thousand words”. The Spirit groans in/with us.

  • ThirstforTruth

    I agree the Psalms, the songs of Praise, used by Jesus and Mary….and I also find the ancient Te Deum a beautiful lovely song of praise. Many verses in the Book of Proverbs ( e.g. Proverbs 8:22-31…wonderful meditation on Creation and Wisdom evokes great thoughts of praise for God Our Creator of All as well as His Son…who delights in everything God has made for Him…including the the sons of men…For Wisdom the whole of the Universe His playground and all that dwell within…What a wonderful God we have who has done and continues to do great things for those who love Him…Praise Him with all your heart!

  • Jmcdhome

    I am surprised that no one has mentioned praying the Divine Office. You don’t have to do all of the prayers for every hour of the day. I find it a great way to start and end my day http://www.divineoffice.org

  • Lyonsjoan

    As in preaching the gospel, I like to use St Francis of Assisi’s advice for praying, from “Preach the gospel always and sometimes use words,” to pray always and sometimes use words. I find respecting God’s creation and loving all that belongs to our Father is a prayer of adoration. I know most parents would love to see these virtues in their children.

  • judeen

    when we pray together, praise and adoration… it is powerful – I go to the hr of power – one hr of praying together and singing to Jesus – perfumn fills the church..
    also at adoration – be still and know that I am God…. stillness.. let your soul pray and listen.. just sit in Gods presence.. once so attacked by tempation I sat close to Jesus and then saw a white snake fall from being wrapped around my head… ( spiritually) the tempations …. just being in Gods presence helps us

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MGEE5L6JWXSXFIYXC2UAQNNWO4 Patricia

    yes I found personlize formal prayers and also use the prayers of the heart. I hope this is not strange but i write, text to God and this prayer seems with less temptations and with the fullness focused on God. Singing to God is good. Adoration of the Lord can be in a physical presence but when the church is closed adoration can be done with the closing of our eyes fixed of the poverty and humility of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist with Mary Immaculate’s Heart. This I learned over the years but to sit before the blessed sacrament before God is such a grace. I have no place I rather be than at the feet of Jesus. I am studying to be a mental health counselor and I have realized how deeply it has touched on my faith and spirituality even though there are adversity and suffering as long as we gaze upon his face we will always be in his beautiful grace. Ti Adoro O Signore Jesus Christo in Tutti Tabenacolos in tutti mondo!! We adore you Jesus Christ in all the tabernacles in the whole world. I must add with his mother’s heart Mary so pure.

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