Is your heart an open cup or half-closed and already full? Is it a cup of bitterness? Suspicion? Self-absorption?
God loves us more than we can imagine. He wants us to know him intimately. He wants to express his love for us by giving us more and more of himself—all that we can hold – until his love overflows. What is our response?
First we must trust him. Believe that he loves us. Love him back.
How do we love him back? We tend to think of expressing our love by what we do to serve him. That’s important to us and to God’s people who need us. But is it the best first response? Instead of getting busy doing something, wait a minute. Consider that our first response rightly is to praise our creator!
In 1 Peter 2:9 we read that we were chosen by God as his personal possession to sing his praises:
But you are a chosen race, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a people to be my personal possession, to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
Think how awesome that is! We are chosen to sing the praises of God! What an honor
How to praise him
When we embrace the privilege of loving God by praising him, how do we sing his praises? With our heart, mind and strength. With our prayers and songs. Here are six suggestions:
1. If you are not familiar with praise as a way to pray, read the glorious psalms and make the words of the psalmist your own. Some of my favorites are Psalms 25, 89, 96 and 150.
2. Sing the Doxology, a familiar hymn to both Protestants and Catholics. It’s the last verse of the hymn, “Awake My Soul,” by Thomas Ken in 1674, taken from Psalm 57.
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
3. Look in your hymnal for other hymns of praise that make your spirit soar. Some of my favorites are:
- “All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name, let angels prostate fall. Bring forth the royal diadem and crown him Lord of all!”
- “At the Name of Jesus, every knee shall bow. Every tongue confess him King of Glory now”
- “Be Exalted, O God, above the Heavens, let their glory be over all the earth”
- “Here I Am to Worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you’re my God”
- “Holy God We Praise Thy Name, all in heaven and earth adore him”
- “Joyful, Joyful, we adore you”
- “Lord, I Need You, oh, I need you. Every hour I need you. My one defense, my righteousness, oh how I need you.”
4. Spontaneously praise him for who he is. His attributes are found in the Fruits of Spirit. He is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness., generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You can say,
- I praise you, Lord for you are love.
- I praise you my joy.
- I praise you, Prince of Peace.
- I praise you, Lord, you are my self-control.”
5. Praise him for what he has done – For starters, he has created the world and created you. He has saved you, provided for your needs on earth and a path to life eternal with him. “Thank you, Lord for creating me…saving my soul…providing for me…giving me hope for life eternal with you.”
6. Praise him for what you are grateful for the most. Material needs, yes, but how about the spiritual needs he fulfills? The longing he places in your heart that opens the door to receiving more of him? The sacraments that bring us grace and impart to us a share in his divine life?
7. Praise him at all times and situations. What blessing can we (in faith) thank him for today that seemed like a letdown yesterday? With this expression of praise, we acknowledge our trust in his faithfulness – and our trust grows. What relationship or situation seemed a disaster at first but eventually became a gift from God?
Why praise him?
We praise him for who he is and what he has done. But why praise him before we serve others? Because first we need our hearts filled with his love. Then we can give to others freely after we realize how little we have to give on our own. We can only sustain our generosity by loving others – with his love. First, we fill our hearts with his love by praising and thanking him for everything we can think of or remember. His love displaces what is not of him in us – fear, pride, shame -- and liberates us to receive so much more than ourselves to give.
Think of praising God as a prerequisite to serving others. Praising him places us in the realm of his kingdom with the angels and saints that continuously worship him.
When we love God back by praising him, he fills us with his power. He fills us with his presence and when we go out to serve his people, his presence goes with us.
Praising him for who he is changes who we are. Our praise burns away the bitterness, suspicion and self-absorption in our hearts. His power working through us can bring his attributes of love, joy and peace into the hearts of others.
When we spend time praising God before serving others, what happens? Our generosity is not limited by our meager resources but only by our ability to allow the God living within us to overflow from our hearts.
How does praise help you receive God’s abundant love increase your love for him? How does praise help you give freely to others?
Copyright 2016 Nancy Ward
About the Author
Nancy Ward authored Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story: Tools, Tips, and Testimonies (and the DVD) and contributed to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion. She loves to share her conversion story and give evangelization workshops and retreats equipping others to share their faith. She facilitates the DFW Catholic Writers, Catholic Writers Guild Nonfiction Critique Group, serves on their Board, and speaks at writers’ conferences. Learn more at JoyAlive.net and NancyHCWard.com.