Sunday, August 12, 2012

Strengthened by Praising God

Here is some sound advice by Tammie Stevens, who is part of the ministry team at Western Washington Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Seattle, WA. This ever-relevant teaching is part of an article published in the October 2010 edition of the newsletter, GLEANINGS

One effect [of responding to God in praise] is that we will grow in faith. St Ephrem the Syrian, a 4th century Deacon and Doctor of the Church wrote that faith is strengthened by praise. He uses an illustration of a chick unable to break out of its shell being like faith without the expression of praise. Just as the process of breaking out of its shell strengthens the chick so that it might survive the outside world, so praise strengthens faith in order to prepare us for the day when we shall praise the Lord in eternity. St Ephrem contends that it is praise which actually causes spiritual growth: “I stood in fear, having become aware of you; I grew because I magnified you. Whereas you do not thereby grow, the person who increases praise of your Majesty grows in you a great deal.” 

When we praise God it takes our eyes off of ourselves and allows God to refocus our attention. Recently I was traveling through an airport with horrendous lines. The people around me were complaining and impatient, and I began to find myself falling into this as well. I was coming from a conference where I learned a new praise song (in Swahili). As this song of praise welled up in my heart and I sang it under my breath, I experienced a peace in the midst of the chaos. My heart also began to change towards those around me. God had taken my eyes off myself and allowed me to see them in a new way. As I praised God in my heart, my prayer also became one of intercession for those struggling. Through praise, our Lord had given me new eyes and also a mission—to pray for those around me rather than focusing on my discomfort. This would not have happened had I not surrendered and chosen to praise God in that situation. 

Another praise song says, “Every blessing you pour out I’ll turn back to praise. When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, Blessed be the name of the Lord.” This is the call to praise God in all situations, especially those which are most difficult. It allows him to work in us and through us because we have put the focus back on him. 

I once heard that the job of the Cherubim is to praise, standing before the throne of God, while the job of the Seraphim is to gaze. As we praise, whether in our personal prayer time or in communal prayer, we are joining with the heavenly choirs who are standing before God. This praising will lead us to gaze upon the face of Christ. According to Fr. Paul Hinnebusch, our vocal praise can lead to a “silent adoration of the Lord” which in itself “can be a high form of praise.” He continues that such “interior praise is the fruit of vocal praise.” 

When we participate in this life of praise daily, it will enhance our prayer and praise at our prayer meeting, at Mass and at other occasions of prayer with the community. We will be more ready to enter into worship of our Lord. Our vocal praise will draw us into a deeper hunger and thirst in our relationship with God. Through this praise, our hearts will be ready for more of the Lord. 

Praise is not just for the prayer meeting or the conference or other event. Praise is something that we exercise in our daily prayer time and truly can enter into in every moment of our day. “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17) By meditating on who God is, by praising him in every moment, we can answer this call to pray without ceasing. We allow our Lord to enter into every aspect of our life and by doing this allow him to transform us and the world around us.


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