Last year He challenged us to SACRIFICE ourselves, our desires, comforts and even our suffering – to unite ourselves with Jesus work of Redemption on the cross.
The year before that, (2013) God invited us to BELIEVE in who He is – that his only will is Love, even in our suffering. If we have grasped this, we have begun to understand what He came to do.
To sacrifice we must know for whom we are sacrificing and to what end. For this we need to believe not just with our minds but with our wills that God is good, He is Love and He is completely and absolutely in control with the desire to save all mankind, including ourselves.
Out of active faith and a willingness, even a desire to sacrifice God reminds us to PRAISE Him continually
Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. (Heb 13:15)
This is the core of the theme for this year – A Sacrifice of Praise!
What is Praise?
We often look at praise as an action that we do which is separate from the rest of our lives and even separate from our worship.
May times it feels that we praise whole heartedly only when God things happen and we are grateful for them; while at other times
- we praise because we have to
- become for us a kind of lip service because it is expected of us
- it is part of the structure of our worship
- or because it rarely reflects the state of our heart is just us going through the motions
Most of the time, we don’t praise because:
- We don’t feel like it
- Things are not going so well that God deserves to be praised, in fact He may seem aloof from the situation LIKE He can’t hear our prayers
- It feels like we are just repeating what have repeated before and it doesn’t make sense
- Runs contrary to what we’re actually experiencing
Praise according to Webster’s Dictionary, means to extol, laud, honour, acclaim, express approval. Giving our approval then, is to give positive affirmation, to accept or agree with what we approve of.
To praise God in a difficult situation, a sickness, disaster, or difficulty, means that we honour God for who He is in every situation of our lives.
Praise is prayer that recognizes God for His own sake, for the very fact that he is God. We praise Him for his divine attributes, his perfect glory, his perfection indeed in all good things – even apart from anything He has done for us. (CCC 2639-2643, 2649)
Praise in our Lives
- Praise in the community
- As a community we do take time to praise God.
- As far as structure goes, it is a part of every P&W. Unfortunately it is often limited to the session itself where a few moments are taken to praise, and then quickly return to silence. Most of us may have experienced this: that when there is free praise, or praying in tongues it is rarely sustained, or even lifts the assembly to enter into deeper worship – it should!
- Our praise is often focused on how we have seen God at work in our personal lives. This is important, but even more important is to see the events of our lives in the light of Scripture.
- Our understanding of God is derived from our experiences but must be grounded in Scripture, and so the exhortation must be based on Scripture. Else we will be left with an inconsistent, unreliable idea of who God is, and our praise will be limited.
- Praise in our individual lives
- Our relationship with God, if we’re growing would mean that praise is a part of our daily lives.
- Our praise is not dependent on the situations we are going through, rather who we know God to be in a situation – like wedding vows, in good times and in bad!
- Our praise may arise out of a particular situation, but it should not be the only cause of our praise God.
- Our praise is meant to be a part of our daily conversation with God. So many of us share that we talk with God through the day, and we should. Does some of that “talk” consist of praise? Our praise at times may be about a situation, but does it remind us of the very nature of God, His relationship with us?
If we are to genuinely offer praise to God we need to have some basic truths in place:
- Joy & Thanksgiving
We can’t praise God without being thankful for the particular situation we are praising Him in. Meaningful thanksgiving is accompanied by joy and so praising God involves gratitude and joy.
- Who God is
We praise God not because of what is or is not happening in our lives, we praise God for who He is. Our praise is the fruit of lips that acknowledge His Name.
Many times before our praise and worship, we are exhorted by the worship leader’s experience of God His past week… We are to prepare ourselves to enter into God presence because of who He is and not because of our experiences. An exhortation from Scripture supported by an experience is more appropriate since we see God according to how He has revealed Himself rather than a personal perspective.
- “It is right and just”
(Preface Dialogue of the Eucharistic Prayer of The New Mass)
- We praise God because He deserves our praise, because every good thing comes from Him and even in difficult/ evil situations God has the power to bring about good.
- We praise God because He is all powerful
- His very nature is love and desires what is good for us and for all, even more than we desire good for others.
We may think that it seems unnecessary to praise God, after all He is not confused about His goodness and doesn’t require encouragement. That is absolutely right, praise is not flattery, or an attempt to pacify God into doing what we want, or even to tell God who He is.
(Common Preface IV for Weekdays in ordinary time)
For, although you have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for salvation, through Christ our Lord.
We praise God not because it makes Him feel good but because it is good for our salvation to praise Him. (During Mass the Gloria and Sanctus do just this!)
Sacrifice of Praise
- When we think of “sacrifice of praise” we often think about my sacrifice. And so it becomes a sacrifice when it costs us. Ex: When we’ve had a difficult day at work and we’ve had our boss unjustly single us out, if we choose to praise, then it is a sacrifice.
- We could consider it a sacrifice when we could receive acknowledgement or recognition for something we have done but we choose to avert it and praise God for the actual work that was done. We might consider it a sacrifice because rather than indulge our own egos we are depriving ourselves of the attention/ credit.
- How do we live a life that is a sacrifice of praise? The truth is that we do have bad days… maybe a lot of tough situations, but we definitely do have our share of good times as well. So how do we account for offering a sacrifice of praise in the good times, when we actually feel like praising God?
The real sacrifice: CCC 1361
He unites the faithful to His person, to His praise, and to His intercession so that the sacrifice of praise to the Father is offered through Christ, and with Him, to be accepted in Him.
- First and foremost, our sacrifice is a sacrifice because it is offered through Jesus. We by ourselves cannot offer anything pleasing to God. But when clothed with the righteousness won for us by Jesus we can make an offering that is pleasing because its value is not merely measured by our intention, but by the merit of Christ!
- We do not offer anything to God apart from Christ. We must be united to Christ to even make an offering. We are united to Jesus, to the sacrifice that He made. Because of His sacrifice our sacrifice has meaning.
- Our desire to offer God what is right and just even in the midst of our trials is definitely pleasing to God, because we are making a choice that goes against the grain of our flesh, of our self-indulgent fallen nature. We are using our free will to choose God. Even the choice of our free will is the result of grace won for us by Jesus’ sacrifice.
- Our sacrifice of praise does mean that we acknowledge God in all situations. It is a sacrifice to lift our eyes from the natural to the reality of God’s sovereignty, and omnipotence.
Why is it good for our salvation that we praise God?
- Reminds us of who God is in every situation – the one who is in control and will bring about good.
- We are called to live according to the desires of God, without fear.
- We are called to live a life of trust as we take each step.
- No matter what is happening, through praise we keep our hearts open to the fact the Jesus is the Lord of our lives and that is who He deserves to be in my life.
- Strengthens our faith in who God is
- As we praise, according to the Scriptures, we become more aware of the nature of God beyond our narrow experience of Him.
For example: We may have had a strong experience of God being faithful and so our praise may often recall God’s faithfulness. If we praise according to what the Scriptures reveal, we open ourselves to experience God as “all-powerful”, “holy”, “mighty to save”, “king of the earth”, “unchanging”…..
- Opens our eyes to “see” God at work – Even though we do not recognize the other attributes of God, as we acknowledge them we are able to identify them as God works in our lives and around us.
- Praise and honour given to God, reminds us who is of greatest importance in our lives. We do not turn to creation or created things and allow our minds to become dull when we praise. We are constantly setting our eyes on God and the things of God
“…for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.”(Rom 1:21)
- Gives God free reign in a situation to act according to His perfect will.
By virtue of our anxiety, and lack of trust, or resistance we can often be hindrances to God’s perfect will. But by praising Him we can usher in a whole new phase of God working in our lives.
Take a case of King Jehosaphat from 2 Chronicles 20:
Jehosaphat is threatened with a potential battle with and alliance of approaching armies. He does fear, then he seeks the Lord. When he sought the Lord he began challenging the situation with praise of God. God allows him to enter into battle, but only to stand by and watch. In the face of advancing armies, Jehosaphat and the Israelites bowed down, worshipped God and,
“then stood up to praise the Lord, The God of Israel with a very loud voice.” (v.19)
He goes on to tell his people:
“Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established… He appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise Him in holy splendour, as they went before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.’ And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir who had come against Judah do that they were routed.” (v. 20b-22)
Our praise needs to be the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. We need to be able to praise God for who He is, and therefore what He will do:
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.” (Rom 8:28)
Praise – Pope Francis
Pope Francis in one of his audiences, while reflecting on the account of King David dancing before the Ark, speaks about how David’s prayer of praise moves him “beyond composure”. This was precisely a prayer of praise. The setting of oneself aside, in order to praise God for who He is – for His glory.
Pope Francis goes on to say that prayers of petition, even a prayer of thanksgiving, possibly even adoration are easily offered but the prayer of praise, “We leave it aside – it does not come so easily.”
Praise is “an act of justice” because He is great!
David rejoiced that the Lord was returning to Israel – he praised not just with his lips but also with his body!
Pope Francis accounts praise as a sign of a fruitful Christian. He even suggests that those who do not praise as part of their lifestyle are potentially sterile in their spiritual lives.
“Lift up your heads, o gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors!
That the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
The Lord, mighty in battle!…
The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory!”
(Ps 24: 7-10)
Pope Francis, a Pope who’s very mission it seems is to reveal the joy of the Gospel, indicates that praise is not caught up in formality. Rather praise should be, though repeating the same words, a spontaneous offering of the heart to God who is worthy to be praised.
- Go through the Psalms and write down 10-15 attributes of God. These should describe His nature and not an event.
- Follow this by an exhortation from Scripture of who God is (reason for praising) and encouraging the gathering to praise Him irrespective of each one’s own experience of His work in their lives.