Praise and Intention

Is it possible to have a relationship with God without praising Him?  Of course, this will depend on the definition of relationship.  But a happy relationship will surely require some recognition and appreciation of the talents and abilities and qualities of the other person.  Generally, if one can, it is healthy for the relationship if one expresses one’s appreciation of the other person.  There is a similarity with our relationship with God.  But the Lord who sees and hears everything, even the thoughts of our mind, also sees and hears it when we praise Him to other people.  God loves to be known, so He loves to hear us praising Him in company with others as well as expressing our love in our private moments with Him.  Evangelising is also praising God.

Praise, like every prayer, is something which benefits us, not God.  We do it out of love and thanksgiving to God, and not for ourselves, and it pleases Him because we are recognising our need for Him and our gratitude to Him and our place in the Universe with relation to Him.  But it has no benefit for God - He does not need our prayer or praise to keep living.  He likes to hear it from us because it maintains a relationship with us, which is why He created us.  He created us out of love - because He is, in His essence, Creator and Love.

Is it possible to not mean it when we praise God? The quick answer is “no”.  God sees into our hearts and understands our desires and our motivations.  He is never duped. It is simply not possible to praise God without meaning it.  Flattery of God would make God into a creature that you could dominate. That is not the reality.  

An act of praise must be done intentionally, or it is not an act of praise.  It might be an act of obedience of one’s parent, (which is worthy in itself), or it might be a mumbling of a prayer with one’s heart and mind elsewhere, or it might even be an act of liturgical dancing which one does because one likes to dance or because one likes to be the centre of attention. 

Praise without Immediate Intent

There are moments of praise when, for instance through distraction or interfering noise, or needing to be elsewhere in a hurry, our concentration lapses or in other ways one feels scrupulously that one has not been 100% set on praising the Lord.  How should one think about these times?

Reciting without Thinking

There are times when one might have the intention of going to Mass but one is extremely distracted, either by something that has just happened or is about to happen or because one’s mind is not on God.  What is the benefit here?  Attending the Mass keeps the door open to God.

 But attending without faith is done for your own reasons, and cannot create or maintain a relationship with God unless He himself steps in and touches you. What is in your heart is what the Lord pays attention to.   There may be some good reasons for going to Church without having faith, for instance to encourage your children to believe, because your spouse wants that, or to accompany someone who cannot go by themselves. Some people have even been known to enter a Church without faith, on a whim, and leave totally convinced, such as Marie-Alphone Rattisbonne, a Jewish man who entered a Church in Rome without faith and left completely convinced.    

The Liturgy of the Church assumes the intent of the participants.  Since it is people who make up the Church, the intention of the Church as clear from its liturgy must become our intention as participants.  If you go to Mass and say the Gloria without thinking about the words themselves, but you intend to mean them - only you are distracted - then we can be sure that the gentle patience of God will make some allowances for you, although you cannot benefit from all the graces that would be yours if you had your mind on what you were saying.  This is because our prayer affects us entirely and does not affect the Lord, since He is immovable and unchangeable.  The pleasure He takes in our prayer of praise is entirely because it affects our souls because it rectifies the balance of our relationship with Him, it recalls and brings the Truth of His loving Fatherhood into play which inevitably restores our humility before Him and makes us teachable and lovable.

 Having said that, it also pleases Him to see us acting in Love of Him, just like any lover would be pleased and happy.  The more invested we are in the Mass and in loving the Holy Trinity, the more we enter into the domain of the Lord where miracles abound and where life itself opens up to us.  (“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes; truly I say to you, he will gird himself and have them sit at table, and he will come and serve them.” Luke 12 :37). 

The Kingdom of God is the kingdom of Love so the more we actively love God, the closer we come to Him, the more we shall see the benefits, the graces.

Praise without Feeling Up to It

It is also possible to be in a state of depression, anxiety, or generally feeling less than enthusiastic about anything, perhaps tired or unwell.  In such a situation, one does not feel, necessarily, like praising God.  It may be the furthest thing from our mind.  But if it does occur to you, then you can praise God from the intention, rather than from the feeling(s) you have.  And when you do, as you do it, you will generally find your spirits uplifted.  Why? Because we were designed by God to love Him, to Adore Him.  We were made to be in relationship with God, and so to give praise to God. In this case, it is an act of will rather than a spontaneous act, but it is no less pleasing to God, just like buying a bunch of flowers for your loved one after much deliberation is no less an act of love than buying a bunch of flowers on the spur of the moment as one passes the flower stall.

Not meaning to Praise

However, it is possible to be so overwhelmed with the Majesty, glory, kindness etc. of God Himself that one launches into a magnificat of praise for Him without even realising one is doing that, but meaning every word all the same.  You do not have to know that what you are doing is praising the Lord.  You only have to mean the words or the song of praise.  The essence is what you intend to say to God, not what it is called.

Get the Feeling to Praise with Hozana

Hozana enables you to discover hundreds of spiritual suggestions to pray and praise God regularly.  Come closer to the Holy Spirit through 7 Sundays with the Holy Spirit. Learn to pray the Psalms, so full of praise, through art with professional artist Anne Laure Lavagna, who offers  Let's pray the psalms through painting.  Learn from the Scriptures themselves and from the Saints with Reading & Meditation of the Daily Gospel.

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