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Adoration and Praise in Our Prayer

Excerpted from a conference
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Asking the average person what prayer means he might say, “it is asking God for what we need.” That answer is correct but not adequate. Many people when they pray are asking God for some favor, either what they want or something they wish to avoid. They are sick and they are asking for health. They may be facing a difficult situation and they are asking for light and strength to cope, or confused, they are asking for guidance, or fearful, they are asking for courage. This is true for God often sends us trials to keep us humbly dependent on His help. He well knows that if everything went well too often, we would become independent and not likely to pray.

But is that all there is to prayer? Is it the highest form of prayer when we ask God to “Come to my assistance” or “Lord make haste to help me” or “Lord that I may see”? The answer is No. The prayer of petition is not the highest form of prayer, nor is the prayer of gratitude. It is the prayer of adoration, implicit in every other prayer that we make and without which we do not truly pray at all. To ask God to help us is to acknowledge Who He is and to thank Him. Implicit in our gratitude is our adoration.

What do we do when we adore God? We then show our recognition of Who He is, and tell Him we are pleased. The second part is very important. We should give much more attention to our prayers of adoration! I say this especially because today’s world is so preoccupied with self and with man’s own achievements. Man indeed is preoccupied with man.

In my opinion, the capital sin of the present age is self-idolatry. Men and women are so lost in their personal accomplishments that they are literally adoring themselves. This malady is more serious than just not asking God for His assistance. It is the deeper vice of ignoring the majesty of God and worshipping the infinite misery of man. How otherwise explains man ‘s standing in judgment on the sacred laws of the Almighty?

God tells them to honor father and mother and all legitimate authority. They tell Him that they will determine who has authority and what authority means and not He. God tells them not to commit adultery, fornication and homosexuality and they tell Him that that is their business. They are not children any more that need to be told how to enjoy their own bodies. God tells them not to shed innocent blood; they tell Him they, not He, are the masters of life and death. They are to decide who shall live before birth or after birth and for how long.

Mother Teresa told me in a recent conversation, she was convinced that the real evil behind the evil of abortion is not selfishness nor merely that people are so preoccupied with themselves as not to want children because of the pleasure they want to enjoy. Behind their mania of abortion, she is convinced, especially with leaders of society, is a defiance of God. How can man in his madest treachery defy the Almighty? Would it not be precisely in the act of procreation? Here God tells us, “I am Master of life and death” and man’s evil genius has invented a way to say “No” to the Creator by denying God’s right over human existance.

Admiration expressed is praise as adoration means “admiring God”. When we adore God, we mean when we behold God’s greatness, we are lost in wonder at Who He is or what He has or how He could have done what He did. All admiration is wonderment at what seems to be beyond normal explanation. If this is true of creatures what shall we say of God? The greatest wonder of wonders is God and He wants us to tell Him how wonderful He is and praise Him for His perfections. He is at once the most merciful and yet the most just. He is utterly hidden and yet totally present. He is strong and yet most beautiful. He undergoes no change but He changes all things. He is never new but He is never old, yet He makes all other things new. He is pure act always being active, yet He is perfectly at rest. He is inviting all things to Himself, yet He needs no one and nothing. He sustains and fulfills, He protects and creates and makes everything perfect. He is always demanding, but He lacks nothing; He needs nothing but all creatures need Him. Is it any wonder that the mystics have exhausted the words of created wisdom in trying to describe the marvelous Being Who is God?

Among the prayers in the Church’s treasure, the one of St. Augustine speaks for the rest of us who lack the genius of what his mother, St. Monica, said, “God how wonderful You are.” St. Augustine wrote, “You (God) love without passion, You are jealous but without fear. You know repentance without sorrow. You are angry but unperturbed. You can change what You have made, but You remain changeless. You receive back what You have not lost. You are never in need, but You rejoice over Your gains. You are not greedy, but You demand manifold interest. You owe nothing but pay as though You were in debt to Your creatures. You forgive what is owed to You, yet do not lose thereby. And with all this what have I said, ‘My God and My life and sacred delight.’ What can anyone say when he speaks to God? Yet woe to them who are silent about Him. When even those who say most are but dumb.”

Adoring God is not only admiring Him but as it were looking into His Face and telling Him how marvelous He is and how pleased we are that He is God. He loves such prayers of praise, and in fact, He created Angels and men in order to receive their homage. God is pleased with our Adoration which is another form of praise. Praise in this case looks upon God not so much in Himself as in the creatures that He has made. The words of Revelation are filled with passages of praise for the wonderful creatures that except for God, would never have been made. Rereading the Gospels, we see how often the people marveled at what Christ did, and the Evangelists tell us they praised God. How often it seems Christ had to go beyond nature to work miracles which are His way of calling attention to His Presence on earth and then to solicit man’s praise.

A miracle simply means something marvelous; I like the German word for it. It is wonder! God could have saved Himself the trouble of working miracles because they evoke praise and admiration and call attention to His great power, except that human beings are so blind to God’s wonders in creation. This is so, not because God is more godly in working miracles, but because they happen so seldomly that at long last we recognize them as miraculous.

Looking at the Church’s liturgy and in the Gospels, we find numerous invitations to adore God by praising Him even as the mystics did. We turn to them to make their sentiments our own. We find St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun one of the purest professions of praise of the Godhead in Christian hagiography. Even those who are not Christians admire its sentiments and all of us can make them our own.

“0 most High, Almighty, good Lord, to You belong praise, glory, honor and all blessing. Praised be my Lord God with all his creatures and especially, our dear Brother, the Sun, who brings us the day. Fair is he who shines with a very great splendor. 0 Lord, he signifies You to us. Praised be My Lord for our Sister, the Moon, and the Stars which He has set clear and lovely in Heaven. Praised be My Lord for our Brother, the Wind, and for the air and clouds, the calms and all weather by which You uphold life in all creatures. Praised be My Lord for our Sister, Water, who is very serviceable to us and humble, precious and very clean. Praised be My Lord for our Brother, Fire, through which You give us light in the darkness. He is very mighty, bright, pleasant and very strong. Praised be My Lord for our Mother, the Earth, which sustains us and keeps us and brings forth grass and diverse fruits and flowers of many kinds. Praise and bless the Lord and give thanks to Him and serve Him with great humility. Amen.”

I can assure you that many people misunderstand the mysticism of Francis, or they fail to realize that in praising these varied creatures and in sensing such close intimacy with them, what Francis was doing was adoring God. He saw, as only mystics can see in even the lowliest of creatures, the Majesty of God. What he saw in creatures is what the Church, in giving us men like Francis for imitation, want us to learn--that behind every creature is the creative power of God; that except for His Will and Love no creature would exist; that every creature is a divine invitation to praise the Creator.

Praising God really means using His creatures, not stopping with them but seeing beyond, behind and beneath them not only God’s act of creation but His constant sustaining divine power which I praise whenever I use all the things that God made.

There are more vistas to prayer than adoration admiration and praise, but no other forms are higher and deeper than these. None is higher because it is the kind of prayer that the Angels have been “singing” since the dawn of creation, and that intelligent creation is destined to be praying into the reaches of eternity.

No other form of prayer is deeper than adoration and praise, because when we so pray, we are in contact with infinity - we are in conversation with God.

Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica

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