My superlative for about 8 years now has been “that Jesus girl”. Especially looking at my high school self, I fit a lot of the stereotypes. Youth group events all over my calendar. Matt Maher songs on my iPod. T-shirts from all of the cool Catholic conferences. And despite my youth-group-going, Matt-Maher-fan-girling, catholic-tshirt-wearing reputation, I never really opened the catechism until this past summer while working as a summer missionary at a catholic summer camp.
The third week of camp I was on “prayer team”. Instead of typical summer missionary duties- journeying with a parish throughout the week and facilitating small group discussions, low ropes, etc.- it was my job to pray. I interceded for campers, chaperones, and missionaries throughout the week. In my extra prayer time, I picked up my (practically untouched) catechism to see what it had to say about this whole prayer thing.
Fumbling through the fresh pages, I stopped on Part 4: Christian Prayer. It outlined the importance of communal and personal prayer, the 5 types of prayer- Blessing and Adoration, Petition, Intercession, Thanksgiving and Praise, and the Our Father… all good stuff. Then I saw a two particularly interesting questions:
Why do we think our petition has not been heard?
Why do we complain of not being heard?
I was fascinated. The Catechism goes on to explain:
In the first place, we ought to be astonished by this fact: when we praise God or give him thanks for his benefits in general, we are not particularly concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to him. On the other hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions. What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?
These words shook me. I complain all the time that my prayers aren’t being answered. Jesus, you say ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7) but you I see n.o.t.h.i.n.g. But what does that say about who I think God is? Do I pray because I want something out of Him? Or do I pray to God for God’s own sake? I flipped a few pages back to one of the 5 types of prayer- Praise.
Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS.
I praise God simply for who HE IS. This sounded like a much more productive prayer. I was tired of yelling. I decided that when I feel like God isn’t listening to my prayers, I need to praise him more. Because my prayer isn’t dependent on what he gives me. My prayer of “God I need community. Please give me the clarity of what you are calling me to in the future” is a fine prayer but impoverished if it does not also include “Jesus, you are King of Kings. You are Friend. You are Truth. You have set me free. You are Breaker of Chains. Jesus, I trust in you”.
The sweet song below has been an inspiration of my prayer lately and is the reason for this blog title. The chorus proclaims “Praise will be my song. How can I contain it? I cannot contain this love”.My summer at this catholic summer camp was so beautiful. I spent many days sitting on the dock of the lake, looking to the mountains. I take my example of praise from the trees, as Isaiah 55 proclaims:
For you shall go out in joy,
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Here’s to singing the praises of God and clapping our hands each and every day.