Prayer of Praise

Based upon Catechism paragraphs 2639-49:

When we praise God, we glorify Him purely because of Who He Is – the all-holy, all-wise, all-loving, all-powerful, all-beautiful One.

Praise therefore has a different aspect from the other forms of prayer, which in some way refer to ourselves and what God does for us. We bless God in response to His blessings upon us, and adore Him in recognition of our status as creatures; we offer thanksgiving to God for His abundant gifts; we ask Him to take care of our needs in prayers of petition; and we pray on behalf of others in our prayers of intercession.

In prayers of praise, however, we are focused upon God Himself, loving Him for His Own sake. We exult in the sheer awesomeness of the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – Who Is Being itself, in glorious perfection forever, transcending time.

The technical term for a prayer of praise is “doxology,” a loan word from Greek. Examples include the “Glory to God in the highest” that we sing at Mass, the “Glory Be,” and the phrase added to the Lord’s Prayer, “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours, now and forever.”

As the conclusion to the “Our Father” implies, the other forms of prayer logically lead us into praise. Blessing, adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession all call to mind the infinite goodness, generosity, and majesty of God, a reflection that culminates in our praising God just for being God.

This is illustrated to the highest degree at Mass: “The Eucharist contains and expresses all forms of prayer: it is ‘the pure offering’ of the whole Body of Christ to the glory of God’s name, and according to the traditions of East and West, it is the ‘sacrifice of praise.’”

Vocal Prayer

Summary based on Catechism paragraphs 2700-04:

We are most familiar with vocal prayer, for it involves words, whether spoken aloud or thought silently. It is the most common expression of prayer because it fits our human nature so readily.

We are endowed with the gift of communicating by means of language, and God has revealed Himself to us through His Word. Giving voice to our prayer is likewise completely natural for us: composed of both body and soul, we want to involve our entire being, all of our senses, in the act of praying.

Jesus engaged in vocal prayer throughout His earthly life, in His personal prayers to the Father as well as by participating in communal worship in the synagogue, and He taught us the perfect vocal prayer, the “Our Father.”

But perhaps because we have memorized certain prayers, we can find it very easy to lapse into auto-pilot mode, and recite the words mechanically. While that qualifies as “vocal,” it doesn’t rise to the level of “prayer” unless our minds and hearts are truly lifted up to the Lord.

When we teach our little ones how to say their prayers, let us also remind them – and ourselves – that we are literally speaking to God. This becomes much easier if we place ourselves in His presence before beginning to pray.

Deliver Us From Evil

The final petition of the “Our Father” builds upon the previous one about not falling prey to temptation.

The tempter, the one who hates us and wants to destroy our relationship with God, is Satan. This fallen angel is literally our enemy, for Satan comes from the Hebrew for “adversary” or “accuser.”

Having rebelled against God, the Evil One is bound for eternal damnation, and like a supernatural serial killer, he is out to bring as many people down to hell with him as possible. Satan tricked our first parents into sin, thus unleashing suffering, death, and corruption into God’s originally pristine creation. The Evil One has continued to make war against God – and His people – ever since.

As a result, we are engaged in a spiritual battle for our immortal souls.

This is not to terrify us, for Christ has utterly and irrevocably conquered through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and His victory will be made manifest at the end of time. We are safe as long as we remain in His protecting arms.

But at the same time, we must be aware that the devil is looking for opportunities to tear us away from God. Never open a door to evil; dabbling in the occult leads to real spiritual harm.

Let us pray as Jesus taught us, that we may be delivered from evil – from the Evil One, and from all of the tragedies, injustices, and disasters that beset our fallen world.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2850-54.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

God never tempts us, nor does He mount a “sting operation” to catch us, just waiting to condemn our every lapse.

Although the English translation of this petition could be misunderstood, the underlying Greek text actually means “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation” (Catechism paragraph 2846).

Far from trying to trip us up, God so ardently wants to free us from sin that He became man to save us from its thrall. Christ, Who Himself conquered temptation in His earthly life, teaches us that we can only resist through vigilant prayer in union with Him.

By asking God for help in our struggles to live a moral life, we recognize our weakness and frailty, our tendency to give in to sin. Such humility, grounded in the truth about ourselves, draws down God’s grace upon us – the very grace that He is eager to give us, if we just open our hearts to receive it.

With the light of the Holy Spirit, we can see temptation for what it truly is: evil masquerading as something good. But however attractive a temptation may be on the surface, we know that it’s an illusion, for sin ultimately hurts us.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2846-49.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive

Jesus is adamant that we cannot receive God’s forgiveness unless we forgive others who have hurt us.

Far from being a simplistic admonition to “be nice,” this petition teaches us an invaluable truth about the spiritual life. If we are so caught up in our own grievances that we nurse grudges and refuse to forgive, our hearts are not open to God: we do not have the capacity to receive His mercy.

The Lord doesn’t want us to be turned in on ourselves, and our pain, but instead to give it to Him. We can do this by making an act of the will to forgive.

That doesn’t mean we can easily forget the offense, or trivialize it, or that we no longer feel the hurt. Rather, our decision to forgive is a step in our healing, which also serves to identify us with Christ.

If God Himself on the cross forgave those who were crucifying Him, how much more should we forgive our fellow frail human beings! By experiencing what it means to forgive an offense, we develop a greater appreciation for what God continually does for us. Despite our many failures to love Him, He is always eager to forgive us and begin anew.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2838-45.