Praise God! But, Why?...
Today’s guest blogger is Nick Luken, a second-year student at The Ohio State University, majoring in English and minoring in professional writing. Nick graduated from Roger Bacon, a Franciscan high school in Cincinnati, in 2012.
“Alleluia.” At every Mass, just before the Gospel, we say this word over and over. Literally, the word means “praise God.” That’s not surprising, considering that so much of the Mass says just that, although in different terms: praise God. “Hosanna in the highest,” we proclaim as the Eucharistic Prayer begins. “Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ,” we say at the conclusion of each Gospel reading. And of course there’s the Gloria, a whole song dedicated to praising each person of the Trinity. And that’s just the Mass. We see people praising God in the Bible, in the lives of the saints, and in the prayers of the countless people who have come before us.
But something seems odd here: if we believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient, then why do we need to praise Him? We can tell God that He’s great (and He is), but that won’t make Him any greater. Plus, He must already know He’s great if He’s omniscient. God doesn’t really need our praise, but nevertheless, people of faith have made sure to praise God for millennia. If God doesn’t need our praise, why is it that we have praised Him for as long as we have believed in God?
One of the most common explanations I’ve heard for praising God is the idea that God is worthy of all the praise in the world. After all, He did make . . . everything! That does make Him obviously praiseworthy, and I think that we should praise God because He deserves our praise. But I’m not sure if that’s the best explanation I’ve heard.
I think the best explanation I’ve heard for why we praise God is that praising God improves our relationship with Him. I don’t mean that in a trivial way–I don’t believe that the only purpose of praise is bribery, trying to butter God up to get our prayers answered. I think praise improves our relationship with God in a much deeper way. Praising God is like giving a friend or a family member a sincere compliment. If you were to tell a true friend that he or she means a lot to you, you probably wouldn’t be doing it just to get something from your friend. You’d be doing it to show your friend that you care about him or her, and by doing so, you’d deepen your relationship with your friend. The same thing happens when we praise God.
Deepening our relationship with God isn’t the only purpose of giving Him praise, but I think that it’s a very profound purpose. There’s just something uniquely wonderful about praising God that brings us closer to Him.
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