Friday, February 6, 2015

Encountering Christ Through Praise

This week, our parish held a three-day Encounter.  There were speakers, filled with wisdom, who shared stories from the Bible and connected them to stories about real life. Their messages were funny, heartfelt, exciting, and jarring. They encouraged us to deepen our relationship with Jesus, either through opening ourselves to begin that relationship or to bring our current relationship to the next level. They laid out how simple that choice should be, and how hard it can be because of our fallen nature.

The most incredible gift was the praise, especially through music. It set the tone, and it definitely pleased God, because He sent His Spirit rushing through that church to bring His children closer to Him. And I deliberately use the term gift, because God doesn't need our praise. He's God. He doesn't need anything. Praise is His present to us, because we were made for worship. WE need to praise, and through it, we experience joy.

I'll admit that I have an aversion to what I call happy-clappy music, and this has come about from attending Masses where people become the audience, rather than participants. They like the music, but as entertainment.  Meanwhile, they wander in late, play on their cell phones (and I know some use devices to follow along as Scripture is read, and that's fantastic) or chat with each other, and they ignore Jesus and what's taking place on the altar. The lack of respect is a distraction I have to fight.

After my experience this week, I've determined that the problem lies not with the music, but with the misuse of the music. I just have to pray that those who don't get it will allow God to work in their hearts to convert them to a place where the music becomes praise.

Back to the Encounter. Every evening began with praise. Gifted musicians led the people through songs meant to open our minds and hearts to Jesus. There are always those who raise their hands and sway with the tempo. I'm the one tho folds her hands in front of her and stands at attention, but that doesn't keep the Holy Spirit out.

The first step in prayer, whether you're following the structure found in the Psalms or you're winging it in your own prayer, is giving God praise. There's a reason for this.  It's like activating His presence. With that praise, we glorify Him and put ourselves in communion with Him, and I believe He is pleased and responds by lifting us up to a place where we can hear His voice.

Only then will we have the clearest line, the best connection, that will enable us to pray with confidence for our requests, to hear His voice in Scripture, to receive guidance as to what He wants you specifically to do as His disciple.

And then we thank Him.

(But it all starts with the Praise!)

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