Praising God

The question of praising and worshiping God came up the other night in the Interspirituality Discussion Group I have been facilitating over the last five weeks. A couple of people, more inclined toward a Buddhist practice, expressed discomfort with the idea that we “had to” praise or worship God.

It is true that worship or adoration is one of the basic types of Christian prayer. And St. Ignatius says in his Principle and Foundation that we are created to “praise, reverence, and serve God.”

But I think the discomfort some people have with the idea of praise or worship of God is seeing it as a “requirement,” as something we have to do to to appease God. As though God had an ego and would be annoyed with us if we didn’t stroke that ego sufficiently by telling him how great he is.

I don’t share a discomfort with praising or worshiping God because I think genuine praise and worship is the spontaneous response to God’s love and creation.

I shared with the group the other night something my daughter said to me one night when she was six or seven. When I was reminding Elena to say her prayers before bedtime one evening, she said, “You know, Mom, I don’t only pray at night. I pray at other times, too.” Intrigued, I asked her to give me an example. She replied: “Sometimes I ask Dad to drop me off at the end of our street so I can walk home the rest of the way. The other day he dropped me off and as I was walking I was noticing the sun and the trees and everything. The sun was shining and it was such a beautiful day that I just had to compliment God.”

I feel the same impetus my daughter described, sometimes when I stand at the edge of the ocean or in a forest or on a mountain, sometimes when I am driving to work and see a beautiful cloud formation, sometimes when I return to my seat in church afer receiving communion. The urge to praise, “to compliment God” – sometimes in words, sometimes in silence.

It is not about checking off a box to fulfill a requirement. It is not about soothing God’s ego. Just an expression of wonder, awe, and gratitude.