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Praise First: Why You Should Start Your Daily Prayers With Praise

Daily Prayer Praise

Did you know you should start your prayer with praise to God? This was news to me after a friend shared this insight during a recent RCIA class in which I was assisting. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we acknowledge who God is and thus who we are in relation before we start rattling off our list of requests in our daily prayers?

Where does this idea come from? Let me share what I’ve learned, because it has already made a huge difference in my prayer, and thus, my life.

Please note this post contains some affiliate links to books for which I may earn a small commission — at no cost to you — to support A Catholic Newbie if you make a purchase after clicking through. I really appreciate you using my links!

The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is how Jesus taught us to pray. It is the “perfect” prayer. And while we should definitely pray it word for word, it also offers us a model of HOW to pray. Guess what the Lord’s Prayer starts with? You got it: praise!

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, HALLOWED be they name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

THEN… we get to our petitions, as well as asking forgiveness for our sins.

The Praise Perspective

Putting praise first puts us in proper perspective in relation to God. God is God; we are not. In fact, the original sin of Adam and Eve and even the people at the tower of Babel was the desire to be like God.

Let’s recall how great is our Creator and recount the amazing deeds he has performed from building Creation from nothing and leading the people out of slavery in Egypt to raising up great kings like David and, of course, sending his only Son, Jesus Christ, to save us. Makes you feel small and humbled, doesn’t it?

And that’s the position we should place ourselves before petitioning God. As Mary says in the Magnificat, “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.” Let us find our lowliness before God. After all, this is why we kneel and prostrate ourselves before Him, as well.

Plus, doesn’t praise put you in an attitude of gratitude, as well? It helps you turn a negative countenance around into appreciating what you have and realizing the insignificance of your problems in comparison with God and his might. It might even help you find the good in your suffering — even if it’s just knowing there IS good even if you can’t see it.

As I have incorporated praise into my prayers, I have enjoyed recounting all the things God has done in my life. Too often, I forget these and don’t call them to mind. While anytime is a good time to praise God for his works in your life, it is especially helpful when you are facing difficulty. Just remembering that God has worked miracles in your life before increases your trust, faith and dependence on Him.

The Difference Between Praise and Thanksgiving

As soon as I learned about the practice of “praise first,” I asked, “Wait, how is that different than giving thanks?” Well, the two are very closely related, but you may consider giving thanks AFTER praising God.

In Jeff Cavin’s book, “Praise God and Thank Him: Biblical Keys for a Joyful Life,” he says that praise is focusing on God and his attributes, while thanksgiving is focusing on the “works” of God. So praise might be focusing on God’s power, magnificence, holiness, justice, love, mercy and might, while thanksgiving might be more aligned to thanking God for the good things you have in your life and even the difficult situations you are facing, knowing that they are part of His plan.

Putting It Into Practice

Catholic prayer

So how exactly do you praise God? It sounds simple, but if you’ve never done it, it can certainly feel awkward :).

At first, it may be easiest to start by reading a Bible verse that is praising God to give you the feel for what proper praise should be. You might also bring to mind different parts of the Mass — which is FULL of praise if you listen — that you can pray, like the Gloria, the “Holy, Holy, Holy” and, of course, the Psalms. Eventually, you will be able to form your own words of praise with a little practice.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • The Psalms were written as praises to God; start by reading a Psalm and then interpret it afterward in your own way as praise to God.
  • Praise Jesus in his many titles: King of Kings, The Christ, Holy One of God, Savior of the World, Divine Mercy, etc.
  • Praise God for what he has done for his people over all time: Creating Adam and Eve; forgiving us; raising up prophets, judges and kings to guide us; sending his only Son to save us; leading the people out of slavery in Egypt; leading the Israelites out of exile again and again. If you don’t know much about the Old Testament, now might be a great time to learn! I highly recommend “Bible Basics for Catholics” and “New Testament Basics for Catholics” both by John Bergsma as unintimidating and easy reads about the Bible. Read my post on why I think every Catholic should read “New Testament Basics for Catholics.”
  • Pray a “rosary of gratitude” (give praise for something on each bead of the rosary; read more in Patti Armstrong’s article on “The Power of Gratitude to Transform Suffering“)
  • Praise God for Creation and the beauty of nature you see around you — or have seen when traveling.
  • Praise Him for his many great saints who he has raised up to show us how to live as holy human beings.
  • Praise Him for the Trinity, the Holy Spirit and Jesus.
  • Praise Him for the Bible.
  • Praise Him for His Church.
  • Praise Him for his Mother Mary.
  • Praise Him for our difficult situations and the graces they will bring.
  • Pray the Magnificat; it is a wonderful prayer of joyous praise to God as spoken by Mary, the Mother of God.
  • Pray Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel: 2).
  • Sing the Gloria!

What Should We Do After Praise?

So you’ve praised God — good for you! Now, you are ready to progress through the rest of your daily prayers. What I like to do next is spend time thanking God for all the good things he has done in my life and for the bad, as well.

According to Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., in his booklet, “Appointment With God,” after praise, we should spend time in the Bible reading the Word of God. Perhaps you can read the Catholic Church’s Daily Readings, read a Psalm or follow a Bible reading plan. But whatever you do, read the passage several times and pray to God to ask what He wants you to understand from the reading. Sit with it for a bit. Put yourself in the scene, imagine your reaction, pay attention to the words and phrases that stand out to you and ask how they relate to your life.

Next, he says to spend some time in repentance. Lay out for God what you have done wrong and what you could have done better. Ask for help in the areas where you are struggling. Of course, going to Reconciliation regularly, as well, should be a part of your prayer life.

Then, it’s time to get to your petitions, but Scanlan recommends praying for others first, especially those whom you are having trouble forgiving. He suggests praying: “Holy Father, may you pour out your Holy Spirit out upon [NAME]. Please make them as holy and happy as possible even if they are holier and happier than I am.” Then, you can get to your requests. But, again, sit in quiet for a bit to see if God plants an idea in your mind or speaks to you in some way.

Finally, if you’ve determined an action or two God wants you to take, make haste like Mary when she headed to the hill country to her cousin Elizabeth after the Angel Gabriel spoke to her. Don’t waste time. Get to it, my friend!

Making Time for Praise in Your Daily Prayers

According to Scanlan, we need to “book” a time with God to pray every day. We all know that, don’t we? But we don’t really do it. Do you want to be more at peace? Do you want to see the power of God working in your life? Do you want God to guide you? Then put God on your calendar FIRST. I know you can do it!

I recently incorporated a daily morning walk into my routine to improve my health and decided this was an ideal time to praise God. I now call it my “praise walk” :). As often as I can, I attend daily mass and have decided to spend 10-15 minutes in our Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the presence of Jesus in prayer. I often pray for others first (ask God WHO you should pray for and HOW you should pray for them; he’ll tell you if you listen!), then lay before God a question on my heart and listen for the answer.

Then at different times throughout the day, such as when taking the dog for a walk or in the shower, I try to pray the rosary along with several other prayers that are important to see. Read my post on “11 Ways to Work the Rosary Into Your Busy Day.”

Praising God is truly what we were designed to do. He made Man on the sixth day of Creation, always pointing toward the Sabbath — and the worship and praise of God — on the seventh day. If we but fall in line with our Creator’s design for us, we can live an infinitely more fulfilling life by growing closer to God and becoming better equipped to become the saints he desires for us to be.

Do you put praise first in your prayer? How has it impacted your prayer life?

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Matthew Kelly’s “Resisting Happiness” Review & Book Giveaway

Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly Book Giveaway via @ACatholicNewbie

Matthew Kelly was key in my conversion to Catholicism. I was already on my way, as I was in RCIA and had decided to at least go through the process to learn more, but he tipped me over the edge into full confidence in my conversion with his book “Rediscover Catholicism.”

So any new book he writes is always tops on my list to read. The title of this one caught my attention — “Resisting Happiness” — as I feel like I know a lot of people who are definitely resisting happiness. While I felt the book got a bit off track of what it promised on the cover — “a true story about why we sabotage ourselves, feel overwhelmed, set aside our dreams, and lack the courage to simply be ourselves … and how to start choosing happiness again” — it still delivered inspiring content about how to change our lives to follow God and find peace.

Finding God’s Purpose for You

For me this book was largely about finding God’s purpose for you in life as a way to find joy and peace. Kelly gives specific examples of his journey and how he came to start Dynamic Catholic after years of speaking on the road in his 20’s.

He gives fantastic examples of those who have figured out their mission and how they did so. I loved the story of an older woman who wanted to help Dynamic Catholic and spread the word of God, but who was not physically able. Instead, she bought as many copies of “Rediscover Catholicism” as she could and sent them to everyone she knew, even mailing them to important figures around the world — all with a personal letter. What a great mission!

Or the story of a successful business man who longed to be an evangelist like Kelly but never could seem to find the time to get started. Eventually after years of prayer, he discerned God had given him the gift of making money through his businesses, not of speaking, and so he decided he was to make as much money as he could and give it to Dynamic Catholic for their good work. I love it!

Key Points on Finding Your Purpose

Some other key points Kelly makes in the book to help those struggling with their life’s purpose:

  • If you don’t have a talent that others do, you don’t need it for the mission for which God has sent you. Let go what gifts you were not given.
  • The key to happiness: Find a way to lay down your life for others in a way that engages your talents and abilities.
  • Place your talents and enthusiasm at the service of life.
  • Look at your talents and your availability. What are you passionate about? What are you really good at? You are likely to find your purpose at the intersection of those two questions.
  • Don’t focus on what you were called to in the past but what you are being called to RIGHT NOW! Your calling changes over time.

Other Gems

I have gotten in the habit of making notes in the back of the books I am reading with bullet points of actions I want to take or key points I want to remember so I can go back and review later. Here are some other notes I jotted down from “Resisting Happiness”:

  • The most important things are almost never urgent; that’s why you must schedule them.
  • Pray at the beginning of each hour of your work, offering that hour’s work for a special intention.
  • If you want to be an interesting person, read books and develop a love of learning.
  • Learn how to say no. If it’s not a definite yes; it’s a definite no.
  • Take a pilgrim’s attitude instead of that of a tourist; accept that things will go wrong on the journey and that is simply a part of your walk.
  • Persistence is the antidote to resistance; take some action, even the smallest of actions, to begin the process to overcoming anything.
  • Be gentle with yourself.

If you enjoy Matthew Kelly’s writing, you’ll enjoy “Resisting Happiness.” As always, it is full of practical ways to bring yourself closer to God and written in conversational language accessible to anyone. What I loved about “Rediscover Catholicism” was how he was able to take the ancient practices of the Church and make them relatable to me today in the 21st Century. He helped me to understand WHY the Church teaches what it teaches and how those teachings helped me grow into the saint God designed me to be :). And in that same relatable way, he offers more words of wisdom in this latest book.

Book Giveaway

I’ve got 10 copies of “Resisting Happiness” to give away thanks to the folks at Dynamic Catholic, which I support through their Ambassadors Program! To enter to win, I ask you to do TWO THINGS:

  1. Sign up for my email below, which simply means you will get my blog posts via email (currently, no more than 2 per week) by Nov. 18, 2016.
  2. “Like” Catholic Newbie on Facebook below
Subscribe to Catholic Newbie by entering your email:

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I will draw 10 random winners on Nov. 19, 2016 from those who sign up for my blog email by Nov. 18, 2017. I will then double check that you have “liked” the Facebook page before I declare you a winner. Only one winner per email address. Copies will be shipped to you directly from Dynamic Catholic. Winners announced on the Catholic Newbie blog on Nov. 19, 2016.

Parishes, or others, who buy “Resisting Happiness” in bulk can currently purchase them for just $1 per copy. A great gift to give your parish — and anyone you know — this Christmas!

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A Wonderful Prayer in This Distressing Election Season

I know I have been very distressed at certain points during this political season, but with much prayer, I have made peace with it, deciding to act for myself and let God’s will be done.

PrayMoreNovenas has a most wonderful prayer that reminds us that no government can replace our God and that in fact prayer and belief in Jesus Christ is what will save us, not the next president of the United States. So join this wonderful apostolate with whom tens of thousands pray novenas together and let us pray for God’s will to be done. That’s something we can all agree on :).

You can sign up to receive the daily email with the novena prayer here.

Here is the lovely prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Nothing can overcome your greatness. But we are weak and need a deeper gift of hope as we face worldly governments.

Help us remember that political power can never replace the mission of the Church to preach the Gospel to all nations.

Lord, we give you permission to form our consciences according to the Gospel so that we may both vote and act for the Kingdom of God.

As we wrestle with the complexity of political life, never let us forget the poor, the weak, the unborn, the refugee, the migrant, all those affected by war, those struggling financially and all those suffering from the failings of the political systems of this world.

Give us the courage to always be detached from our political loyalties and be first a faithful follower of Jesus, the true King.  And when it comes time for us to contribute to the political realm help us to cast our vote in a way that is pleasing to You.

For these elections in our nations, O God, please bless us with the best rulers possible, in this fallen world, at all levels of government.

Finally, just as You brought our salvation from the horrible death of Your Son, we pray that from the political campaigns of this world, You will bring about great good for Your people.

Amen.

Spring Training with the Holy Spirit: How to Become Holy Spirit-Led

Spring Training with the Holy Spirit by @ACatholicNewbie

Just as baseball players head to spring training to practice and prepare for their upcoming season, I’ve found myself in spring training for something a little different: being led by the Holy Spirit.

We were blessed to have Deacon Ralph Poyo lead my parish’s mission this year, and while he provided lots of great insight on many things, the message that spoke directly to me was that we need to be a people and a parish that is led by the Holy Spirit. If we don’t ask for the Holy Spirit to guide us in all things, we will not become the vibrant, welcoming parish we desire and the saints we are meant to be.

For example, after the second evening of the mission when Deacon Ralph talked about spiritual warfare, I commented to him that I had dreamt about demons afterward. I asked him, “Is this something I should be worried about?” He said, “I’m not who you should be asking. Who should you be asking instead?” So I immediately replied that oh I should probably talk with our pastor. He said, nope! Then I realized I should be talking to God and he clarified that I should ask the Holy Spirit specifically. Light bulb moment!

Living guided by the Holy Spirit is not easy, as it’s not how we usually live our life. Rather, we tend to think what do I want and how can I get it? Or what do my kids want and how can I get it for them? But we have to relinquish that “me, me, me” way of life and change it to “He, He, He.” 🙂 That requires some serious spring training for all of us to get into spiritual shape!

What does it mean to live guided by the Holy Spirit? It means asking His guidance in all things. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember to throw the empty shampoo bottle in the shower into the recycling bin! So remember to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance before all things? That’s going to take some practice with undoubtedly a few curve balls along the way.

If we want to live “Holy Spirit-led,” then we have to turn it into a habit; we’ve got to get to the point that it’s just a part of our “swing.” That means at least three weeks of doing this on a regular basis until it becomes ingrained in our day-to-day activity. That takes practice!

And not only do we have to remember to ASK, we have to remember to take time to LISTEN for His answers and then ACT on them.

Spring Training Exercises to be Holy Spirit-Led:

First, we have to have given the reigns of our live over to God, allowing him permission to guide us. THEN here are some other ideas and suggestions…

  • Go to daily mass as often as you can and present your questions during mass
  • Spend some time in the Blessed Sacrament at the beginning or end of your day lifting up your thoughts to the Holy Spirit
  • In the book “Walking with Purpose: Seven Priorities That Make Life Work” by Lisa Brenninkmeyer (Beacon Publishing, 2013), which is free on DynamicCatholic.com, she suggests taking some morning prayer time to do the following:
    • Using a journal, write a note to God/Holy Spirit about any worries, concerns or direction that you need.
    • Write down a list of what you need to pray for daily. She includes:
      • Help she needs in her relationship with God
      • Help in her marriage (or vocation)
      • Prayers for her children
      • Prayers for her home
      • Prayers for outside relationships (or anyone you feel called to pray for that day)
      • Prayer that God will be the priority in all things
      • You could also add prayer for work related items
    • Read the Bible – You can read the daily readings or follow a Bible Reading Plan like the one from the Coming Home Network. Look for answers from the Holy Spirit.
  • Before major discussions, emails, phone calls, stop and say a prayer for those involved and that God’s will be done.
  • Pray the Angelus at noon – Set a timer on your phone and stop and pray this short prayer in solidarity with others around the world.
  • Pray one of the Liturgy of the Hours – Download Laudate on your smart phone and stop and pray at 6 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m. or 9 p.m.
  • Pray your calendar each day. Stop and review your calendar, praying for each person you will meet or talk with that day.
  • Daily Reflection/Examination of Conscience – Matthew Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic offers a great Prayer Process you can complete upon the close of the day, examining what you did and did not do to be the best version of yourself, pray for others, thank God for what you are grateful for that day, etc.
  • Go to Reconciliation monthly, so you can properly “hear” the Holy Spirit rather than have Him be clouded out by sin, even little ones.
  • Receive the Eucharist as often as you can to continue to cleanse yourself of sin and receive grace from God.
  • Engage in spiritual reading and look for answers from the Holy Spirit.

These exercises help us make time to ask and listen to the Holy Spirit, but then it’s time to ACT, which can be the toughest part. You’re going to be out on the field, in front of everyone, putting into action all that you’ve learned in training and following the coach’s (Holy Spirit) orders even if you don’t like them.

The Holy Spirit puts me outside of my comfort zone all the time in what He asks of me. I have slowly adopted the attitude that it does not matter what others think, only what God thinks of what I am doing. So, as an introvert, if I feel afraid to introduce myself to someone, that they might think I’m being too forward or strange, it doesn’t matter, or as embarrassment and anxiety creep in, I try to just let those feelings go. I have to rest knowing that I was trying to do what God asked and know that He will be pleased no matter what anyone else may think. That is truly all that matters.

Are you ready to be Holy Spirit-led? It’s critical if we want to become the saints God desires us to be. Let us let Him lead us to the Promised Land but first let the spring training begin!

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