“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; worship the Lord with cries of gladness; come before him with joyful song.” (Psalm 100:1)
Thirty-five other psalms begin with this same encouragement according to my cursory search. St. Paul urges us to: “Rejoice in the Lord always. (Phil. 4:4) Jesus in his Lord’s Prayer begins with, “Our Father in heaven, hollowed be your name…”
A number of years ago, our daughter Emily, who has Down syndrome, showed me how we should approach the Father with praise and worship. We were at mass, and I was serving as a Eucharistic minister and just happened to be serving the isle in which she and my wife were coming down. When she realized that she was coming to me for communion, her face lit up with that big bright beautiful smile of hers, she held out her cupped hands to receive the body of Christ and started running toward me exclaiming loudly, “Daddy!” It was an expression of complete and total love.
My heart melted with her response, but then I thought, isn’t this how God would like all of us to approach him – unreservedly expressing our love and joy for him, not worrying about what others might think.
While I begin my prayer time each day with a short bit of praise, I am not sure I fulfill the expectation of the psalms or the level of commitment suggested by Jesus in his Greatest Commandment to “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt. 22:37) How often does my praise come from duty or a routine approach, instead of a joyful heart?
As the Psalmist says, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” (Psalm 8:2 NIV)
May we follow their example and sing hymns with enthusiasm, offer our prayers and responses with fervor, and seek the Lord with a pure heart.
“I will praise the Lord at all times; praise shall always be in my mouth.” (Psalm 66:1)