When I was younger, I always felt a little cheesy praising God.
I knew that the proper order of prayer is ACTS: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication. I always felt fluent in the last three, but adoration was tricky. It was hard to shake the feeling that I was buttering God up in preparation for asking for a favor: “Heyyy, Lord, looking good there. Glorious! I mean, really, just omnipotent today! Love the whole endless goodness thing. With the angels, and the loving sacrifice, and so on. Really grade-A work. So! Um, now that I’m here, I was wondering if you could, um, increase vocations, heal my friend’s cancer, and help me move my couch this weekend ... “
Not exactly Psalm material. It felt so unnatural, I sometimes skipped praying altogether, because the adoration part felt too icky.
I still feel that way sometimes. Even if I know that all the praise I’m offering is true, it’s hard to feel sincere. Of course the answer is the same answer that adults always get: do it anyway, no matter how it feels.
We don’t start with adoration because God needs us to tell him what He’s like. He doesn’t need to have His ego boosted, and He doesn’t need to be softened up or put in a good mood, like some prickly, insecure boss in middle management.
When we praise God, it’s for our sakes, 100%: to remind us Who we’re talking to — and to remind us who we are. It’s like the story of the old man who walked into the chapel every day, and just sat there for 10 minutes, and then went out. He did this for years and years. The curious priest finally asked him what he was doing every day, and the old man explained, “Well, I sit down, and I say, ‘God, You are very big, and I am very small.’”
What else is there to say?
I teach my kids that a car is made for driving, a toaster is made for making toast, and we are made for knowing, loving, and serving God. That is what we are for. A good way to remember what we are for — who we really are — is first to remember who God is, and what He is like. This is what adoration is all about. Want to understand your sins more clearly, suddenly see the bounty of your life, or be moved to pray for something other than your same old, stale desires? Start with adoration. Once we spend some time on this part, the rest of it — contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication — fall into place.
Adoration isn’t to prepare God: It’s to prepare ourselves.