Praise is the ability to lift one’s self out of despair to see beauty or the potential for beauty in a situation that may be more akin to despair. It is the ability to find gratitude in the painful, joy in the most sorrowful, riches in the deepest of poverties.
Prayer is the means by which praise is possible. It is the foundation on which the house that is praise exists.
Without prayer, there is no praise.
Without praise, there is no prayer.
If we constantly hold our hand out to God, rather than offer God our embrace, we are not able to grow, to move past the open palm.
When we embrace God, especially in the most desperate of situations, the still and quiet presence overtakes us. It takes great practice because our nature is to revert to the heat and the red of the emotions, to punish, to persecute, to safeguard our own privilege, our festering safety.
A simple example is snow. In Saskatchewan, snow comes when it wants to. You don’t have the choice to run away from it always, and even if you do, it’s going to come back. Last winter was one of those situations where we had a very warm fall, and were only suddenly slapped with the cold and probably one of the craziest snow storms that I can remember. There was so much snow that I couldn’t get the car out of the street to commute to work out of town.
I spent a few moments mentioning this challenge on Facebook, frustrated by the snow and wanting to get out. My spiritual director simply wrote, “Snow and rain, praise the Lord.” That’s all it took.
A more complicated example is living at home with an elderly parent who believes they can, and are, more capable than they are. The daily challenge is to try and not react to the buffer that happens at every moment, the need my parent has to assert their presence in my home in such a way that creates a real challenge in terms of boundaries. Complicating the situation is being left high and dry by my sibling who has simply made the choice to not involve himself in what’s going on. Because it doesn’t directly affect him, he makes no effort to make the situation better. My parent sees my partner as a threat and is abusive towards him in a very passive aggressive way, which makes trying to build a life together challenging.
And yet there still has to be moments of prayer, moments of praise. Learning to detach from my father’s behavior is beyond challenging. It’s painful. But it’s an opportunity for praise, an opportunity to be thankful for the people who are supportive, kind, loving. It’s an opportunity to take the silence that does happen as a moment for prayer, a moment to be still enough to recognize the storm that’s going on under my own roof as one that will one day pass, one that helps me to recognize that even if I don’t feel like I have a home here, it has helped me to recognize what it is that I need and want.
Snow sucks. But without snow, the excitement of spring can’t happen. The joy of summer flowers and the smell of clover can’t happen.