I am Emily Hernon. Back home in Ohio, my beloved town is small with not much for a bunch of thrill-seeking teenagers. So, my friends & I search for good times high and low. One of my favorite pastimes with my friends was to go bridge jumping. Right off the motorway, there are a set of abandoned train tracks. In order to jump, you climb to the edge and peer down at the rushing river about 40 feet below you. The worst part is just standing there on the edge holding on tight, contemplating if the water is too shallow or if you might land the wrong way and break something. But my favorite method is skipping that step, not look and jump right in. Falling through the air I think maybe be one of my favorite external feelings of freedom. Like going down a roller coaster, your stomach flips and the wild wind whips back your hair. Looking back, I think what makes it so exhilarating is you have externally chosen to surrender yourself to how you end up falling. It is an outward sign of freedom while also controlling your actions. Because of your exterior choice, it creates a swelling sense of adrenaline and slight fear of the unknown. Then you hit the water and want to do it all over again.
Personally, this story strongly relates to the power of praise and worship. To anyone who knows me, I am a strong extrovert and therefore a huge external processor. So, anything that happens I need to take it in but then also spit it out through speaking or writing. I believe Jesus made me this way so I could fall in love with praying through the gift of music.
I have been around the Catholic Church my whole life- catholic family, catholic school, catholic town. But I never truly took the time to wrap my brain around what all of it meant, who Jesus was and what He really did for me. Because of this, some resentment grew in me whenever my family would pack up the car to go to mass. I simply did not understand and did not care to.
Then when I was 16 my best friend at the time (Still is) invited me on a retreat. Blindly, I agreed to go for the pure fact I got to hang out with her. When I got there, I was so taken aback by the other kids. They were all passionately open to the faith I had been closed to. Again, I was so frustrated that I didn’t understand what everyone else did.
On one of the last days of the retreat, we had a time of worship through music and adoration. Sick of watching others, I decided to sit away from my friends and try this thing out. For so long, I had shut the doors that Jesus needed to walk through. Still vivid in my mind, I remember sitting on the wooden pews, gazing at the huge cross in the front of the church. Previously, I had seen people praying with open hands but never ventured out that far in my faith. Since I was by myself, I decided to make the tiny gesture of placing my palms opened on my lap. And opened a door for Jesus to come. Through the external sign of acceptance, I was able to experience Jesus’ presence. And since that night, that tiny action, my life has been changed.
I once heard praise and worship is an outward sign of an inward disposition. In other words, the love of Jesus burns so strong in your heart that you can’t help but translate that exteriorly. Just like jumping off the bridge, externally you are choosing freedom and surrender. HOW FREAKING COOL is it that you can offer your body as a living sacrifice to our Lord who did the same for us. St. Augustine is quoted to say, “singing is praying twice.” When I am lifting my voice to God, I feel an unexplainable connection and intimacy. Many times, in worship, I
will close my eyes and let the words flow from my mouth and experience the true peace that only God can grant. The power of offering yourself up through prayer is evident through the gifts you receive.
As we all know, living the Catholic life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. But when your prayer is dry or the emotions have faded, you can always choose to exteriorly open your hands and sing to our King. In fact, it is the smallest thing you can do. When internally you can’t feel His love, the visible sign of raising your hands to our God will translate inwards. The days where my feet ache the most are often my most fruitful time of prayer. It is in the choice. The King of the world offered up His body for everyone to see, so in repayment we are called to give Him everything no matter who is watching.
My favorite line from a worship song is “arms high and heart abandoned.” There is pure, raw freedom in Jesus Christ and worshipping Him through song and music is one of the most beautiful ways to attain that. In praising Him, we are simply returning to Him what He deserves. Giving up everything, putting yourself aside, and giving God all the glory is what I witness when someone is praising through worship.
Of course, this does not mean that everyone’s favorite form of prayer must be praise and worship. I fully understand how huge our universal church is which invites in so many beautiful and reflective forms of prayer. But I just want you to realize the power of praise and worship. Of the sign of surrender through a jump off a bridge or singing at the top of your lungs to our powerful, glorious, wonderful creator.