“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people” (Lk 1:68).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that blessing “is an encounter between God and man. … The prayer of blessing is man’s response to God’s gifts: because God blesses, the human heart can in return bless the One who is the source of every blessing” (No. 2626). Blessing, as prayer, most fully exemplifies how prayer is a two-way street. We see and acknowledge the good gifts God has given to us, gifts we frequently refer to as “blessings.” In doing this, we give to God the honor of our worship, both in our private prayer and while praying as a community.

The Hebrew word that is translated as “to bless” also means “to kneel,” a posture of adoration that demonstrates the adorer’s humility before the One being adored. Frequently in the psalms, we see references to this prayer posture in the context of blessing God: “Enter, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For he is our God, we are the people he shepherds, the sheep in his hands” (Ps 95:6-7). Prayer of adoration “exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil” (CCC, No. 2628).

Sometimes we use the words “bless” and “praise” interchangeably, but these are actually different types of prayer. To distinguish between them, it might help to think about who is listening to us when we bless or praise. We can praise God to others, describing to someone else how good God has been to us, and we can praise God with others — but when we bless God, that is directly addressed to God: describing to God how good he has been to us.

Extolling God’s goodness, power and majesty in our prayer of blessing and adoration underscores our own dependence on him and our position of lowliness compared to God. The psalmist proclaims, “Appear on high over the heavens, God, your glory above all the earth!” (Ps 108:6). Prayer of blessing and adoration is our way of lifting God up, acclaiming him as our savior and Lord.

Praying in blessing and adoration is our deepest communication with God. We’re not asking for anything, confessing anything, or even thanking him. We simply worship him for the sake of worshipping him. A prayer of blessing and adoration can stem from thanksgiving; that prayer of gratitude moves into simple contemplation of God’s greatness. Prayers of blessing and adoration can even be wordless prayers: a kneeling posture (or bowed head if you are unable to kneel) and the silence of contemplation and adoration can sometimes express more than our words.

Prayer of blessing and adoration comes from our own need to remember that God is God, and that God is the source of all life and all goodness. By praying in this way, we put our spiritual priorities in order.

Where do we see this in the Mass?

We bless God many times throughout the Mass, beginning with the Gloria, which is both a prayer of blessing and praise. Just before the Gospel is proclaimed, the congregation acclaims, “Glory to you, O Lord.” The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins as the celebrant prays, “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation.” In the Eucharistic Prayer, the “Holy, Holy, Holy” is a prayer of blessing, as is the doxology at the conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer, “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever.”

Our posture during certain times of the Mass signifies moments of adoration: we kneel during the consecration and again after the Lord’s Prayer until the tabernacle has been closed after Communion. By the prayerful posture we show, even without words, our humility in the very presence of God in the Eucharist.

3 practical ways to pray this way:

  1. Visit an adoration chapel and silently contemplate the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist.
  2. In your journal, write a poem or song of blessing, using your own words to express your thoughts about God’s greatness.
  3. Next time you sing or recite the Gloria at Mass, pay close attention to the words.

What do the saints say about blessing and adoration?

“The happiness of man on earth, my children, is to be very good; those who are very good bless the good God, they love Him, they glorify Him, and do all their works with joy and love, because they know that we are in this world for no other end than to serve and love the good God” (St. John Vianney, On Salvation).

Barb Szyszkiewicz, a Secular Franciscan, is editor at CatholicMom.com and author ofThe Handy Little Guide to Prayer(OSV, $5.95). Read more from the prayer series here.