Augustine on Approaching God



“Great art thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is thy power, and infinite is thy wisdom.” And man desires to praise thee, for he is a part of thy creation; he bears his mortality about with him and carries the evidence of his sin and the proof that thou dost resist the proud. Still he desires to praise thee, this man who is only a small part of thy creation. Thou hast prompted him, that he should delight to praise thee, for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.¹

There are so many things to see here – to learn – from just these opening lines to Augustine’s Confessions, but three ideas stand out.

First, that one’s approach to God ought to be with two confessions: the confession of sins and the confession of praise.

Secondly, that one’s approach to God should be preceded by a reliance on the word of God: in this case, Augustine’s opening words are from the Psalms.

Thirdly, that one’s approach to God ought to be with humility and the ardent conviction of someone for whom the praise of God is irresistible because it is His due.

As Augustine puts it in his Commentaries on the Psalms: “Do not imagine that you have the power to praise sufficiently he whose greatness has no end.” This alone should bring us to our knees before Him.

¹Translation by Albert C. Outler, Christian Classics Ethereal Online.

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