Thursday, March 12, 2009

Vocal Prayer and Mental Prayer, Part 1

Q: Father John, what is the difference between vocal prayer, and mental prayer?

A: Vocal prayer consists of lifting our hearts and minds to God by means of previously composed words (recited either silently or out loud).  Though useful when we find it hard to concentrate in our prayer or when we are buffeted by distractions, vocal prayer poses the danger of routine: simply saying the words without meaning them.  The secret to vocal prayer is to align our hearts with the sense of the words.  This way, even though the words we are using are not spontaneous, we are truly entering into a conversation with God.

Mental prayer is a conversation with God using words that come to us in the moment, that are not previously composed.  This usually requires more effort than vocal prayer, since our weak faith makes it hard to be and stay convinced that God is truly present in our conversation.  Often, mental prayer takes the form of Christian meditation, which utilizes a scriptural or spiritual text or illustration as a springboard for our conversation with God.  After reading a passage from the Gospels, for instance, you think about what it means, what it teaches us about Christ and his plan for our lives.  That reflection will naturally lead you into prayers of thanksgiving to God, or praise of his goodness, or petitions for forgiveness or aid.  That process of reflecting and responding is the typical way to carry on a conversation with God in your own words – i.e. mental prayer, or Christian meditation.

Yours in Christ, Father John Bartunek, LC

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