WEEK FOUR: Prayer
DAY 2: The Three “Venues” of Prayer (Forms of Prayer, Part I)
Take a moment to think of all of the ways we can communicate with someone nowadays:
- In person (orally)
- Handwritten note
- Text message
- Voice mail
- Instant message
In today’s world we have many different ways by which we can send and receive messages. In our prayer lives, as well, we have many different ways in which we can speak and listen to God. In particular, we can describe these forms of prayer according to three categories: vocal, meditative, and contemplative.
Think of it this way. Picture a teenage couple who have just begun dating. They can’t get enough of talking to one another, constantly calling, texting, chatting. Now picture an elderly couple, married over 50 years, sitting on a porch swing, gently swaying back and forth without a word being spoken. Both couples are “in communnion” with one another. One end of the spectrum relies mainly on words. At the other end of the spectrum, words no longer seem as necessary. That’s the same dynamic that we find on the spectrum of prayer running from vocal through meditative to contemplative.
Here’s an image to help you remember these 3 forms of prayer. Right before the Gospel, at Mass, we make the Sign of the Cross over our forehead, lips, and heart, while silently praying, “May the word of God be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.” Mind, lips, and heart – these are the three “venues” so-to-speak, of prayer.
- Vocal (lips)
- Meditative (mind)
- Contemplative (heart)
Vocal prayer, using words either spoken out loud or in the silence of our hearts, is the most natural form of prayer and, for most people, is the place where prayer begins. We can speak to God using our own words or using the words of traditional prayers and liturgical prayers such as the Liturgy of the Hours.
Meditation, or reflective prayer, is thinking about God—often with the aid of a Scripture passage, an inspirational reading, or sacred images. When we meditate, we attempt to become aware of—and “plug into”—God’s power and presence in our lives. Examples include the Daily Examen, the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, and Lectio Divina.
Often, the words meditation and contemplation are used interchangeably. Contemplation and meditation are not mutually exclusive. Meditation is often called contemplative prayer. Meditation leads to contemplation. However, a fine distinction is helpful. Meditation involves actively focusing. Contemplation is simply resting quietly in God’s presence. In contemplation, we do not attempt to speak to God but simply marvel at his glorious presence. It can be compared to enjoying a beautiful piece of art or a nature scene. No words are needed. An example of this is Centering Prayer.
No matter what our personality type is – introvert or extrovert – we can find ways to enter into a deeper relationship with God through prayer. It means that we can truly pray without ceasing, knowing the prayer is much more than talking to God, but is our awareness of and response to God’s presence in our lives.
Reflection Questions: Choose one of the following questions and share your thoughts with your fellow retreatants by adding your comments in the comments box below this post.
- Who is someone that you would feel comfortable sitting in silence with?
- Who is the person you talk with the most? How often and what do you talk about?
- What can we learn about prayer from how we communicate in our own relationships?
- What’s your favorite traditional prayer? When did you learn it and from whom?
- How do you feel about praying spontaneously? About leading others with a spontaneous prayer?
- What’s your favorite form of meditation?
- What kind of experience have you had with contemplation?
- What form of prayer that you would like to learn more about were you introduced to for the first time in this article?
Holy Spirit, you teach your people to pray through the guidance of the Church. Thank you for showing me so many ways to be in prayerful communion with you and with the Father and with Jesus. Help me to find the way to pray that is best for me right now in my life. Help me to grow in my prayer life, so that I may better recognize God’s presence in my life and respond by loving him and by loving my neighbors.
- The Rosary as a Tool for Meditation
- The Purpose of Ignatian Repetition
- The Daily Examen
- Ignatian Prayer and the Imagination
- A Framework for Contemplation
- A Saint Who Lives in Complete Activity
- The Contemplation on Divine Love
CCC References: 2697-2724
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I hope you’re enjoying our online summer retreat, Preparing for a Year of Faith! Take a few minutes each day at your convenience to “gather” here on my blog as we seek to add some flavor to our faith lives by deepening our understanding of the truths of our faith as given to us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.