The practice of the Church , devoutly followed by the faithful , is to begin and end the day with prayer; and though morning and evening prayer is not of strict obligation , the practice of it so well satisfies our sense of the need of prayer that neglect of it, especially for a long time is regarded as more or less sinful , according to the cause of the neglect, which is commonly some form of sloth.
Vocal prayer Prayer may be classified as vocal or mental , private or public. In vocal prayer some outward action, usually verbal expression, accompanies the internal act implied in every form of prayer. This external action not only helps to keep us attentive to the prayer, but it also adds to its intensity. Examples of it occur in the prayer of the Israelites in captivity Exodus ; again after their idolatry among the Chanaanites Judges ; the Lord's Prayer Matthew ; Christ's own prayer after resuscitating Lazarus John ; and the testimonies in Hebrews , and , and frequently we are recommended to use hymns , canticles , and other vocal forms of prayer.
It has been common in the Church from the beginning; nor has it ever been denied, except by the Wyclifites and the Quietists. The former objected to it as unnecessary, as God does not need our words to know what goes on in our souls , and prayer being a spiritual act need be performed by the soul alone without the body.
The latter regarded all external action in prayer as an untoward disturbance or interference with the passivity of the soul required, in their opinion, to pray properly. It is obvious that prayer must be the action of the entire man, body as well as soul ; that God who created both is pleased with the service of both, and that when the two act in unison they help instead of interfering with one another's activities. The Wyclifites objected not only to all external expression of prayer generally, but to vocal prayer in its proper sense, viz.
Prayer expressed in set form of words, excepting only the Our Father. The use of a variety of such forms is sanctioned by the prayer over the first-fruits Deuteronomy If it be right to use one form, that of the Our Father , why not others also? The Litany , Collective and Eucharistic prayers of the early Church were surely set forms, and the familiar daily prayers, the Our Father , Hail Mary , Apostles' Creed , Confiteor, Acts of Faith , Hope, and Charity, all attest the usage of the Church in this respect and the preference of the faithful for such approved forms to others of their own composition.
Postures in prayer Postures in prayer are also an evidence of the tendency in human nature to express inward sentiment by outward sign. Not only among Jews and Christians , but among pagan peoples also, certain postures were considered appropriate in prayer, as, for instance, standing with arms raised among the Romans. The Orante indicates the postures favoured by the early Christians , standing with hands extended, as Christ on the Cross, according to Tertullian ; or with hands raised towards heaven , with bowed heads, or, for the faithful , with eyes raised toward heaven , and, for the catechumens , with eyes bent on the earth; prostration, kneeling, genuflection , and such gestures as striking the breast are all outward signs of the reverence proper for prayer, whether in public or private.
Mental prayer Meditation is a form of mental prayer consisting in the application of the various faculties of the soul , memory , imagination , intellect , and will, to the consideration of some mystery , principle, truth , or fact, with a view to exciting proper spiritual emotions and resolving on some act or course of action regarded as God's will and as a means of union with Him.
In some degree or other it has always been practised by God-fearing souls. There is abundant evidence of this in the Old Testament , as, for instance, in Psalm ; ; ; throughout ; Sirach ; Isaiah ; ; Jeremiah In the New Testament Christ gave frequent examples of it, and St. Paul often refers to it, as in Ephesians ; Colossians ; 1 Timothy ; 1 Corinthians It has always been practised in the Church.
Among others who have recommended it to the faithful as Chrysostom in his two books on prayer, as also in his "Hom. Jerome in Epistle 22 ; St. Basil in his "Homily on St. Julitta, M.
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Cyprian , "In expositione orationis dominicalis" ; St. Ambrose , De sacramentis VI. Augustine , Epistle , nos. Leo , Sermon 46 ; St. Bernard , "De consecratione'", I, vii; St. Thomas , II-II. The writings of the Fathers themselves and of the great theologians are in large measure the fruit of devout meditation as well as of study of the mysteries of religion.
There is, however, no trace of methodical meditation before the fifteenth century. Prior to that time, even in monasteries , no regulation seems to have existed for the choir or arrangement of subject, the order, method, and time of the consideration. From the beginning, before the middle of the twelfth century, the Carthusians had times set apart for mental prayer, as appears from Guigo's "Consuetudinary", but no further regulation.
About the beginning of the sixteenth century one of the Brothers of the Common Life , Jean Mombaer of Brussels , issued a series of subjects or points for meditation. The monastic rules generally prescribed times for common prayer, usually the recitation of the Office, leaving it to the individual to ponder as he might on one or other of the texts. Early in the sixteenth century the Dominican chapter of Milan prescribed mental prayer for half an hour morning and evening. Among the Franciscans there is record of methodical mental prayer about the middle of that century.
Among the Carmelites there was no regulation for it until Saint Theresa introduced it for two hours daily.
2. Thank him.
Although Saint Ignatius reduced meditation to such a definite method in his spiritual exercises, it was not made part of his rule until thirty years after the formation of the Society. His method and that of St. Sulpice have helped to spread the habit of meditating beyond the cloister among the faithful everywhere. Methods of meditation In the method of St. Ignatius the subject of the meditation is chosen beforehand, usually the previous evening. It may be any truth or fact whatever concerning God or the human soul , God's existence , His attributes , such as justice , mercy, love , wisdom, His law , providence , revelation , creation and its purpose, sin and its penalties, death, creation and its purpose, sin and its penalties, death, judgment, hell , redemption , etc.
The precise aspect of the subject should be determined very definitely, otherwise its consideration will be general or superficial and of no practical benefit.
Cultivating Prayer as a Way of Life
As far as possible its application to one's spiritual needs should be foreseen, and to work up interest in it, as one retires and rises, one should recall it to mind so as to make it a sleeping and a waking thought. When ready for meditation, a few moments should be given to recollecting what we are about to do so as to begin with quiet of mind and deeply impressed with the sacredness of prayer. A brief act of adoration of God naturally follows, with a petition that our intention to honour Him in prayer may be sincere and persevering, and that every faculty and act, interior and exterior, may contribute to His service and praise.
The subject of the meditation is then recalled to mind, and in order to fix the attention, the imagination is here employed to construct some scene appropriate to the subject, e. This is called the composition of the place, and even when the subject of meditation has no apparent material associations, the imagination can always devise some scene or sensible image that will help to fix or recall one's attention and appreciate the spiritual matter under consideration.
Thus, when considering sin , especially carnal sin , as enslaving the soul , the Book of Wisdom , suggests the similarity of the body to the prison house of the soul : "The corruptible body is a load upon the soul , and the earthly habitation presseth down the mind that museth upon many things.
A brief petition follows for the special grace one hopes to obtain and then the meditation proper begins. The memory recalls the subject as definitely as possible, one point at a time, repeating it over if necessary , always as a matter of intimate personal interest, and with a strong act of faith until the intellect naturally apprehends the truth or the import of the fact under consideration, and begins to conceive it as a matter for careful consideration, reasoning about it and studying what it implies for one's welfare.
Gradually an intense interest is aroused in these reflections, until, with faith quickening the natural intelligence one begins to perceive applications of the truth or fact to one's condition and needs and to feel the advantage or necessity of acting upon the conclusions drawn from one's reflections. This is the important moment of meditation. The conviction that we need or should do something in accordance with our consideration begets in us desires or resolutions which we long to accomplish.
It we are serious we shall admit of no self-deception either as to the propriety or possibility of such resolutions on our part.
Teachings and Notes
No matter what it may cost us to be consistent, we shall adopt them, and the more we appreciate their difficulty and our own weakness or incapacity, the more we shall try to value the motives which prompt us to adopt them, and above all the more we shall pray for grace to be able to carry them out. If we are in earnest we shall not be satisfied with a superficial process. In the light of the truth we are meditating, our past experience will come to mind and confront us perhaps with memory of failure in previous attempts similar to those we are considering now, or at least with a keen sense of the difficulty to be apprehended, making us more solicitous about the motives animating us and humble in petitioning God's grace.
These petitions, as well as all the various emotions that arise from our reflections, find expression in terms of prayer to God which are called colloquies, or conversations with Him. They may occur at any point in the process, whenever our thoughts inspire us to call upon God for our needs, or even for light to perceive and appreciate them and to know the means of obtaining them. This general process is subject to variations according to the character of the matter under consideration.
The number of preludes and colloquies may vary, and the time spent in reasoning may be greater or less according to our familiarity with the subject. There is nothing mechanical in the process; indeed, if analysed , it is clearly the natural operation of each faculty and of all in concert. Roothaan , who has prepared the best summary of it, recommends a remote preparation for it, so as to know whether we are properly disposed to enter into meditation, and, after each exercise, a brief review of each part of it in detail to see how far we may have succeeded.
It is strongly advised to select as a means of recalling the leading thought or motive or affection some brief memorandum, preferably couched in the words of some text of Scripture, the "Imitation of Christ" , the Fathers of the Church , or of some accredited writer on spiritual things. Meditation made regularly according to this method tends to create an atmosphere or spirit of prayer. The method in vogue among the Sulpicians and followed by the students in their seminaries is not substantially different from this.
According to Chenart, companion of Olier and for a long time director of the Seminary of St. Sulpice, the meditation should consist of three parts: the preparation, the prayer proper, and the conclusion. We will be able to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that He is ready to give if we will but ask in faith. Our Heavenly Father is always ready to hear and answer our prayers. The power of our prayers depends on us. As we strive to make prayer a part of our lives, we should remember this counsel:.
Make our prayers meaningful. Use language that shows love, respect, reverence, and closeness. The application of this principle will vary according to different languages. Regardless of the language, the principle remains the same: When we pray, we should use words that appropriately convey a loving, worshipful relationship with God.
Always give thanks to Heavenly Father. As we take time to remember our blessings, we will recognize how much our Heavenly Father has done for us. We should express our thanks to Him. Remember the needs of others as we pray. We should ask our Heavenly Father to bless and comfort those in need. Seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost so we will know what to include in our prayers. When we make a request through prayer, we must do all we can to assist in its being granted.
Heavenly Father expects us to do more than merely ask Him for blessings. Our prayers for guidance will be only as effective as our efforts to be receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. If we have a difficult task before us, Heavenly Father is pleased when we get on our knees and ask for help and then get on our feet and go to work.
He will help us in all our righteous pursuits, but He seldom will do something for us that we can do ourselves. Personal, private prayer is an essential part of our spiritual development. At least every morning and every night, we should find a place that is free from distractions and kneel in humility and commune with our Heavenly Father.
Although sometimes we may need to pray silently, we should make an extra effort at times to pray vocally see Doctrine and Covenants ; Prayer is two-way communication. As we close our prayers, we should take time to pause and listen. At times, Heavenly Father will counsel, guide, or comfort us while we are on our knees. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James , NIV. And we will receive whatever we request because we obey him and do the things that please him. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. Psalm , NIV.
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He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. Sometimes our prayers are not answered. The Bible gives several reasons or causes for failure in prayer:. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. See also - Deuteronomy ; Ezekiel Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. Matthew , NIV. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus , and with his brothers. Acts , NIV. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place , where he prayed.
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. Luke , NKJV. Share Flipboard Email.
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Cultivating Prayer as a Way of Life. Table of Contents Expand. What Is the Correct Posture for Prayer? Should I Use Eloquent Words? Why Should I Pray? Are There Requirements for Successful Prayer?