The Different Kinds of Prayer.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
The Different Kinds of Prayer.
There are different kinds of Prayer, viz., vocal prayer, mental prayer, the prayer of petition, the prayer of thanksgiving, and the prayer of ejaculation. We will explain briefly the meaning of each of these different kinds of prayer.
Vocal prayer is prayer that we say with our lips, and in which a certain form of words is used. In addition to the mere words there must be the desires of the heart, and the manifestation of these desires to God, otherwise there is no prayer.
St. Thomas says: “Vocal prayer is not intended to manifest to God something which is unknown to Him, but to raise to God the mind of the person praying.” “When you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard. Be not like to them, for your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask Him” (Matt, vi, 7, 8). “To pray much is not to speak much, but it is to say what is said with deep affection” (St. Augustine).
The body and the mind have their influence upon each other, and we use words in order to help us to elevate the soul to God.
Vocal prayer is most useful, and should not be neglected by any true Christian, for the following reasons. First, it stirs up the inward devotion of our heart, and is a great help to the mind to raise itself to God. As long as our soul remains united to the body, it must depend on the bodily senses in its spiritual operations: and hence, as St. Augustine teaches, the soul finds a great assistance in words and gestures for enkindling within itself holy desires and affections (St. Augustine, Epist. 121. Ad. Probam, Cap. 9). Secondly, it is most fitting that we should worship God not only with the inward powers of the soul, the intellect and the will, but with those of the body, and consequently, also, with the tongue; as both the senses of our body and the faculties of our soul are gifts received from His bounteous hand. Wherefore the Prophet Osee says that we ought to offer to God the sacrifice of our lips; which can mean nothing but vocal prayer (Osee xiv, 3). Thirdly, vocal prayer gives a kind of vent to the devout affections which inflame our hearts, and thus the ardours of divine Charity are increased by this breathing forth of our heart’s love. There is no need, however, of proving at length the necessity and advantages of vocal prayer; for scarcely any Christian neglects it who takes the slightest heed of his eternal welfare. But what we must specially bear in mind is, that such prayers are not to be said merely with the tongue, but should be accompanied with attention of mind and affection of heart: otherwise they will be displeasing to God, and of no advantage to him that recites them. This the Apostle St. Paul plainly tells us: “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is without fruit” (i Cor. xiv, 14). Nay, rather, on prayer such as this must fall the rebuke which the Lord addressed by the mouth of Isaias to the children of Israel on account of their inattention and distractions in prayer: “This people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips glorify me, but their heart is far from me” (Isaias xxix, 13). If then we would have our prayers of much avail, of great merit, and very pleasing to God, besides praying with the tongue, we must be careful to pray with the mind, with the spirit, and with the heart, as St. Paul warns us. “I will pray with the Spirit, I will pray also with the understanding, I will sing with the Spirit, I will sing also with the understanding” (i Cor. xiv, 15). (Scaramelli).
“True prayer consists, not in the words shaped by the mouth, but in the interior attention of the heart; for the sounds which sink into the ears of God are not the words which fall from our lips, but the holy desires and aspirations of our hearts. If, when begging of Our Lord life everlasting, our lips alone move and our heart is void of desire, though we may cry out with a loud voice we shall be as though silent, and saying much shall remain in the sight of God as though mute and dumb” (St. Gregory, Lib. xxii, C. 12).
Let us then be careful lest our vocal prayers fail in the attention which is their very life, without which they are as a lifeless corpse; for, even as a dead body is an object of horror to our eyes, so too, prayers said without attention are not true prayers at all, but in the sight of God are the mere dead body of prayer. (Scaramelli).
Mental prayer is prayer which is made by the mind alone without using any words. As all the last treatise on Meditation is about this class of prayer we need not say anything further about it in this place.
The prayer of petition is the asking God for things which we find necessary or useful. Theologians teach that it is the most necessary of all prayers, and that everyone is bound to have recourse to it, in order to obtain those Spiritual gifts which can be given by no one but by God alone, nor obtained from Him except by way of earnest petition.
The prayer of thanksgiving is the thanking God for the graces we have already received. There is nothing so natural as to thank God when we have received favours from Him, just as we would expect a beggar to thank a rich man who had relieved him. Almighty God expects that we should return Him thanks for His good gifts.
The prayer of ejaculation consists in sending up short aspirations to Almighty God, as for example,
“O God, come to my assistance. O Lord make haste to help me” (Psalm lxix, 2).
“Create a clean heart in me, O God; and renew a right spirit within my bowels” (Psalm I, 12).
“My Beloved to me, and I to Him” (Cant, ii, 16).
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy great mercy” (Luke xxii, 42).
This is a very useful form of prayer especially in time of temptation, because it is made in a short time and there is little danger of distraction. This is very important when we remember that we cannot overcome temptations without grace from God.
St. Chrysostom, says, that the prayer of ejaculation shuts the door of our soul against the devil, and puts us beyond the danger of consenting to sin.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
We ought to place a bar on the complainings of our bodies, which, under pretence of weakness, wish to prevent us from laboring. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Bartoli, Book v.
April Devotion: The Holy Ghost (The Passion for Lent)
Virtue to practice: Patience
Vexilla Regis prodeunt
The royal banners forward go;
The Cross shines forth in mystic glow,
Where Life for sinners death endured,
And life by death for man procured.
Where deep for us the spear was dyed,
Life’s torrent rushing from His side,
To wash us in that precious flood
Where mingled, Water flowed, and Blood,
Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old;
‘Amidst the nations, God,’ saith he,
‘Hath reigned and triumphed from the Tree.’
O Tree of beauty! Tree of light!
O Tree with royal purple dight!
Elect on whose triumphal breast
Those holy Limbs should find their rest.
On whose dear arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world’s ransom hung:
The price of human kind to pay
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.
O Cross, our one reliance, hail,
Thou glory of the saved, avail*
To give fresh merit to the Saint,
And pardon to the penitent.
To Thee, Eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done;
Whom by the Cross Thou dost restore,
Preserve and govern evermore. Amen.
Vexilla Regis pródeunt,
Fulget Crucis mystérium,
Qua vita mortem pértulit,
Et morte vitam prótulit.
Quæ vulneráta lánceæ
Mucróne diro, críminum
Ut nos laváret sórdibus,
Manávit unda et sánguine.
Impléta sunt quæ cóncinit
David fidéli cármine,
Regnávit a ligno Deus.
Arbor decóra et fúlgida,
Ornáta regis púrpura,
Elécta digno stípite
Tam sancta membra tángere.
Beáta, cuius bráchiis
Prétium pepéndit sæculi,
Statéra facta córporis,
Tulítque prædam tártari.
O Crux, ave, spes única,
Gentis redémptæ glória!*
Piis adáuge grátiam,
Reísque dele crímina.
Te, fons salútis, Trínitas,
Colláudet omnis spíritus:
Quibus Cricis victóriam
Largíris, adde præmium. Amen.
(ex. Breviario Romano)
*Instead of: ‘Thou Glory of the saved,’ during Passiontide, say: ‘This Holy Passiontide‘, during the Paschal Season: ‘Thou joy of Eastertide‘, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: ‘On this triumphant day.‘
An indulgence of 5 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions for the daily recitation of this hymn throughout an entire month (S.C. Ind., Jan. 16, 1886; S.P.Ap., April 29, 1934).
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