March Lights - Beginning Interior Prayer
Because the question of “how to pray” comes up so often in spiritual direction, I want to offer my own explainer on beginning interior prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of three types of prayer: vocal (memorized prayers, typically prayed out loud), meditative (called discursive or mental, as it prioritizes active thinking), and contemplative (a word with many definitions, though generally passive and heart based) (#2699). Notice the progression. This instruction is for beginners or those moving into meditative prayer since those advanced in prayer need different advice. The word “interior” is preferable to “mental” because it facilitates the transition from head to heart as St. Theresa of Avila’s indicated with her treatise on prayer, The Interior Castle. Prayer is paying attention to God and intentionally spending time with Him. It is a dialogue, or mutual listening and speaking about what matters most. Try 7Rs to begin interior prayer:
Beginning interior prayer takes great determination and lots of grace. The victory is won each time you simply go again, and again, and again to prayer. You may not feel like you are praying well, but you learn to pray by praying. The 7Rs are not meant to be a rigid method of prayer but flexible helps as you learn to let the Holy Spirit lead you in prayer, each day, and over time. This art of discerning the Spirit takes practice. Though you are called toward contemplative prayer, vocal and meditative prayer are never completely set aside. At the same time, novenas and other vocal prayers, while necessary and timeless, are not the crux of prayer. God is always inviting you closer, deeper, and further into His Sacred Heart.
Wherever you are in your prayer life, may the Lord grant you the desire to pray more and deeply. May you receive the grace to grow in intimacy with Him during these precious moments. May you know that the Lord rejoices to welcome you, however you come to Him. May you come to see prayer as a portal to the great romance referenced in Song of Songs. May Mary and Joseph accompany you and the Lord bless you!
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