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:
A rule of life is a discerned commitment to the Lord, specifying the “tools” one will use to grow closer to Him. The first rule of life was set forth in the monasteries as groups of men and women joined in community to love and serve the Lord: they knew when they would wake, eat, pray, study, and work throughout the day. Religious congregations (including third order members and lay members of movements) still have specified obligations that orient them to the Lord according to their specific charism and mission. However, all lay people are encouraged to pray about and utilize a rule of life … according to their state in life and personal spirituality. For Catholics, the Church provides a “skeletal” rule of life via its precepts: Sunday Mass, annual confession, reception of Eucharist during the Easter season, days of fast/abstinence, and tithing (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 241-243). Yet, anyone who desires to grow in holiness should do more than the bare minimum, just as a marathon aspirant will need to do more than walk a mile a day.
Growth in holiness occurs with regular correspondence to the Lord’s desire to be with us and for us. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3: 20). The rule of life makes the spiritual life fruitful because one is intentional about opening the door to the Lord.