According to spiritual writers, Prayer is distinguished as vocal and mental prayer, public and private prayer, reflective and affective prayer, guided and spontaneous prayer etc. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church underscores three major ways of prayer: Vocal Prayer, Meditative Prayer and Contemplative Prayer (Cf. CCC #2699).
Vocal Prayer is a prayer that makes use of set words. Jesus taught his disciples the vocal prayer, when he gave them the prayer “Our Father”. Act of Adoration, Act of Thanksgiving, Act of Contrition etc. so also, grace before and after meals, the Rosary, Prayers said during the Holy Mass are some of the vocal prayers, we recite. Even when a person prays louder expressing his/her personal feeling of joy, sorrow, frustrations of failure or success etc. are also vocal prayers. For example, Jesus, expressing his agony, prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. Vocal prayer is very helpful, especially when one learns how to pray, or when one is physically or mentally tired, exhausted or while traveling.
Meditation is a mental prayer in which a person makes use of his/her intellect to dwell on a scene of revelation in the history of salvation or on any scene in the life of Jesus, as described in the Bible. This reflective prayer is done either by reading a Biblical text or any of the passage from a spiritual writer (Cf. CCC #2705). Meditative prayer involves one’s effort and desire to deepen our knowledge of and relationship with God. “Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary, in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ…” (CCC # 2708).
Contemplative Prayer is a form of prayer that transcends formal words and concepts and leads to truly living in intimate communion with God. “Contemplative prayer is also the pre-eminently intense time of prayer. In it the Father strengthens our inner being with power through His Spirit…” (CCC # 2714). St. Theresa of Avila, also called St. Theresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross are note worthy saints, who are known for deep contemplative prayer, in which they have had vision of the souls in heaven and in hell.
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
God bless you
Fr. Arul Joseph V.