we can speak of three types of prayer: vocal prayer, meditation,
In vocal prayer we use words, we use our voices. Sometimes
the words are those of our tradition (the Our Father, the
Rosary,etc.); at other times they are our own, rising up within
us as we spend time with God, with Christ. It is basically
an external form of prayer and therefore it is what we use
when we pray together. Religious, for example, pray the prayers
of Mass and most pray the prayers of the Divine Office. Each
community has certain prayers that are part of their tradition.
Praying them together gives them a sense not only of their
relationship with God but also with each other.
In meditation we use our minds, our imaginations, our emotions.
Meditation begins with some form of reading, especially from
the Gospels, that helps us to understand some aspect of our
Christian life, our relationship with God. It can involve
things, like icons or candles, to help us to reflect on God
and our relationship with the Trinity. These readings and
reflections help us to move into prayer. They enable us to
pray, as it were, from the heart where words are not always
necessary. There are many a number of methods of meditation
that have come down to us from the spiritual masters of our
Where meditation seeks understanding, contemplation seeks
the God “whom my soul loves.” (Song of Songs,
1:7) It is an intense form of prayer that seeks the face of
God while it recognizes that such prayer is truly a gift.
So we open ourselves to the presence of God in quiet, freeing
our minds — as best we can — and wait on the Lord.
Here, too, the spiritual masters have taught us ways to help
us in this form of prayer so that we can do our part as we
wait for God to enter into our prayer.
These are general terms with which we speak about prayer.
Prayer can take many forms, some more formal, some less; some
which emphasize one dimension of our being, some another (for
example, the mind, the heart, the will). In the beginning
it is helpful to try different forms of prayer to find one
that suits you best.
may wish to read one of the following brief articles to expand
your understanding of how you might pray: