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Practicing mental prayer

By Sean Martin
John Paul II Generation

What can I do to make my life of prayer stronger?

“Christian Prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.” (CCC#2708) If consistent daily meditative prayer disposes us to intimate union with Christ in the gift of contemplation, then we should practice meditative prayer daily. “Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly…” (CCC#2707)

How does a Christian practice meditation?

Some spiritual masters have suggested that we should prepare in advance prior to practicing meditative prayer. Some have suggested that we should try to rid ourselves of distractions through such practices as fasting, mortification, sinning less, and entering into periods of silence throughout the day.

It is also suggested that we should prepare by choosing the method of meditation and or subject matter (a mystery of God) ahead of time. “There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters.” (CCC#2707) We might choose to pray the liturgy of the hours, rosary, chaplet of mercy, or lectio divina (praying with the Scripture). These prayers have both vocal and meditative qualities. We might choose for the subject matter “the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, [or] works of spirituality.” (CCC#2705)

In Introduction to the Devout Life, a great spiritual master, St. Francis de Sales describes a simple method of meditation using the components: consideration, affection, and resolution. Each component exercises a different faculty of the soul: consideration the intellect, affection the emotions, and resolution the will.

After the preparation and planning of the mediation, some of the spiritual masters have suggested beginning meditative prayer by acknowledging God’s presence and offering an opening vocal prayer.

If we choose to use St. Francis de Sales method of meditation to ponder a particular mystery of God, then we would meditate using the following steps: consideration, affection, and resolution.

In the first step, consideration, we would consider the mystery and ponder it, using our imagination. We might ask who is in the mystery, what does it look like, smell like, and feel like? We would ask questions about the mystery and gain greater insights.

In the second step, affection, we would ask how the mystery applies our life, do we have any desires or regrets, and do we have any petitions?

In the last step, resolution, we would make a resolution to change our life according to what we have considered and applied to our life. Our resolutions should resolve to avoid sin and practice the virtues. Our resolution should be precise, practical, and proximate. It should give Glory to God. It is important to safeguard our resolutions by having a written account and or a verbal account with a spiritual director.

Finally, some spiritual masters have suggested concluding with vocal prayers and favorite devotional prayers.

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