Blog: Uncovering The Starchild Within
by Ren

Mental Prayer

long but worth the read...more text at http://www.ewtn.com/library/spirit/mostpray.txt

Date:   11/4/2010 10:48:56 AM   ( 11 y ) ... viewed 11227 times

MENTAL PRAYER
by Fr. William Most

(Chapter 21 of "Our Father's Plan", by Fr. William Most, published by
Christendom College Press.)

Prayer in general seeks direct contact or union with God in mind and
will. We have already considered liturgical prayer, in chapter 11,
and have stressed the essential part of it, the interior
participation, while also saying that exterior participation is
objectively very good, even though without the interior it is
worthless. The importance and value of liturgical prayer comes from
the fact that it is the prayer of Christ, or, the whole Christ, Head
and members.[1]

But we must not think that since liturgical prayer has this
excellence, we could neglect other prayer, especially mental prayer.
As we pointed out in other connections, if someone would eat only the
one food element that is the best, he would incur deficiency
diseases. So too, to limit oneself to liturgical prayer would result
in a great loss.

Further, any kind of prayer without the support of mortification and
humility would be almost if not entirely devoid of value. St. Jane de
Chantal points out that there is even danger of delusion: "A person
to whom God gives [special or high ] graces at prayer, should give
good heed to accompany them with true mortification and humility ...:
if they do not, the graces will not last, or are nothing but
illusions."[2] This sound advice is especially needed today, when
some are trying to reach advanced stages of prayer almost solely by
means of special techniques, without the needed accompanying
spiritual development-often because they follow that false
spirituality, already discussed, which denies any value in
self-imposed mortification; or else they are taken in by the false
"angel of light" (cf. 2 Cor 11:14) who deludes them with a false
concept of love of neighbor.

So we intend in this chapter to first review the chief time-tested
means of mental prayer, and then to consider also some more recent
proposals.

To set the stage for any mental prayer, it is highly desirable to
first try to recall the fact that we are, even though we are not
always aware of it, in the presence of God our Father. If we could
live in the constant realization of that presence, what a difference
it would make in our lives! This leads logically to the thought of
who we are and who He is-let us recall our earlier considerations on
His Infinite Majesty. The great St. Teresa of Avila, even after
receiving so many extraordinary favors, still liked to refer to Him
as "His Majesty". This attitude is really adoration, and is most
basic. If we find our thoughts and hearts occupied well with this
adoration, there is really no need to move on to any further stages
of mental prayer-for this is in itself enormously valuable
spiritually and pleasing to our Father. This same thought naturally
leads us to pray for light and help to pray well (if we do not mind
using that word "help", which, as we saw in chapter 18, is really too
weak an expression: it tends to imply we are the chief doers, with
God only as a sort of side-line assistant! This is the opposite of
the real situation).

Then, realizing our own weakness and insufficiency, we also ask for
the help of our Blessed Mother. We ask her to come with her perfect
adoration, to supplement our deficient dispositions.

There are many ways to go forward after this point-for there are
great individual differences in our response to grace.

Formal method is a rather new thing in the history of the Church.
This does not mean there was no meditation in earlier times. There
definitely was, but it was not so formal, and often would come in
connection with thoughtful reading of the Scriptures privately.

Some will be attracted to very methodical procedure; others will not.
The important thing is to try for union of our minds (including
imagination) and wills (including even feelings, with the
qualifications we saw in chapter 17) with God. Whatever method helps
a given person at given time will be good for that person.

One way is what is called discursive meditation. Most people will
find a good spiritual book almost necessary at this point. They will
read until they find some thought that impresses them. Then they
pause either to soak it in, as it were, or to develop it, almost as
if they are reasoning with themselves, somewhat as one might do in
giving a sermon to another. Further, it is very good to
intersperse-or put at the end of the period- attempts at free
conversational prayer with our Father, with Jesus, or with Mary, or
even with other Saints. This conversation may be purely mental, or
even vocalized. In general, people at an early stage find this less
easy than the mental part of the prayer. but there are great
individual differences here, as elsewhere. Some too like to compare
themselves with an ideal they have seen in their reading, in a sort
of self-examination- which readily leads into a prayer of regret for
not doing too well, and a petition for help to do better in the
future.

When one spot in the reading has been exhausted, some will reread it,
and try to use it all over again. Others will go on to find another
passage that helps them, and so on, for the full period they have
chosen for meditation. At each such point, of course, the various
supplementary things we have mentioned above will still apply.

As their book, some will use Holy Scripture, especially the Gospels.
Those who have a stronger imagination might like to pass the entire
scene through their minds. Some can even picture themselves taking
part in the episode, even making remarks to the principal actors in
it. It is good too to simply gaze at Our Lord in the scene we have
pictured to ourselves-watching out that this gaze does not degenerate
into mere vagueness or blankness.

Still others may prefer to use some vocal prayer, especially the Our
Father, and to go through it a bit at a time, dwelling on one phrase
or line after another. This too is a good method, suitable even for
more advanced stages of meditation.

Some find it helpful to have pen and paper at hand. They may first
write out some opening line, without much idea of what to write next.
For some psychological reason this will often, in some people, lead
on to a good development of an idea, in a process which is basically
meditative.

At the end of the meditation, it is very desirable to add a prayer
for help to do better on the matters we have just considered, and
even to form a rather specific resolution to improve in the matters
we have considered.

In this first type of meditation, with which most persons will begin
their experience of meditation, the work of the mind or imagination
takes up most of the time and effort; the use of the will and
feelings in collloquy, free conversational prayer, is apt to be much
less. But there may come-again, souls are different-a period in which
these proportions shift, so that now free conversation takes up much
or most of the meditation period. This is often called affective
meditation.


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