Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Expressions of Prayer

Since today is the feast day of Saint Teresa of Avila, the Doctor of Prayer, I found it fitting to quickly express to you one of the articles from the third chapter of the Christian Prayer section in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In this section, we will focus on the Expressions of Prayer: Vocal, Meditation, and Contemplative.

St. Teresa of Avila wrote on these three expressions of prayer extensively in her writings. In her work, The Way of Perfection, St. Teresa says,

“…Let us give ourselves to mental prayer. And let whoever cannot practice it turn to vocal prayer, reading, and colloquy with God…Mental prayer consists of what was explained: being aware and knowing that we are speaking, with whom we are speaking, and who we ourselves are who dare to speak so much with so great a Lord…the nature of mental prayer isn’t determined by whether or not the mouth is closed. If while speaking I thoroughly understand and know that I am speaking with God and I have greater awareness of this than I do of the words I’m saying, mental and vocal prayer are joined.”

On these three expressions of prayer, the Catechism says…

CCC 2720: The Church invites the faithful to regular prayer: daily prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours, Sunday Eucharist, the feasts of the liturgical year.

CCC 2721: The Christian tradition comprises three major expressions of the life of prayer: vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplative prayer. They have in common the recollection of the heart.

CCC 2722: Vocal prayer, founded on the union of the body and soul in human nature, associates the body with the interior prayer of the heart, following Christ’s example of praying to his Father and teaching the Our Father to his disciples.

CCC 2723: Meditation is a prayerful quest engaging thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. Its goal is to make our own in faith the subject considered, by confronting it with the reality of our own life.

CCC 2724: Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that is makes us share in his mystery.

For a more extensive explanation on the three expressions of prayer, I would encourage you to read CCC 2700-2719.

As we celebrate the Doctor of Prayer, let us ask her to intercede for us during our fruitful times of prayer, but especially when our prayer lacks fruit and we find ourselves battling in prayer.

3 thoughts on “Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Expressions of Prayer

  1. Interestingly, St Teresa of Avila is the patron saint of headaches. A well known Neurologist whom I spoke to yesterday said he had recently been deluged with complaints by patients about headaches. He said it was because of the unusual weather we’ve had causing major swings in the barometric pressures in our atmosphere this year. For anyone suffering from headaches this is a great time to ask for St Teresa’s intervention in prayer.

  2. Mental prayer is good, but we have to be careful our imaginations do not run away with ourselves and we find ourselves somewhere we should not be. On the other hand, we might get where God wants us and has lead us by His infinite mercy and grace.
    In that vein: warning, warning, warning
    CCC 2666 states, “But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. the divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity the Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: “Jesus,” “YHWH saves.”16 The name “Jesus” contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray “Jesus” is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.” and 2668 states, “The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always.”
    Combined with the indisputable conclusion that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all saying, eternally, in the perfect present tense their one name, “Jesus” (Jn. 17:11+12), therefore when we pray “Jesus” we can be praying with God for His Will to be done and the entire, complete Will of God is “Jesus” and that is all the saints in heaven pray.
    Combined with resolutely uniting our prayer with the infinite, perfect prayer for all sinners (even those going to hell for ever and ever and ever….) according to CCC 2741, just as Mary prayed the Name Jesus at the foot of the cross and from the incarnation on.

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