God invites us into a relationship with Him that is both personal and communal. He speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Word-made-flesh. Prayer is our response to God who is already speaking or, better yet, revealing Himself to us. Therefore, prayer is not merely an exchange of words, but it engages the whole person in a relationship with God the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.
“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God”- St. Therese of Lisieux, CCC 2559
Various forms of prayer are presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2623-2649). These various forms include prayer of blessing or adoration, prayer of petition, prayer of intercession, prayer of thanksgiving, and prayer of praise.
What is meditation? Meditation is an essential form of Christian prayer, especially for those who are seeking to answer the vocational question, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Meditation is a Christian practice of prayer dating back to the early Church. As the Catechism states: “Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking.” By meditating on the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts, spiritual writings, or “the great book of creation,” we come to make our own that which is God’s. “To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them. It is a question of acting truthfully in order to come into the light: ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’” (CCC 2705-2706).
Spiritual reading of Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is an important form of meditation. This spiritual reading is traditionally called lectio divina or divine reading. Lectio divina is prayer over the Scriptures.
How do we pray with the Sacred Scriptures?
- The first element of this type of prayer is reading (lectio) : you take a short passage from the Bible – preferably a Gospel passage – and read it carefully, perhaps three or more times. Let it really soak in.
- The second element is mediation (meditatio). By using your imagination, enter into the Biblical scene in order to “see” the setting, the people, and the unfolding action. It is through this meditation that you encounter the text and discover its meaning for your life.
- The next element is prayer (oratio) or your personal response to the text: asking for graces, offering praise or thanksgiving, seeking healing or forgiveness. In this prayerful engagement with the text, you open yourself up to the possibility of contemplation.
- Contemplation (contemplatio) is a gaze turned toward Christ and the things of God. By God’s action of grace, you may be raised above meditation to a state of seeing or experiencing the text as mystery and reality. In contemplation, you come into an experiential contact with the One behind and beyond the text.
Prayer and the prayerful reading of the Scriptures is such an important part of Christian life and, above all, during the time of vocational discernment. Remember the saying, “No Bible, no breakfast. No Bible, no bed!”