Effective Vocal Prayer

Father Girardey distinguishes vocal prayer from mental prayer as follows: “By vocal prayer is meant any prayer we recite with our lips, and this is usually done according to some special formula. . . . Mental prayer is prayer made with or in our mind, not according to formulas, but prompted by what we have previously reflected or meditated on and found to be adapted to our spiritual wants.”

“As to vocal prayers, whether recited by heart or read from a prayer book, there is great danger of their being devoid of merit and efficacy, because they are frequently said without attention and hurriedly and with the desire of soon finishing them. This is the case not only with persons who hardly ever pray, but more especially with those who are accustomed to recite many and long vocal prayers. It is not the quantity or the length of the prayers we say that will profit us, but their quality or the manner in which they are said.”

Jesus said, “This people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Mk 7:6). Father Girardey comments: “Of some of us Jesus can truly say: ‘These persons address to Me very many and very long prayers, but their mind, their thoughts are far from Me, for they pray only with their lips, but their mind hardly gives Me a thought, for it is occupied with other things.'”

“Vocal prayers to be good and genuine prayers, should be said, first, with attention, that is, we must think on what we are saying to God and on what graces and benefits we are asking of Him; secondly, since we are speaking to God, it behooves us to pray with due respect, reverence and confidence, and not hurriedly to finish our prayers quickly; and thirdly, we should say them earnestly and fervently, with the intention of doing our part to obtain all that we pray for and should not expect God to do everything for us without our making any effort or exertion on our part.”

“One Our Father well recited is better and more effective than a hundred or more recited without attention, or hurriedly and carelessly.”

Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).

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