How Vocal Prayer Cures

Father Guibert explains how vocal prayer helps cure a distaste for prayer. He writes: “To begin with, vocal prayer is an activity that stirs the whole man and awakens him inwardly from slumber, for the effort made to go on praying just the same only reaches the lips after having aroused the will. In the next place, vocal prayers contain thoughts and feelings that take possession of the soul from without, and destroy in her the sense of emptiness and of desolation which gives rise to the distastefulness; they therefore relieve the poverty of heart, which henceforth gives a joyful adhesion to the affections with which it feels that it is filled. Lastly, God reserves special blessings for those who seek Him in the midst of dryness. He loves to give light to those who call upon Him through the darkness, and takes pleasure in shedding His favours on those who do not leave Him in their desolation.”

“From this point of view, our attachment to formularies has nothing superstitious in it. In the eyes of well-instructed Christians, they have no magical or cabalistic power. We do not believe that such and such a prayer, of itself, repeated at a certain hour, or on a certain day, must necessarily produce a predetermined external effect, such as to preserve us from lightning, or keep off some contagious disease, or cure an infirmity, or guarantee the success of an examination or of some undertaking, for such beliefs are generally the remains of paganism.”

“Certainly, we know that God is good enough to manifest His power at the time of the use of the fitting formularies, and we know that in the Sacraments, the formularies are themselves efficacious. But the enlightened Christian knows that such is not, ordinarily, the will of God. The formulary is surely good, but it is good because its effect is to move our hearts to prayer.”

“This interior prayer, springing from the use of the formulary, is the first grace of God’s. By this prayer, the heart obtains what it asks for: it obtains directly that which makes it better—more faith, more charity, more patience, more energy, and so forth: it obtains indirectly also the external graces which it rightly aspires to, either because it enters the outward fray stronger and better prepared, or else because God in His fatherly mercy gives His aid.”

“If, then, our vocal prayers have such a far-reaching effect, how highly should we value them!”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On the Exercises of Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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