The Need for Mental Prayer

Father Girardey observes: “A general experience proves that many vocal prayers do not bring much, if any, profit to our souls, and this for several reasons. To pray well, and therefore profitably and efficaciously, we must pray not only with attention, humility, confidence, earnestness and perseverance, but we must pray also for those things that are necessary or useful to our salvation. But, as St. Alphonsus declares, comparatively few persons among those who have recourse to prayer, actually know the special needs of their soul, because the majority, for want of due practical reflection, do not know the real wants of their soul, nor the manner in which they should pray for them. To possess this necessary knowledge, there is need of serious reflection or meditation, serious self-examination and appropriate practical resolutions and fervent petitions to God for grace to keep said resolutions, followed up by genuine efforts to carry out these resolutions. All these requisites are to be found in mental prayer only, in what is usually called making meditation. In mental prayer God enlightens us concerning our duties, our shortcomings, our spiritual wants, concerning the resolutions we should make, and, moreover, through our appropriate prayers and petitions, He imparts to us the necessary grace and strength to keep our resolutions faithfully and to persevere therein.”

“Let us suppose that you have a vacant and untilled field, full of various kinds of weeds and with a soil hard and dry. You wish to cultivate it and render it productive. To do so will require both time and plenty of hard work, for you will be obliged not only to cut down those weeds, but to root them all out and to render the ground soft and well fitted to receive seed and bring a good crop to maturity. All this will require your constant attention and labor. . . . That field represents your soul, which, owing to the consequences of original sin, is like a wild, untilled field, full of weeds and having a hard and dry soil, that is, possessing no relish for things spiritual, and full of evil inclinations and passions, surrounded by all kinds of dangers and almost constantly assailed by the world and the devil. You must struggle almost without intermission against your evil inclinations, and labor earnestly to root them out; unless you do this, you will be liable to become a great sinner, for man is so weak and helpless of himself, that there is no sin, no crime, however great, into which he may not fall, if he is not restrained by the grace and mercy of God. . . . How shall we know our evil inclinations and the means to overcome or root them out, how to obtain and use these means, unless through mental prayer?”

“Let every one take courage and make up his mind to try his best to make mental prayer, and he who earnestly perseveres in trying, will succeed and find mental prayer greatly profitable to his spiritual interests, and a most powerful help to his salvation.”

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

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