The Importance of Vocal Prayer

Having discussed the importance of mental prayer, Father Guibert then moves on to the subject of vocal prayer. He writes: “True prayer is assuredly that which comes from the soul, and not that which is uttered by the lips. But there must be prayer on the lips in order that prayer may rise within the heart.”

“But if, on the other hand, a soul becomes neglectful of vocal prayers, at once her piety decreases. Just as a person’s constitution seems to waste away if it does not take nourishment, and as the fire dies out for want of fuel, so does interior religion slowly perish in souls who, from spiritual idleness or from a vain disdain of exterior practices, hinder their life of piety from increasing by exercise and by the use of sensible outward helps.”

“On the contrary, when our interior piety needs reviving, have we not all experienced the supreme efficacy of vocal prayer? Let us recall the hours when we were cold and had lost our taste for God, when the heart was torn asunder with a thousand cares and the mind engrossed and obsessed with preoccupations: we wanted to pray, and prayer would not come into our souls. Then we knelt down and fastened our eyes upon the Crucifix and repeated forms of prayer, and as we were pronouncing the words, we regained possession of our heart, the mind was torn away from its distraction, and prayer revived, as a dying fire is rekindled by a breath. Just as in a dim sanctuary one sees the lights slowly burn up into flame during the hour of Benediction, so the most heavy-laden soul awakens, gets illumined, and takes fire in interior prayer through the continuous use of pious formularies repeated with faith and tenacity. This is why, when a soul has to be cured of a distaste for prayer, instead of reasoning in vain, one has to say quite simply: ‘First of all, pray; soon the taste for prayer will return to you.'”

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

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