September 23, 2009

Vocal Prayer

Today, we continue our exploration of prayer. We've considered our personal obstacles to prayer, now let's start with the most familiar type - vocal prayer.
Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise. (Ps 51:17)
God speaks to man through His Word - through the written word of the Gospel and the living Word that is Christ. Man replies, as well, through words. (Catechism, 2700) It's only natural that our first instinct is to communicate aloud, to respond to God with spoken words. We're built for it; God gave us voices, and I cannot believe He intended us to keep them silent.

Vocal prayer gets a bad rap. It's often treated as inferior to unspoken (mental) prayer and meditation. It's something we ordinary people do because we're not disciplined enough to meditate; because we're not holy enough to mentally connect with God. That's ridiculous. We Catholics have always professed that differences (like men and women, or clergy and married) need not be differences in worth. Two things can be different in certain qualities without being different in value or dignity. Vocal prayer is different than mental prayer, not less than it. Like male and female, the two are complementary.

Do you find yourself repeating things to other people during the day? Do you give your boss the same answer all the time? Do you say "I love you" the same way to your spouse? Yes, sometimes, we repeat words into meaninglessness. Sometimes, though, we repeat words like "I love you" knowing - trusting - that the other person understands the meaning behind them.

Some people, especially non-Catholics, disparage our memorized (rote) prayer. These are the spoken prayers, like the Lord's Prayer (Our Father) that Catholics repeat. These repetitions, said in love and trust rather than boredom and uncaring, are a good starting point.

Rote prayer is a starting point, and that's important. If we never start, we'll never get anywhere. We need to connect with God, however weak that connection may start out.

If you've not made regular use of prayer, make this your starting point today. Memorized or read prayers are a good starting point for moving into a richer prayer life and deeper relationship with God. Start today with the Lord's Prayer. If you feel more bold, pray the rosary (1-page instructions) or an hour of the Divine Office.

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