What is Contemplative Prayer, and How to Pray It?

There are many forms of prayer, long and short. Prayers can be adapted to various situations and applied in different contexts: you can pray short aspirations, meditate individually during a silent prayer, or gather in a service to pray as a community: it can be the litugical prayers of Mass celebrations, funeral prayers, etc. 

Contemplative prayer, also known as mental prayer, or meditation, is a silent form of prayer which originates from the Christian belief that God inhabits each and every one of us. Therefore, contemplative prayer is meant to turn our thoughts inward, to enter into a contemplative state that helps us grow closer to God. Contemplative prayer is frequently practiced by religious orders; it is customary to exercise daily meditation in Monasteries and Carmels.

What is Contemplative Prayer?

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)

Jesus Christ is in all of us. If you want to find Him, you will have to look within yourself.It can be both a simple and a very complicated task: we tend to build walls that separate us from Him with our weaknesses, our wounds, our pride… Yet, God wants us to join Him, and let Him love us. Contemplative prayer lets us find our way to Him and experience the divine union of our souls with God. 

Find God within Yourself with St. Augustine

“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.” 
St. Augustine of Hippo

Enter Into Your Interior Castle with St. Teresa of Ávila

Mental prayer is a prayer method highly favored by St. Teresa of Ávila, who describes it as a “ simply a friendly intercourse and frequent solitary conversation with Him who, as we know, loves us.”

In her book The Interior Castle, she elaborates on the notion of finding God in our souls: “I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal, and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions. If we reflect, sisters, we shall see that the soul of the just man is but a paradise, in which, God tells us, He takes His delight. What, do you imagine, must that dwelling be in which a King so mighty, so wise, and so pure, containing in Himself all good, can delight to rest? Nothing can be compared to the great beauty and capabilities of a soul; however keen our intellects may be, they are as unable to comprehend them as to comprehend God, for, as He has told us, He created us in His own image and likeness."

Prayer for Inner Peace by John of The Cross

“O Blessed Jesus,

give me stillness of soul in You.

Let Your mighty calmness reign in me.

Rule me, O King of Gentleness,

King of Peace.”

How to Do Mental Prayer

It is important to stop focusing on ourselves to focus on God. There is no real protocol or rule for this meeting with Jesus Christ, but the necessity of making ourselves completely available, to open ourselves with humility to Him who awaits us.

  • Make sure that the conditions are favorable: put yourself in a comfortable position, find a quiet place. This should help you turn your attention inward. 

  • It is important that you find inner calm to welcome God in your soul: like in any meditation, there are some days when you can be easily distracted and lose your focus, and it is normal! You will simply need to be patient, and to bring your focus back to God as many times as you need, every time you feel like you are losing your train of thoughts.

  • The most important thing is that you do not let yourself be discouraged! To feel the loving presence of God is a gift, that you can attain through perseverance and humility.

You are free to ask for guidance from a spiritual guide during this process. You can also practice the Lectio Divina, which is a prayer method helping you reach a contemplative state by using a verse from the Bible as a reference. 

Why Practice Mental Prayer?

For Yourself

We truly become who we are meant to be by abandoning ourselves to Christ and by letting Him love us, We become true witnesses of His truth: looking through the eyes of God,  we become aware of our beauty, but also of our weaknesses. By opening ourselves to God, we accept His work of conversion.

For The Church

“More people than we think believe that they are capable of practicing silent prayer, when no one taught them how to do it. Without this meditation, baptised people grow weary, their actions become meaningless, even their faith starts to wear out. John Paul II” (24/09/1982)

Silent or Mental prayer is the best way to open yourself to change and to develop strong virtues, such as humility, charity, simplicity, etc. It is the best way to grow your faith, by cultivating your relationship with God like a fruit. Christians who have united their souls with God are ready to shine their light into the world!

Other Forms of Prayer

Devotions, prayers, orations can take different forms, each adapted to a specific context or a given situation. Discover other prayer practices:

Discover The Joy of Meditation with Hozana

Hozana is a social network designed to help you practice daily prayer and enrich your oratory content! You can choose to join a wide variety of spiritual programs and join you Christian brothers and sisters in prayer!

Discover mental prayer with Hozana by joining this novena to St. Teresa of Ávila and learn the beauty of silent meditation! Grow your faith every day by reflecting on the daily Gospel or on the words of the Fathers of the Church.

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