PART IV: CHRISTIAN PRAYER
Section One: Prayer in the Christian Life (cont’d)
Chapter 3: The Life of Prayer
§ 2697 Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget Him who is our Life and our All. This is why the Fathers of the spiritual life in the Deuteronomic and prophetic traditions insist that prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart: “We must remember God more often than we draw breath” (OT 27, 1, 4: PG 36, 16). But we cannot pray “at all times” if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it. These are the special times of Christian prayer, both in intensity and duration.
§ 2698 The Tradition of the Church proposes to the faithful certain rhythms of praying intended to nourish continual prayer. Some are daily, such as morning and evening prayer, grace before and after meals, the Liturgy of the Hours. Sundays, centered on the Eucharist, are kept holy primarily by prayer. The cycle of the liturgical year and its great feasts are also basic rhythms of the Christian’s life of prayer.
§ 2699 The Lord leads all persons by paths and in ways pleasing to Him, and each believer responds according to his heart’s resolve and the personal expressions of his prayer. However, Christian Tradition has retained three major expressions of prayer: vocal, meditative, and contemplative. They have one basic trait in common: composure of heart. This vigilance in keeping the Word and dwelling in the Presence of God makes these three expressions intense times in the life of prayer.
Article 1, Expressions of Prayer
I. Vocal Prayer
§ 2700 Through His Word, God speaks to man. By words, mental or vocal, our prayer takes flesh. Yet it is most important that the heart should be present to Him to whom we are speaking in prayer: “Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls” (EO 2: PG 63, 585).
§ 2701 Vocal prayer is an essential element of the Christian life. To His disciples, drawn by their Master’s silent prayer, Jesus teaches a vocal prayer, the Our Father. He not only prayed aloud the liturgical prayers of the synagogue, but, as the Gospels show, He raised His voice to express His personal prayer, from exultant blessing of the Father to the agony of Gethsemane (cf. Matthew 11:25-26; Mark 14:36).
§ 2702 The need to involve the senses in interior prayer corresponds to a requirement of our human nature. We are body and spirit, and we experience the need to translate our feelings externally. We must pray with our whole being to give all power possible to our supplication.
Tomorrow – Vocal Prayer (to be continued)
(Part IV, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 1 – to be continued)
[Editor’s Note: The abbreviations in today’s posting are noted below.]
- “cf.” – “confer [compare or refer to]”
- “EO” – St. John Chrysostom, “Ecloga de Oratione [The Poem of Prayer]”
- “OT” – St. Gregory of Nazianzus, “Orationes Theologicae [Theological Prayers]”
- “PG” – “Patrologia Graeca [Greek Patrology]”, an enormous collection of writings of the Church Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers in the Greek language published by J. P. Migne, (Paris, 1857‑1866 A.D.)