St. Jerome PrayingVocal prayer

 

Vocal prayer is recited with the lips, and usually according to some formula. Although in itself vocal prayer is not so excellent as mental prayer, we should, nevertheless, beware of underrating its usefulness or necessity. All true Christians frequently recite vocal prayers, such as the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Apostles' Creed, the acts of faith, hope, charity, and contrition. The Church prescribes vocal prayer very strictly to her priests and her Religious [members of religious orders], in the Mass, in the liturgy, and in the divine office [i.e. the Liturgy of the Hours]. She has enriched many vocal prayers with numerous indulgences*, and has approved of many prayer-books filled with prayers suited to every want and devotion. Vocal prayer, then, is both useful and necessary for all [people] without exception --even for those who are soaring in the heights of contemplation. In reciting vocal prayers, we should strive to attend to the meaning of the words, appropriating it to ourselves with all possible fervor and earnestness. A few short vocal prayers well said are far more acceptable to God than a great many long ones recited without attention or fervor.

One of the best forms of vocal prayer is the frequent recitation during the day of some favorite aspiration or or ejaculatory prayer, especially if we do so in time of trial and temptation. This commendable practice gradually imparts a habit of recollection, and renders all other prayers comparatively easy and free distraction. We should, as far as practicable, prefer reciting those vocal prayers which the Church has enriched with indulgences*, for we thereby gain a twofold advantage -- the benefit of the beautiful and devout prayers themselves, and the indulgences, which help us to acquit ourselves of the great temporal debt which we have contracted toward the divine justice on account of our numerous sins. Or we may also apply said indulgences, when so applicable, to the souls in purgatory, who will be relieved thereby and will not fail to intercede for us in our wants.

It would be well to join, to a certain extent, mental prayer with our vocal prayers, for the merit of the latter would be thereby greatly increased. During the recitation of our vocal prayers, we pause at short intervals to reflect either on their meaning or on some supernatural truth.

It is also useful, in using the prayers of our prayer book, to read them slowly and deliberately, making...practical reflections on their contents, or pausing from time to time to meditate a little and apply the words of the prayers to our own wants. If we accustom ourselves to recite our vocal prayers in this way, we shall not only make them our own and pray well, but we shall not only also gradually acquire the habit of making mental prayer, which tends to unite us more closely to God and, through the practical imitation of our divine Savour's virtues, to render us conformable to Him.

Ps. 145:18-19. "The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them." NRSV. Ps. 144:18-19 in the DR.

We have the formal and solemn promise of Our Lord Jesus Christ that God will hear our prayers and grant us all we ask, for He says expressly "Amen, amen, I say unto you, if you ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it to you. . . . Ask, and you shall receive" (John xvi. 23, 24). "You shall ask whatever you will, and it shall he done unto you" (John xv. 7). God is faithful and just, and will, therefore, surely keep His promise to grant us all we pray for. Moreover, He is hound to grant us the graces we need; because we have a claim to them. They are the price of the blood and merits of Jesus Christ, for He died to save us. His merits are, then, ours; and, when we claim by our prayers a share in them or in their fruits, God can not refuse to grant us what we ask.

The Holy Scriptures are full of examples of the efficacy of prayer as a means of obtaining whatever we need to secure our salvation. It was by his prayer that the publican was justified, by her prayer that the Samaritan woman was converted; it was by his prayer that David obtained the forgiveness of his sin, and that the good thief on the cross was converted and received the promise of paradise. We find in Holy Writ also many examples of prayer as an efficacious means of obtaining even temporal favors. It was by prayer that Moses obtained the victory over the Amalekites; Elias obtained rain after a three years' drought; Manassas, his deliverance from prison and his restoration to his kingdom; Ezechias, the prolongation of his life; Solomon, wisdom; Susanna, the proof of her innocence; Daniel, his deliverance from the lions, the blind man, his sight; and the Church, St. Peter's deliverance from prison and death.

"He who prays," says St. Alphonsus, "is certainly saved; be who prays not is certainly lost. All the blessed (except infants) have been saved by prayer. All the damned have been lost by not praying; had they prayed, they would not have been lost. And this is and will be their greatest torment in hell, to think how easily they might have been saved, had they only prayed to God for His grace, but the time of prayer is now over for them" St Augustine is then right in calling prayer "the key of heaven".

Since prayer is the sufficient grace for salvation, it is evident that our prayers should have reference, either directly or indirectly, to our salvation. If their object is directly connected with it, they will surely be heard, for our divine Savior, as we have seen, has solemnly promised that His Father would grant us whatsoever we should ask in His name, because He, as Our Redeemer, purchased for us all the graces of salvation with His most precious blood. St. Alphonsus repeatedly insists that in all our prayers, at all the Masses we hear, at all our holy communions, and in all our visits to the Blessed Sacrament, we should pray for these four graces: the forgiveness of our sins, the love of God, the love of prayer, and final perseverance. If we obtain these, our salvation will he assured.

When our prayers for temporal favors, either for ourselves or in behalf of others, are not granted, we should consider God's refusal a real benefit rather than a misfortune. In beseeching God for temporals** we should be indifferent as to the result of our prayers being equally ready to accept a refusal as a favorable hearing from Him. If such should be our disposition, God, when refusing our request, will not fail to compensate us by bestowing on us more excellent favors which we do not think of asking. We have no reason to hope that God will hear our prayers for those temporal favors that may prove hurtful to our salvation, or that He will exempt us from certain corporal pains and trials, if such an exemption would lead us to sin or endanger our salvation. The granting of such prayers would be, not a favor, but a terrible punishment.We should, then, ask for temporal favors conditionally - that is, under the condition that they may promote our salvation, or at least not hinder it. We ought never to lose sight of this saying of our loving Redeemer: "What does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?" FATHER GIRARDEY, C.SS.R., in Popular Instruction on Prayer". [ James 4:2-3 NRSV " You want something and do not have it;...you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures." Compare DR, and the NAB.]

*

COUNTLESS numbers are deceived in multiplying prayers. I would rather say five words devoutly with my heart, than five thousand which my soul does not relish with affection and understanding. "Sing to the Lord wisely," says the Royal Psalmist. What a man repeats by his mouth, that let him feel in his soul, - ST. EDMUND, B.C.

*

GOD will grant all that thou ask for in prayer, provided it be expedient; if it is not expedient, He will bestow something more conducive to your welfare. He best knows how and when to supply thy wants. When, through ignorance, thou ask for what is not beneficial, it is better thy petition should not be granted. - VEN. Blosius


F.X.Lasance, My Prayer Book, Benziger Brothers (1908), pp.141-146. Imprimatur John Farley, Archbishop of New York.


*Indulgences are the remission of temporal punishment do to sin. Although this is still the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, indulgences have had a smaller role in the church's spirituality since the Second Vatican Council. One simple way to understand them is to realize that when a pope felt very strongly about a prayer or other religious practice, he would encourage its use by granting an indulgence. Therefore, indulgenced prayer is officially encouraged prayer. The document issued on indulgences after the Second Vatican Council and the text of indulgenced prayers is given at Enchiridion of Indulgences 1968.

**"tem•po•ral adj. 1. Of, relating to, or limited by time: a temporal dimension; temporal and spatial boundaries. 2. Of or relating to the material world; worldly: the temporal possessions of the Church. 3. Lasting only for a time; not eternal; passing: our temporal existence. 4. Secular or lay; civil: lords temporal and spiritual. 5. Grammar Expressing time: a temporal adverb." American Heritage Dictionary. Therefore he means something of short duration, i.e. non-eternal, things related to this life and not eternal life.

See also: The Value of Morning Prayer and specific prayers useful at morning prayer.

A Description of Traditional Daily Catholic Prayers - The Sign of the Cross 


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