Mental Prayer | Reflections from Rome 2021

June 4, 2021
  • Photo May 24, 3 56 18 PM

One of the things that is being emphasized on the Rome Experience and during our Silent Retreat is the importance of Mental Prayer. There are many different forms of prayer, and they are all good. But what is it about mental prayer that makes it so important? When it comes to other forms of prayer, such as the rosary, scriptural meditation, or spiritual reading, we are often reciting memorized prayer or reading something. In other words, our prayer is coming from something that is outside of us. Mental prayer comes from within; it comes from the heart. We can also offer up to God what is in our hearts through these other forms of prayer, but they are not necessarily conversational. Mental prayer emphasizes the conversational dimension of prayer. It allows us to talk to God. It allows me to talk to God as I am. There are several images that comes to mind when trying to understand this. First, there is a young student giving a speech for the first time. He doesn’t have public speaking skills yet, and he is really nervous. As a result, he stands before the crowd and reads the speech he has written out. The young student still conveys his message, and the audience still receives it. But is this the best form of communication between the student and his audience? I would argue that it isn’t. Having been like this student myself, I can honestly say that when all I do is read when I am speaking to others, it feels like there is a wall or some distance between those I am speaking to and myself. Feeling nervous, I succumb to something more comfortable. Mental prayer does away with the wall and the distance between me and God. It allows me to talk to God directly with what is in my heart. I allow him to see me. We live in a culture that believes in productivity, that we must always be doing something. It is all too easy to bring this attitude of productivity into prayer. “I need to recite these prayers.” “I need to read this chapter in the Gospel.” “I need to read this book.” These things are not bad. It is not bad to be busy doing holy things. But is this the epitome of our prayer? No. The goal of prayer is intimacy with God. We grow in intimacy by being vulnerable with God. Vulnerability is uncomfortable at first. But vulnerability becomes comfortable when you trust those you are vulnerable with, when you love the other person and realize the other person loves you. In fact, if mental prayer is conversation with God, scripture or a spiritual book can provide the topic of conversation. This is what mental prayer does for me. It allows me to be vulnerable with God in a whole new and exciting way.

Miguel Cabrera
Archdiocese of Los Angeles