In April, I presented at a Virtual Catholic Conference; my topic was Master Your Mind in Prayer. I surveyed thousands of people about their biggest challenge with prayer and most of the responses were along these lines:
I don’t feel like praying, I don’t have time, I can’t focus, I can’t hear God’s voice, I don’t know how to pray, I don’t get anything out of prayer, I am too busy, I am too distracted, my family won’t allow me to pray, I can’t add another thing to my list.
If these sentiments sound like you, I beg you to continue reading because we all must pray, whether we feel like it or not. You are not alone; I have struggled with prayer and still do. I am sincerely striving to be a saint and I need to actively participate in my spiritual development. I decided to take action and I started reading about the saints and how to advance in my prayer life.
St. Augustine said, “If you do not pray, you will not be saved.” Prayer is not negotiable. We need to fulfill our obligations to God. We are all called to be Saints, and this means striving for that perfect union with God. Every saint prayed and that includes mental prayer or Christian meditation.
The good news is every one of us can master our minds. The more you pray and practice mental prayer, the closer you get to God, the more you hear His unique voice and prayer becomes a time to love God.
Did you know there are 9 Levels of Prayer?
Level 1 is Vocal Prayer and many people struggle with this stage. These are prayers we have learned such as Our Father, Hail Mary, The Chaplet, The Creed, and The Rosary. Most people recite a vocal prayer and do not pay much attention to what they say both in and out of Mass. As mentioned above, we are lukewarm and we all know what effect that has on our relationship with God.
Level 2 is Mental Prayer or Christian Meditation and even more people do not reach this level of prayer because, well, it’s hard. Mental prayer is not easy. It is difficult to master our minds in this technological world where we experience sensory overload throughout the day. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this second level of prayer:
Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. The required attentiveness is difficult to sustain. We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history the page on which the “today” of God is written.
Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him (CCC 2706, 2708).
St. Frances de Sales said if you do not practice mental prayer every day, you will not be able to avoid sin.
I don’t know about you, but that was a shocker. You can start small with 15 minutes and build from there. Perhaps now is the time to reflect – if you truly love God, love seeks union. Think about eternity and make the decision to love God and spend time with Him. There are many different ways to meditate such as Lectio Divina, Ignatius Spirituality, St. Frances de Sales to name a few. Find one who seems to resonate with you to get you started. Eventually you will make it your own because this is not a method, it’s a relationship.
One of the most prolific writers on prayer, Saint Teresa of Ávila, agrees with St. Francis.
Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.
She points to three steps for good mental prayer. First, we search for God. Second, we make time to be alone with Him, and third, we look upon God present within us.
We need no wings to go in search of Him, but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us.
She also says when you practice mental prayer every day, Satan knows he has lost your soul. That is wonderful news. She also says when you master Mental Prayer, Level 2, it is the gateway to the other 7 Levels of Prayer. I don’t know about you, but I want that mystical, spiritual, and supernatural relationship with God. We were made for perfect union with Him and prayer is critical to conform our lives to Jesus.
Commit to Prayer
I hope this ignites a spark in you to take ownership of your inner life and make a commitment to prayer no matter if you feel like it or not. Be aware that when you take the next step toward God that Satan will be around the corner throwing everything in the book at you. He will hound you with all the excuses at the beginning of the article and then some. Do not let him win, do it anyway. Fight through all the obstacles and call on the Holy Spirit, the Saints, Mary, Joseph, your Guardian Angel to help you. It’s time to fight with all you got – be a prayer warrior.
Don’t forget to make it count. When you don’t feel like praying or are struggling to keep focused, offer it up to God, and make them redemptive for souls in your life and in the world. Your prayer will have even more meaning and Satan will be discouraged.
Here is a FREE DOWNLOAD I offered to the conference attendees. It includes many resources on the last page. My passion is to help others deepen their relationship with God and the beautiful Catholic Faith. I am developing an online Master Your Mind Retreat to help you incorporate mental prayer in your spiritual life – stay tuned.