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One devotion that I see mentioned from time to time, often as something highly recommended or even essential, is the practice of mental prayer. Padre Pio in his five-point rule of life mentions mental prayer twice daily. Or to give another example, I am currently reading The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ by St. Alfonso Liguori, in which he names mental prayer, along with prayer (separately), as a practice for cultivating the love of Christ.

What is it that distinguishes mental prayer from regular old prayer? In the two sections that Liguori wrote on the two types, there doesn't seem to be much of a distinction. It is difficult to find much info through Googling, either. From what I've been able to gather, I am under the impression that it is either: (a.) praying in the same way that one does orally, except silently and mentally, (b.) some kind of meditation, particularly on holy things, or (c.) a sense of God's presence at all times, often characterized by brief ejaculations which are silent and mental.

Am I close? What am I missing? Maybe someone here can straighten me out. Smile
Here are some books that might help you:

Catechism of Mental Prayer

The Ways of Mental Prayer (Recommended in Dom Chautard's 'Soul of the Apostolate)

And an article:

The Practice of Mental Prayer

My Rule requires thirty minutes a day of mental prayer, and I have great difficulty with it, too.
(01-30-2018, 03:47 PM)usablehermit Wrote: [ -> ]One devotion that I see mentioned from time to time, often as something highly recommended or even essential, is the practice of mental prayer. Padre Pio in his five-point rule of life mentions mental prayer twice daily. Or to give another example, I am currently reading The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ by St. Alfonso Liguori, in which he names mental prayer, along with prayer (separately), as a practice for cultivating the love of Christ.

What is it that distinguishes mental prayer from regular old prayer? In the two sections that Liguori wrote on the two types, there doesn't seem to be much of a distinction. It is difficult to find much info through Googling, either. From what I've been able to gather, I am under the impression that it is either: (a.) praying in the same way that one does orally, except silently and mentally, (b.) some kind of meditation, particularly on holy things, or (c.) a sense of God's presence at all times, often characterized by brief ejaculations which are silent and mental.

Am I close? What am I missing? Maybe someone here can straighten me out. Smile

I won't go into a detailed explanation of what mental prayer consists of because it's beyond my competence, but I'll give you a list of books you can find on amazon and consult.

The Ways of Mental Prayer
https://www.amazon.com/Ways-Mental-Prayer-Vitalis-Lehodey-ebook/dp/B0104WO6JE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517348587&sr=8-1&keywords=mental+prayer

St. Teresa of Avila The Way of Perfection: Study Edition
https://www.amazon.com/St-Teresa-Avila-Way-Perfection-ebook/dp/B00FD22BFW/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1517348711&sr=1-2&keywords=mental+prayer+st.+teresa

The Way of Prayer: A Commentary on St. Teresa's Way of Perfection
https://www.amazon.com/Way-Prayer-Commentary-Teresas-Perfection-ebook/dp/B01MT8ZZ45/ref=pd_sim_351_10?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=9Z2Y0APY3ZG1JFQ8C0KJ

Fire From Above
https://www.amazon.com/Fire-Above-Anthony-Lilles-ebook/dp/B01EBESWDC/ref=pd_sim_351_40?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=E6RXE8PR9KHS9SVF3HGS

The Better Part: A Christ Centered Resource for Personal Prayer
https://www.amazon.com/Better-Part-Christ-Centered-Resource-Personal-ebook/dp/B0051J3XYU/ref=pd_sim_351_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=TZXD55MG99M9GYYZ8CY3

A Guide to Christian Meditation: How to Engage More Deeply in Personal Prayer
https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Christian-Meditation-Engage-Personal-ebook/dp/B003WQAQVC/ref=pd_sim_351_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=Y4ZFASPAY7F3X9J303YT

Fire Within
https://www.amazon.com/Fire-Within-Fr-Thomas-Dubay-ebook/dp/B0031B09YC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1517349130&sr=1-1&keywords=thomas+dubay

Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer
https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Conversion-Prayer-Thomas-Dubay-ebook/dp/B002FSTJBQ/ref=pd_sim_351_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=S4NWHH2PHEJ734QGET54

All the books above (with perhaps the exception of the first) are suitable for a layman to learn how to properly engage in mental prayer within the traditions of the Catholic church. One thing I'll add is that for now simply stay within Rome's traditions and don't drift Eastward. That's not because Eastern Catholic/Orthodox methods aren't valid, but because there is a lot of useless polemics out there that can cause confusion and doubt. Remember that mental prayer isn't really about methods. It's ultimately about lifting one's heart to God in an act of love. So pick a clear reputable catholic method and start plugging away fifteen minutes at a time everyday. If you be consistent and frequent the sacraments you'll make progress. Consistency is key. Don't go around chasing every new thing you find or you'll end up like the guy who's always trying the new diet and never losing any weight.
I also should add that you should stay away from any Catholic book that involves "centering prayer." While the Eastern Catholic/Orthodox methods of prayer have a long historical pedigree that begins with the desert fathers, the centering prayer movement can make no such claim. It's a foolish (if not well meaning) attempt to blend Buddhist methods of meditation with Christian prayer. It simply isn't legitimate despite what some modern Catholics might claim.
(01-30-2018, 06:21 PM)MeanGene Wrote: [ -> ]I also should add that you should stay away from any Catholic book that involves "centering prayer." While the Eastern Catholic/Orthodox methods of prayer have a long historical pedigree that begins with the desert fathers, the centering prayer movement can make no such claim. It's a foolish (if not well meaning) attempt to blend Buddhist methods of meditation with Christian prayer. It simply isn't legitimate despite what some modern Catholics might claim.

Amen!
One way to look at is to ask yourself, "What is your approach to prayer?"
Some people take the approach that by praying they just say the words and they really don't think about what they are saying. That may pass as 'vocal prayer' or liturgical prayer when the priest or deacon is obligated to lead the people in prayer or someone assists at the liturgy, but they are not really interested in actually praying to God.
For mental prayer you are actually thinking about what you are saying and communing with God. And because God is everywhere and sees into the depths of our hearts we can also commune with Him even in our thoughts. So, even though for example public prayer might be banned in the schools, there is nothing to stop us from communing with God from within the depths of our soul.
Based on St. Teresa, there are 9 grades of the prayer life. Father Ripperger says that most people (even clergy) don't get past the first especially in our modern age where silence is virtually non-existent in our daily lives and especially in the (new) Mass. Add in the fact that meditative prayer is not widely practiced or taught and you have a bad spiritual situation in the modern Church.

The first four are considered ascetical and the last five are considered mystical. In essence, one cannot advance beyond #1 without beginning with #2. I don't think it's possible to enter to 5 and beyond through our own works. Only God through his grace can grant a soul entrance into mystical contemplation, however, I would think that 1-4 are attainable for all souls who put the effort and time.

1. Vocal Prayer
2. Meditation
3. Affective Prayer
4. Prayer of Simplicity

5. Infused Contemplation
6. Prayer of the Quiet
7. Prayer of Union
8. Prayer of Conforming Union
9. Prayer of Transforming Union
Vocal prayer is what it sounds like: prayer using the voice; while mental prayer is what it sounds like: prayer using the mind.  Imagine a low mass in the Tridentine rite as a prayer life, and mental prayer is like that. It involves an intimate, direct connection with God using the mind and the heart.  The meditations on the Four Last Things or the Passion of the Christ are examples.  Many people are confused over this, but the Rosary is actually mental prayer more so than vocal prayer, since the intention of the prayer is a focus on union with God through mental meditation on a Christological mystery (or Mariological), rather than merely using the voice to pray.

Mental prayer is essential to overcoming mortal sin, as it involves a deeper and more inward involvement in attempting union with God, a thing without which the mission to overcome mortal sin is a high implausibility. Mental prayer is a must have for any daily practicing Catholic Christian.
I'd like to add that mental prayer doesn't necessarily involve the imagination. In the East they condemn the use of the imagination in prayer. In the West we tend to think "I'll imagine what's going on in the Annunciation = mental prayer." I tend to think it's much deeper than that. Mental prayer tends to be more about contemplating the different facets of a mystery, gaining understanding, and turning them into prayers of their own. If you're going to for example, contemplate how Mary accepts God's will without hesitation in the Annunciation "May it be done to me according to your word" then think about how you fail to do so and ask Mary to help you with this. This, I believe accomplishes much more than just imagining a scene from Scripture.