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 Gethsemani.
The need to involve the senses in interior prayer corre
sponds to a requirement of our human nature. We are body and
spirit, and we experience the need to translate our feelings exter
nally. We must pray with our whole being to give all power
possible to our supplication.
This need also corresponds to a divine requirement. God
seeks worshippers in Spirit and in Truth, and consequently living
prayer that rises from the depths of the soul. He also wants the
external expression that associates the body with interior prayer,
for it renders him that perfect homage which is his due.
Because it is external and so thoroughly human, vocal prayer
is the form of prayer most readily accessible to groups. Even interior
prayer, however, cannot neglect vocal prayer. Prayer is internalized
to the extent that we become aware of him “to whom we speak.”
Thus vocal prayer becomes an initial form of contemplative prayer.
Meditation is above all a quest. Themind 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, li
turgical 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.
To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own
by confronting it with ourselves. Here, another book is opened: the
book of life. We pass from thoughts to reality. To the extent that
we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the
4 St. Teresa of Jesus,
The Way of Perfection
26, 9 in
The Collected Works of St.
Teresa of Avila,
tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD
(Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1980), II, 136.