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Chapter 35. God Calls Us to Pray • 473


At Mass when the reading of the Gospel begins, we place the sign of

the Cross on our foreheads, lips, and hearts and pray, “May the Lord be

in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.” Lips, minds, and hearts—

these symbolize three kinds of prayer: vocal, meditative, and contempla-

tive. These modes of prayer include formal and informal paths, personal

and communal expressions, popular piety, and the liturgical prayer of

the Church.

Vocal Prayer

The disciples were drawn to Jesus’ own prayer. He taught them a vocal

prayer, the Our Father. Jesus prayed aloud in the synagogues and the

Temple and “raised his voice to express” personal prayers such as his

surrender to the Father’s will in Gethsemane. The seventeenth chapter

of John’s Gospel records a lengthy vocal prayer of Jesus, revealing the

depth of his intimacy with his Father and his loving concern for his dis-

ciples (cf. CCC, no. 2701).

Since we are body as well as spirit, we need to express ourselves

orally. Spoken and sung prayers arise from our souls; they can be com-

plemented by bodily gestures such as the Sign of the Cross, genuflec-

tion, kneeling, and bowing. When we become inwardly aware of God,

to whom we speak, our vocal prayer can become an initial step toward

contemplative prayer.

Meditative 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” (CCC, no. 2705). In meditative prayer, we use our

minds to ponder the will of God in his plan for our lives. What does God

ask of us? The Church provides many aids for meditation: “the Sacred

Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day

or season, writings of the spiritual fathers . . . the great book of creation,

and that of history—the page on which the ‘today’ of God is written”

(CCC, no. 2705). “Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion,