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Three Expressions of Prayer | Physically Spiritual S2E6

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says “when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” Christ doesn’t say “if you pray”, he assumes we pray. But, how do we do this? Trying to pray can be one of the most difficult and frustrating endeavors. This episode of Physically Spiritual begins to answer the question “how should I pray?” by exploring the three expressions of prayer.

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2:30 What is Prayer?

4:30 Vocal Prayer

6:00 Mental Prayer & The Heart

10:00 Meditation

24:30 Contemplation

29:00 Spiritual Reading

33:00 Prayer in Real Life

36:15 Praying with the Body


"Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God" St. John Damascene, De fide orth. 3, 24: PG 94, 1089C

Vocal Prayer

By words, mental or vocal, our prayer takes flesh. Yet it is most important that the heart should be present to him to whom we are speaking in prayer:” Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2700.
“But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” Matthew 6: 6-7 -

Mental Prayer

According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.” CCC, 2562. -
The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place "to which I withdraw." The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.” CCC, 2563. Ibid.


Discursive = proceed by reason

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." CCC, 2705 -
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.” CCC, 2708 - Ibid.

Recommended Meditation Books

Fr. John Bartunek, LC. The Better Part: A Christ Centered Resource for Personal Prayer -

Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, OCD. Divine Intimacy -

At minute 21, I misidentified the author of Divine Intimacy as Sr. Magdalene. This was an error.

“the greater the simplicity, the more perfect also is the union. [...] However, this grace of simplicity is not obtained by speculation, but by a great purity of heart” Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, v.1, p. 452


Infused = fill, instill, soak, or pervade

“Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts. Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, "to his likeness." CCC, 2713. Ibid.
“A deep experience of God can overflow into our emotional life, but in its essence it is literally non-sensed. The new knowing and loving of God are a spiritual reality, not a tangible one.” Fr. Thomas Dubay SM. Fire WIthin, 59

Spiritual Reading Plan

Step 0 (Prerequisite)

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraphs 2697 - 2724 -

Step 1

Fr. Jaques Phillipe, Time for God -

Fr. Thomas Dubay, SM. Prayer Primer -

Step 2

Fr. Thomas Dubay, SM. Fire Within -

Ralph Martin, The Fulfillment of All Desire -

Step 3

Writings of the Saints

Praying with the Body

The need to involve the senses in interior prayer corresponds to a requirement of our human nature. We are body and spirit, and we experience the need to translate our feelings externally. We must pray with our whole being to give all power possible to our supplication.” CCC 2702. -
“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.” CCC 2703 - Ibid.
“The choice of a favorable place is not a matter of indifference for true prayer.- For personal prayer, this can be a "prayer corner" with the Sacred Scriptures and icons, in order to be there, in secret, before our Father. In a Christian family, this kind of little oratory fosters prayer in common.CCC, 2691 -

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