KM writes: “I have tried to teach my children, the prayer of silence, where I ask them to sit and close their eyes and just to focus on God and to try not to think of anything else. Is that O.K? I thought that was what contemplation was, but sometimes it’s difficult to figure out. I hope that is not the Catholic equivalent of mind-blanking.”
Mental prayer, on the other hand, is putting aside all structured prayer and having a simple, heart-to-heart talk with God. You simply imagine yourself being with Him and pour out your troubles. He responds in a variety of ways, from a peaceful quiet of heart to an inspiration or prompting of some kind. Spiritual masters have long counseled the faithful that 30 minutes a day of this kind of prayer can do more for one’s spiritual life than any other form of prayer.
As St. Teresa of Avila, the great mystical Doctor of the Church, advises, mental prayer should not be “a torrent of words, much less a strained prepared speech, but rather a relaxed conversation with moments of silence as there must be between friends.”
There is no surer way to develop a true personal relationship with Jesus Christ than through this type of prayer.
As simple as it is, however, many people have trouble with mental prayer because the mind seems more apt to wander in this type of prayer. All of the spiritual masters, including St. Teresa, teach us that distractions are a part of life and we shouldn’t be upset with them. When we get distracted, we simply drop the distraction and return to our prayer.
In the book Soul of the Apostolate, Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, OCSO writes: “We need to be thoroughly convinced of the fact that all God asks of us, in this conversation, is good will. A soul pestered by distractions, who patiently comes back each day, like a good child, to talk with God, is making first-rate mental prayer. God supplies all our deficiencies.”
For those of you who want to give mental prayer a try, Father Chautard recommends that a person start out slowly, with five or 10 minutes of mental prayer daily, gradually working their way up to 30 minutes a day.
If you stick to it, it could pay off because mental prayer is the front-runner for contemplation, which is an even simpler “gaze of faith” (Catechism No. 2715) in which one is content to simply “be” in God’s presence.
KM, teaching your children mental prayer is a great way to help them get to know Jesus on a personal basis and will get them well on the way to a vibrant and fulfilling spiritual life. Kudos to you!
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