Levels of prayer?

I have some questions about prayer. Of the three kinds of prayer, vocal, meditation and contemplative, I think I meditate the most. I think about God a lot, and what he wants me to do. I read spiritual classics quite a bit, and think about them. And think about others and how I can serve them. When it comes to vocal prayer, I do that less. A few quick prayers during the day. Then contemplative prayer, I’m not really sure about that. I go to adoration sometimes. Anyway, I know these three kinds of prayers are generally looked at pretty linearly, as “levels” of prayer. If so, then I wonder if I have really even “mastered” vocal prayer since I don’t do it that much. Vocal prayer seems difficult, not because it’s dry or anything. I can often feel God’s presence, but I just don’t remember to practice it that much. Can you be better at one type than you are at the others, or are these truly “levels” you master in a linear fashion?

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I would say there are multiple styles and methods of prayer (not just three) and you don’t necessarily “master” any of them - that really isn’t the goal. The point is to find which modes of prayer are most conducive to you orienting your life more to unity with God. You say you feel God’s Presence… well, there you go. Sounds like you’ve got something going for you.

Vocal prayer is the ideal, and the base of contemplation. Plenary indulgences specify vocal prayer, but there are exceptions for the deaf and mute.


2702 … The need to involve the senses in interior prayer corresponds to a requirement of our human nature. …
2703 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.
2704 … vocal prayer becomes an initial form of contemplative prayer.

Manual of Indulgences

N26. Both the deaf and the mute can gain indulgences attached to public prayers if, together with the other faithful praying in the same place, they devoutly raise their mind and affections to God; regarding private prayers it is sufficient for them to recite the prayers mentally or express them with signs, or simply to read them without pronouncing the words.

This is how we are taught contemplative prayer.
First we go through vocal and meditative prayer and learn to do those well.

Contemplative prayer we are taught, is a gift from God. A grace. We cannot do it ourselves. We can only practice and be open to it.

So we are taught this way. Once mastering the first two prayer types to an acceptable level, vocal and mediative, then we would start on contemplative prayer.
We would sit quietly and say a prayer like

‘Lord Jesus have mercy on me a sinner’

We repeat this a few times. Or whatever prayer we find most akin to us at the time. Then we sit quietly. We push all thoughts away, all thoughts that come to us, be they from our own minds, good forces or bad forces.
For example a person might be sitting quietly and all of a sudden have a revelation, That revelation must be pushed away. The mind must be quiet. If and when thoughts flood us, just repeat the prayer a while, then sit quietly.

As to how do I know when contemplation in prayer has been reached? Thats a tough question.

The fashion is linear. Vocal prayer we learn as slow it down, vocalise and mean each word of the prayer. Think about each word of the prayer.
Do not for example, race through the Rosary in a race to get it finished, we are taught.

Mediation is Lectio Divina, an art in itself.

There are people much better at one then the other in my experience :slight_smile:

What do you mean by this? From what I have read about the 9 levels of prayers, vocal prayer is just the beginning and ought to lead one to the higher levels.

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I just want to clarify that the level you seem to be describing should be a gazing at God, as according to this article (link below):

This level, also called “prayer of simplicity” or “simple gaze” is the simple loving gaze upon the divine object. In it, one uses his faculties to focus on the Lord, not using the intellect or imagination or emotion. It is a simple gaze of the will.

This is the link to the introduction of the first of 3 blog posts about the 9 levels of prayer. This may help @Lucy_1 and others to clarify and improve how they are praying.

It is said that if one is not making progress in one’s prayer life, one is not progressing spiritually, so it is very sad that this information is not more widely known.

Catechism on Vocal Prayer

2703 … He also wants the external expression that associates the body with interior prayer, for it renders him that perfect homage which is his due.

Be aware, Lucy, that one doesn’t have to feel God’s presence or have warm feelings while praying. When we pray in faith that the Lord hears us even though we feel nothing…there is merit in that.

St.John of the Cross, a Doctor of the Church on prayer, teaches that.

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