This is going to sound like a vague question but I am wondering a few things about the practice of mental prayer. When I speak of mental prayer I mean long periods of time spent in meditative silent prayer such as the Carmelites and other contemplatives practice. I have read St. Francis de Sales on this matter with his directions in the introduction to the devout life. I have come across this frequently when reading but I do not understand a few probably insignificant details. My understanding of this is that there are no hard and fast rules but the idea is to have essentially a topic in mind before beginning perhaps fresh in the mind from some spiritual reading. One begins by putting themself in the presence of God. Here is where it gets fuzzy for me. Do you have complete verbal silence in the mind while meditating on these things and simply visualize and let the mind float around the subject of your meditation (example: a part of the life of Christ or God’s grace etc). Or does this type of prayer consist mainly of words directed toward God within the mind not spoken on the lips but inwardly? is it both? I have yet to begin but would like very much to. It sounds a bit like what one does while meditating on the mysteries of the rosary just without the accompanying verbal prayer and for an extended period of time. If anyone could clarify these practical questions about mental prayer or share a bit of insight I would appreciate it.
No, you do not have to maintain mental ‘verbal’ silence. It is both the experiences you described.
Technically, you can pray vocal prayers silently, as well. Vocal prayers are formulaic, such as the Our Father and the Hail Mary which can easily be prayed silently, the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours which should be prayed out loud. You can obviously pray vocal and mental prayer at the same time - meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary while saying the Hail Mary’s is an example.
One of the most profound prayer experiences I have had was before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and contained no words at all. The prayer consisted of nothing more than tracing my finger over the name of a fellow parishioner in the book of prayer intentions and weeping. At the end, I received an intense consolation from the Holy Spirit and later found out that her serious infection had broken and she was recovering.