Last week I gave you an overview of the Catechism of the Catholic Church chapter on Prayer. I ended up by writing that we have retained three major expressions of prayer: Vocal, Meditative and Contemplative. Let’s look at the first type: Vocal Prayer since this may be the one that we are most familiar with.
VOCAL PRAYER: Through His Word, God speaks to man. 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: “Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls.” (St. John Chrysostom) Although we might be used to praying repetitively, such as when praying the Rosary, it’s the quality of our prayer that matters. Our Catechism further states that: “Vocal prayer is an essential element of the Christian life. To His disciples, drawn by their Master’s silent prayer, Jesus teaches a vocal prayer, The Our Father. He not only prayed aloud the liturgical prayers of the synagogue but, as the Gospels show, He raised His voice to express His personal prayer, from exultant blessing of the Father to the agony of Gesthemani.” (Matthew 11:25-26 and Mark 14:36)
Why is it important to express ourselves prayerfully out loud? 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. I personally find it helpful to pray out loud even when I am praying by myself. It is at these times that I am not only thinking about what I want to say to God, but I also hear myself say the words that come from my heart. Hearing the very words that I come up with also assures me that I am praying what I want to share with God at that very moment. 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, which is His due.