What is Mental Prayer?
Christian meditation (also known as mental prayer) is simply reflecting seriously on holy subjects. Mental prayer is a more appropriate and comprehensive term for this spiritual exercise which is so highly praised and commended by the saints and so conducive to holiness and perfection. Mental prayer or meditation is something more than mere spiritual reading, however, you can easily turn spiritual reading into meditation.
How to Practice Mental Prayer
To practice mental prayer you first need to find a text to read (such as the Bible or writing from the saints), then you simply focus on a few words of the text and reflect on those words for ten to fifteen minutes. You can either focus on the text using reflection questions (included below) or you can imagine yourself seeing, feeling, and hearing the subject of the text.
Next, consider your conduct in connection with the quote, then make a devout and pious resolution. Finally pray to God for His grace, that you may conquer your sins, practice more virtue, and continue to lead a holy life. Afterwards, you can read a few more words or lines and meditate again.
As soon as you feel an impulse to pray while meditating, you should stop and allow yourself to pray. Maybe you feel an urge to say an Our Father, or just to recite the name of Jesus. that's perfectly okay. Sometimes God wants us to pray in different ways. If you feel so inclined. Go for it.
Likewise, if God leads your mind to meditate on some other holy topic, allow that inspiration. The meditation is not the goal: the goal is a deeper connection with Christ. Christ might lead you here or there and you should–like a good sheep–follow your shepherd.
Common Reflection Questions
- What does this text mean?
- What lesson does it teach me?
- Have I lived according to the advice in this text?
- What have I done, what shall I do, and how shall I do it?
- What particular virtue must I practice?
All these questions are great for your meditation. However, the most important thing about the practice of mental prayer is not forgetting to pray. If you are getting frustrated or confused during your meditation, simply stop and pray. Say a prayer you have memorized or call on the name of Jesus. Remember, the entire purpose of Christian meditation is to become closer to Christ.
The best times for meditation are in the morning and evening. If that is not possible, then find a convenient time during the day to meditate. However, try your best to meditate in the morning because that is when you have a fresh mind and less cause for distractions. Later in the day, you will be distracted by your job, family, and other concerns. Furthermore, if you meditate in the morning, you will be starting your day by drawing down blessings from God and gaining strength to avoid sin.
It would be good if you found your meditation subject the night before. I have lots of pre-made mental prayers here. Also, you should think about your meditation throughout the day and attempt to continue practicing your resolution. You should spend at least 30 minutes a day in mental prayer. Some saints would spend many hours meditating. Other saints would sleep less so they could meditate more.
Now, I don't suggest that practice: make sure you get your beauty rest! I am just making the point of how important mental prayer was for so many saints. If you can't practice mental prayer for 30 minutes, at least do it for 15 minutes. However, the longer and more fervent your mental prayers, the more you'll enjoy it, and the more you will see the sweetness of the Lord (Psalm 33:9 DRA).
How Should You Make Your Resolution?
You can make a resolution by avoiding a specific sin that is troubling you. For example, you could say, "Lord help me to stop gossiping about Joe." Or you could resolve to be more patient overall, or more loving overall, etc.
There are seven heavenly virtues that are great to practice and there are seven deadly sins you should avoid (find more about those at sdcason.com/sin) It would do you well to study the deadly sins and heavenly virtues as they make great resolutions.
In short, you should resolve to avoid some specific sin or you should resolve to practice some specific virtue.
The Steps to Mental Prayer and Meditation
- Confess your sins to God and ask for enlightenment.
- Read your text and meditate on it for 15 minutes or more
- Give thanks to God
- Make your resolution
- Ask God to help you keep your resolution
Some Good Topics for Meditation
- The Bible (I prefer the Douay-Rheims translation)
- The Rosary Mysteries
- The Imitation of Christ (a book written by Thomas A Kempis)
- The Spiritual Exercises (a book by St. Ignatius)
I hope that you start and continue practicing meditation. The absolute best way to deeply connect with Christ – according to many holy saints – is Christian meditation! If you want a personal relationship with Christ, other than communing with Him in the Eucharist, the best thing you can do is practice mental prayer. Start with 15 minutes in the morning. You can easily use the Bible or some other spiritual text. But also, you can go here to find new meditations pre-made for you every day. You can also subscribe to my newsletter to get those same prayers sent to your email inbox. Like a famous saint once said:
"Pray, hope, and don't worry"
God bless, and until next time ... stay holy my friend ☦️