...All prayer, therefore, of whatever kind, must be "in spirit and in truth" (John iv. 23), but vocal prayer is confined to a prescribed form of words, whereas mental prayer is the spontaneous utterance of the soul either with or without words. When St. Francis said an Our Father, or recited his office, he used vocal prayer; when he knelt before God without a word his prayer was purely mental; when he spent the whole night in saying "My God and my all," his mental prayer was mingled with words which expressed the burn¬ing love of his seraphic soul.
St. Alphonsus says, "He who neglects meditation (a part of mental prayer), and is distracted by the affairs of the world, will not know his spiritual wants, the dangers to which his salvation is exposed, the means he ought to take to conquer temptations, and will forget the necessity of the prayer of petition for all men; thus he will not ask for what is necessary, and by not asking God's grace, he will certainly lose his soul."
In the same way St. Teresa asks: "How can charity last, unless God gives perseverance? How will the Lord gives us perseverance if we neglect to ask Him for it? And how shall we ask it without mental prayer? Without mental prayer there is not the communication with God, which is necessary for the preservation of virtue."
The holy Doctors agree that those who persevere in mental prayer will live in God's grace. The following words are the deliberate sentence of the holy Doctor St. Alphonsus, the conclusion gathered from his vast learning and experience: "Many say the Rosary, the Office of Our Lady, and perform other acts. of devotion, but they still continue in sin. But it is impossible for him who perseveres in mental prayer to continue in sin; he will either give up mental prayer, or renounce sin. Mental prayer and sin can not exist together. And this we see by experience; they who make mental prayer, rarely fall into mortal sin; and should they have the misery of falling into sin, by persevering in mental prayer, they see their misery, and return to God. Let a soul, says St. Teresa, be ever so negligent, if she perseveres in mental prayer, the Lord will bring her back to the haven of salvation."
If this were merely the opinion of St. Alphonsus himself it would be of immense weight, considering his resplendent sanctity, his vast spiritual learning, and the varied experience of his long and active life, but besides this the holy Doctor is here only summing up, in one sentence, the teaching and experience of all the doctors, saints, writers, preachers, and confessors of the whole Church since the beginning.
What stronger argument could be used to prove the importance and necessity of mental prayer?
From "Prayer-Book for Religious"
by Rev. F.X. Lasance
Copyright 1904, 1914