Authentic Vocal Prayer
In our busy day-to-day lives, how often our
conversation with one another races by. A
steady stream of words leap out of our mouths
in the hope that a fraction of them will
be heard. And when we listen, with all the
distractions inside and out, how often we
pick up only a fraction of what is said and
retain even less! If this typifies our conversation
with one another, what happens in our communication
Vocal prayer, the reciting of formula prayers
such as the 'Our Father' or the Holy Rosary,
is our side of a conversation with God. The
words provide a guided path for what we are
to say. When we pray, do the words just race
by, or do we remember the One to whom we
are speaking? Do we think about the words
we are saying, or are they mechanically pronounced
out of routine with little or no thought
as to what the words mean?
When we pray, do we take any time to listen
to what God might have to say? While we would
not normally expect to hear His voice as
we would hear the voice of another person,
we often do receive a response through His
Spirit, in a feeling of reassurance, or in
a sense of what we should do. To listen in
prayer takes a degree of stillness, focus,
and time set aside just for the sake of listening.
Jesus advises us to be careful about how
we pray: "In praying, do not babble
like the pagans, who think that they will
be heard because of their many words. Do
not be like them. Your Father knows what
you need before you ask Him.'" (Matthew
If the Father knows what we need before we
ask, how much more will He also understand
the state of our hearts and minds, better
than we could understand them ourselves.
His Spirit is truth, and it is important
to speak to Him in truth - without self-illusions
or false pretenses. We are who we are --
frail and mortal creatures, and He is who
He is -- an infinitely loving Father and
In our mortal weakness, we often do not know
how to pray as we ought. St. Paul teaches
us that God sends the Holy Spirit into our
hearts to aid us in our prayer. The Spirit
can take the message of the words we say
and purify it so that it is prepared for
the ear of the Father. He can also take the
spiritual response of the Father and translate
it into a message we can receive in our mortal
In order for us to pray with the Spirit,
our hearts need to be as fully engaged as
possible at the time we pray. Good vocal
prayer requires an effort to speak the words
with reverence and care, keeping in mind
Who we are speaking to. It requires a greater
effort to be still and to listen for the
Spirit's response. One way that helps us
to keep our focus, is to mentally have Jesus
at our side when we pray.
St. Teresa of Jesus advises: "we are
under the obligation of trying to pray attentively:
may God grant that, by using these means,
we may learn to say the Our Father well and
not find ourselves thinking of something
irrelevant. I have sometimes experienced
this myself, and the best remedy I have found
for it is to try to fix my mind on the Person
by Whom the words were first spoken."
(The Way Of Perfection, 24.6)
With time and effort, the skill of authentic
vocal prayer can belong to each and every
one of us. Our Father loves us dearly and
He yearns to hear us speak to Him. If we
can approach Him with the trust and enthusiasm
of a child chatting with his Father while
sitting on His knee, we will be well on our
way to praying as we ought to pray.
This poem expresses the beauty of vocal prayer
spoken from the heart.
More Than Words
The Sign of the Cross prompts the heart,
In presence of the Trinity,
To open fully from the start -
Mortal before Divinity.
The first words of the 'Our Father'
Draws our hearts to His loving grace;
He gives His Son as our brother -
To humbly meet us in our place.
From our souls, the Spirit's outpoured,
To aid us in the prayer we've wrought,
In frail hearts to the Mighty Lord
For we oft can't pray as we ought.
In this way, God's love undergirds
Communication, heart to Heart;
Far deeper than our thoughts or words
Answers to our souls, He'll impart.
United with Him as we pray;
We hear far more than words can say.
Holy Spirit, guide us in our prayer,
Fill our hearts with confidence and
As fragrant incense wafting in the
Perfect our words as they rise above.
St Teresa Of Jesus, The Way of Perfection
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs
(c) Paul Buis, 2005