The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God,” (CCC 2559). With that in mind, there are five primary forms of prayer: blessing and adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise. And there are three expressions of prayer: vocal prayer, meditation and contemplative prayer.
Vocal Prayer puts into words the prayer of our hearts with our voice and with the use of internal words. Vocal prayer occurs when we say the Our Father aloud or to oneself, share a prayer service with a group, pray in unison at the liturgy, say the Rosary alone or with a group, conduct intercessory prayers, and even when we pray alone by giving voice to our interior prayer. Through vocal prayer, we use our senses to animate our internal prayer.
“Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire” (CCC 2708). We bring to meditation our own life and in doing so work to find understanding and connection with God. We can use Sacred Scriptures, spiritual texts, artwork, reflection guides, whatever will help us focus as we go deeper into our prayer to sense the movements of our hearts. There are several sources to help facilitate meditation, including Lectio Divina (sacred reading), the Examen, the Gospel of the day and the Rosary.
Contemplative Prayer is an inner prayer focused on the silence inside of us. There are no tools or words — silent or spoken — needed. The chatter of our mind goes silent, as contemplative prayer does not seek answers but rather seeks union with God, who is always seeking us. This intense form of prayer is about communion and love, and allows the space for God to speak directly to our hearts. This prayer can happen anywhere at any time.