"The devil knows that he has lost the soul that perseveringly practices mental prayer" ~~ St. Teresa of Ávila.
What is mental prayer?
Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O. says, “Mental prayer is real hard work, especially for beginners.” I can attest to that! This is only my third day – of my nine hundred and ninety-ninth time – of starting a practice of regular morning mental prayer and I'm struggling as usual. My biggest problem always is staying awake! No matter what I do, I want to fall back asleep. Sorry God, but there it is. Yes, Father Chautard, mental prayer is hard work! Still I am determined, with God's help, to continue.
What else is mental prayer?
St. Teresa says, “Mental prayer is nothing but a friendly conversation in which the soul speaks, heart-to-heart, with the One Who we know loves us.” Dom Chautard goes on to say, “It would be blasphemous to imagine that God, Who makes me feel the need and at times the attraction of this converse, and what is more, makes it an obligation for me, should not want to make it easy for me. Even if I have long neglected it, Jesus calls me tenderly to mental prayer, and offers me special help in speaking this language of faith, hope and love...”
A friendly conversation...heart-to-heart...one who I know loves me...called tenderly... Hmmmm...better and better! Yes, I think I can do this.
Each morning I begin my prayer time as if I am having a simple one-on-one conversation with a dear friend. Usually I have my Bible in my lap. Sometimes I refer to it, but mostly I just hold it. I tell Jesus how much I love Him and I ask Him to watch over me and my loved ones for the coming day. Sometimes I complain and sometimes I complain ... a lot. Other times, I tell Him how grateful I am for my many blessings. I'm not very consistent. But that's okay, Jesus knows me. I'm not going to 'fool' Him, so why pretend? And after I finish whining or ranting He and I both know that I have to go ahead and do what's required. Still, somehow it's better after I've told Him.
When my thirty minutes is almost up, I say my usual morning prayers and then I quit. I'm not exactly sure this is how it's supposed to go. My guess is that if you got a hundred Catholics in one place practicing mental prayer, they'd each do it slightly differently. I'm also pretty sure that if I actually stick with it this time, I'll learn quite a bit and my prayer life will deepen. In the meantime, the important thing is to keep at it.
Dearest Mother Mary, please help me remain faithful to this simple daily practice.