Catholic Classroom: Ways to Pray
Question: What are the different ways of praying?
Prayer forms the foundation of our everyday living as Christians. In prayer, we enter into conversation with God and offer him praise as well as our needs and desires. Our prayer grows as an expression of our interior lives as we grow in faith, and it should become more and more a part of everything we do. St. Paul tells us, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Prayer can take various forms and expressions, outlined below:
1. Blessing and Adoration
When we bless God, we express an acceptance of God’s gifts to us. To bless and adore God is to return God’s blessings to him, and to acknowledge God’s power as our Creator.
In prayers of petition, we ask God for what we need and desire. This type of prayer includes asking for forgiveness and asking to build up God’s Kingdom on earth. Prayer of petition is not a selfish asking of what we want, but rather, an acknowledgment that all things come from God. We may not always get the response we want, but God answers our prayers according to his will and in his time.
Prayers of intercession are a beautiful expression of the Body of Christ and the communion of saints. In intercessory prayer, we pray for others, both those who are dear to us and those who persecute us. We do this with the belief that Jesus, our intercessor with the Father, listens to our prayers.
God grants us blessings throughout our lives, even in circumstances and events that might not appear to be blessings. At all times, we can thank God for his gifts.
Prayer of praise is simply the acknowledgment that God is God. It praises God for being, independently of anything he does. As God is the great “I AM,” we praise him for his own sake.
1. Vocal Prayer
Vocal prayer gives voice to the words of our hearts. It can be words spoken either mentally or aloud. When you pray prayers like the Our Father and the Hail Mary, you are engaging in vocal prayer. But you do not need to recite a formal prayer in this expression—you can simply talk to God. Vocal prayer can be done individually or in groups.
Meditation allows us to think about God while also using our emotions and imaginations. In meditation, we seek to understand our lives in the context of our faith. Many people use Gospel passages, other spiritual writings, or religious images to guide their meditation. No matter what you use, you should try to engage every part of your thought and emotion in your meditation.
3. Contemplative Prayer
St. Teresa of Avila said, “Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” Contemplative prayer is considered the highest form of prayer. With this expression of prayer, we seek Jesus and silently love him. Through contemplation, we work to unite ourselves to Christ and fully open our hearts to God, who loves us.
There is no right or wrong way to pray. Try different types of prayer, and try praying in new places or at different times of the day. You will find out what works for you through practice. If you earnestly seek God in prayer, he will guide you.