“He who prays most receives most.”
– St. Alphonsus
Rather than provide a theological argument for the importance of (mental) prayer, I will rely on the authority of the Church and the saints. What they say about mental prayer, quite simply, is that it is the means for obtaining all good things: confidence, peace, joy, happiness, humility, conversion, virtue, and the crowning graces, namely, divine love and final perseverance, without which no one can be saved.
What is Mental Prayer?
“… a silent elevation and application of our mind and heart to God in order to offer Him our homages and to promote His glory by our advancement in virtue.” – Tanquerey
Some simple steps for mental prayer:
1. Ask for the grace to pray well.
2. Put ourselves in the presence of God.
3. Resolve to pray for a certain period of time, despite temptations, dryness etc.
4. Make a firm resolution to overcome a particular sin, or to practice a particular virtue.
What do the saints say about mental prayer?
One cannot fail to make a firm resolution to pray more frequently (or at least more attentively) after having read the following words:
“Short of a miracle, a man who does not practice mental prayer will end up in mortal sin…
All the saints have become saints by mental prayer.”
– St. Alphonsus
Why is this so? Here is what St. Peter of Alacantara has to say about mental prayer:
“IN MENTAL PRAYER, THE SOUL IS
purified from its sins,
nourished with charity,
confirmed in faith,
and strengthened in hope;
the mind expands,
the affections dilate,
the heart is purified,
truth becomes evident;
temptation is conquered,
the senses are renovated;
drooping powers revive;
the rust of vices disappears.
Out of mental prayer issues forth, like living sparks, those desires of heaven which the soul conceives when inflamed with the fire of divine love. Sublime is the excellence of mental prayer, great are its privileges; to mental prayer heaven is opened; to mental prayer heavenly secrets are manifested and the ear of God [is] ever attentive.”
“By the efficacy of mental prayer temptation is banished, sadness is driven away, lost virtue is restored, fervor which has grown cold is excited, and the lovely flame of divine love is augmented.” – St. Laurence Justinian
“When one does not love prayer, it is morally impossible for him to resist his passions.” – St. Alphonsus
Many more quotes could be added, but these are sufficient. Here are some further tips for overcoming sin, discouragement and unhappiness:
“In the spiritual life, one must always go on pushing ahead and never go backwards; if not, the same things happens to a boat which when it loses headway gets blown backwards with the wind.” – St. Padre Pio
“Impregnate yourself with humility, and you will soon find that all other virtues will follow without any effort on your part.” – Fr. Cajetan
“God requires of us only strong resolutions; he himself will do the rest.” – St. Teresa of Avila
” How much soever you have advanced here below, you err if you think your vices are not only suppressed, but dead.” – St. Bernard
“So long as we tackle all our troubles ourselves, we shall be always worried and tired, and Our Lord will leave us to our own devices; but when we leave everything to Him, He will look after all our troubles Himself. … . I am not just speaking of temporal things, but also of spiritual ones.” – St. Francis de Sales
“If you say the Holy Rosary every day, with a spirit of faith and love, our Lady will make sure she leads you very far along her Son’s path.” St. Josemaria Escriva
” A prayer in which a person is not aware of Whom he is speaking to, what he is asking, who it is who is asking and of Whom, I don’t call prayer- however much the lips may move.” – St. Teresa of Avila
“We must not be upset by our imperfections; instead, we must recognize them and learn to combat them. And it is in fighting against our imperfections without being discouraged by them that our very perfection consists.”
– St. Francis de Sales