I don’t know about you, but mental prayer can be really hard for me. My mind wanders. It can feel dry and boring. Quiet conversation with God seems difficult and one-sided. I feel like I start well for a minute, then soon become distracted and weary. In fact, in the past I always felt that deep mental prayer was just for really holy people, not me.
But this prayer is too important to neglect. St. Alphonsus says –
All the saints became saints because of mental prayer… We know from experience that it is far from easy for a person who practices mental prayer to fall into mortal sin.”
There are beautiful volumes to be read on prayer that have so much to offer, but sometimes it feels like for the beginner this special, personal, quiet conversation in the heart with God is simply too complicated to figure out.
I have learned one short, easy, simple method, however, from a wonderful priest that completely changed my mental prayer life, and it can change yours, too!
Fr. Dennis Gordon, FSSP, is the priest who married us, and pastor of my former parish back in Idaho. He has given me permission to share his one page mental prayer guide and I think you will find it incredibly helpful.
Father instructed us to start by setting a timer for just fifteen minutes. Over time you will likely want that time to increase, but do not be overwhelmed at first. Anyone can do fifteen minutes a day. (And if not even 15 minutes, 0.04% of each of your days in life can be devoted to prayer, it is likely time to reevaluate your schedule and hobbies so as to be able to give God at least this much time.)
Go to a quiet place, set the timer, have a beautiful image, crucifix, and/or little spiritual book handy, and begin reading and praying following along with the guide.
The Mental Prayer Guide
(Click here for the PDF version – Easy Mental Prayer Guide)
The preparation is simple:
1) Faith in Presence of God: “My God, I believe that I am in Thy Presence and from the depths of my nothingness I adore Thy Majesty.”
2) Humility: “Lord, because of my sins I should be suffering the pains of hell right now. I am sorry for having offended Thee. In Thy Mercy please forgive me.”
3) Guidance: “Eternal Father, for the love of Jesus and Mary, give me Thy light during this prayer, so that it will be profitable for me.” Then you say a Hail Mary in honor of Our Lady, and a Glory be in honor of St. Joseph, our Guardian Angel and our Patron Saint.
Next is the meditation, the main part of the mental prayer.
1) Read: Using either a book or a holy image or crucifix, go slowly, stop when something strikes you to consider it. Some good subjects: the Goodness of God, the 4 last things…, Life and Passion of Our Lord.
2) Affections: Acts of the will, not emotions. Talk to God from your heart. Acts of affection, faith, thanksgiving, adoration, praise, humility, love and sorrow.
Examples: “My God, I esteem Thee above everything else. I love Thee with all my heart. I wish that every man on earth loved Thee. I conform myself entirely to Thy Will. Do with me according to Thy Will.” “I am happy because Thou art God, the Highest Good, lacking in absolutely nothing.” If we get distracted, don’t lose peace, but calmly pray: “O God, come to my aid. O Lord, make haste to help me.”
3) Petitions: It is of greatest importance to make many acts of petition. He is God: we’re not. Humbly and confidently we should ask for:
Guidance, forgiveness of sin, perseverance in grace, a good death, heaven, the gift of loving Him.
4) Resolutions: Near the end propose to do something. (Avoid deliberate faults, submit to God’s Will). Be specific: a fault to avoid, virtue to practice with family members, co-workers. Never finish mental prayer without making some particular resolution.
The last part is the conclusion, which has three acts:
1) Thank God: For the lights received in prayer.
2) Resolve: To follow the resolutions made during meditation.
3) Grace: Ask God the Father, through Jesus and Mary, for grace to keep our promises:
Finally, pray an Our Father and Hail Mary for the Souls in Purgatory, Church, family, friends, enemies.
How easy is that? Prayer need not feel overwhelming or complex. This method makes it so attainable.
If you would like to see how I fit this into my day as a stay at home mom, you can find that prayer routine here.
If you benefitted from this beautiful guide of Fr. Gordon’s, will you consider going and making a small donation to his parish’s building project? Their current church where we were married is far too small for their needs, with the necessity of FOUR Sunday Masses to accommodate everyone, and insufficient space for social gatherings and classes. You can click here to read more about the project and donate easily online. Even a few dollars from every person that reads this would add up quickly!
Also, looking for a chuckle? Fr. Nolan who used to be an assistant pastor at the parish (he has since been stationed at another), was filmed playing his bagpipes while skiing down a North Idaho mountain to raise money. Watch that video here. Now if that doesn’t inspire you to give, I don’t know what will!