The Importance of Mental Prayer

March 2, 2021 | Miles Christi

Unless an ample place is given to prayer, there can be no true spiritual life. Therefore, every Catholic spirituality must give a preeminent place to prayer. How then does Miles Christi understand this essential role of prayer?

In the life of a religious of Miles Christi, the foremost place belongs to prayer or contemplation — to all that unites us more intimately with God. The first passage of the chapter on the Spiritual Life in our Constitutions says: “The divine call to sanctity in Miles Christi requires an intense life of prayer and sacrifice, together with the acts of piety that are determined in these Constitutions, in the Directory, and in the other practices pertaining to the customs of the Institute” (no. 101). It is clear, then, that the true prosperity of Miles Christi depends on how it applies itself to spiritual things, and should be measured accordingly.

But what are the fundamental means for acquiring this spirit of prayer and this habitual familiarity with God? St. Ignatius of Loyola, our Master of the Spiritual Life, answers this question. He insists on two things: the practice of mental prayer, and self-abnegation, which ensures the ordering of all the passions. A person succeeds in finding God in everything and at every moment not so much by the length of his prayers as by their intensity, which is itself the fruit of this generous abnegation of self.

Prayer is what truly and directly achieves intimate union with God; but this achievement depends not nearly as much on the length of time actually given to prayer, as it does on the dispositions with which the prayer is made. That is, it depends chiefly on the degree of detachment from creatures and earthly passions with which the soul approaches its Creator.

Once this condition of abnegation has been realized, the principal path to this union with God is mental prayer, or meditation. Miles Christi, unlike cloistered congregations of monastic life, is a religious congregation of the active life, inspired by the motto of St. Ignatius: in actione contemplativu (contemplative in action). Therefore, according to the Will of God, the religious of Miles Christi are vowed to an unfettered life of apostolate, which requires them to be ready at any moment, in any place, for any kind of work.

In a life of this kind, meditation—that is, a fixed time of personal prayer—can efficaciously and permanently give them what is essential in this indispensable union with God. This place of importance given to mental prayer in the interior life is a characteristic of the spirituality of Miles Christi, and we highly commend it to the laity as well.

This practice conforms itself very well to the needs of the laity. That is why we recommend that the laity devote a fixed amount of time to mental prayer each day. In fact, one of the most important counsels we make to those who do the Spiritual Exercises and want to keep up its spirit, is this practice of daily meditation.

For laypeople, occupied for the greater part of their day with absorbing work, whether intellectual or manual, it is not possible to preserve a true union with God if they do not schedule a daily time of deep and intense recollection, a time to renew their contact with supernatural realities. That is why Miles Christi puts such great stress on the necessity of daily meditation. Take time out of your day to spend this deep and focused time with our Lord in order to achieve this intimate union with Him.