Vocal Prayer ( Prayer Part III)

Last time, we looked at Vocal Prayer in the context of wrote prayers, or the prayers we learn at the very beginning of the search for a relationship with God and our brothers and sisters. Indeed, all of our prayer life is centered on our relationship to God.

Now, let us take a look at another form of vocal prayer, which is extemporaneous. Vocal prayer which is not learned or taught, but rather done without any sort of preparation without learning the prayer in advance. This type of prayer is interesting, as it presents a challenge for a number of people. Particularly if this is not something that you have had a great deal of practice in, and not everyone is comfortable in public speaking even within small groups.

This type of prayer can serve function and form. It serves to fulfill the need of prayer to cover a general gathering, meals, and meetings. The size of the group can be intimate or huge depending on the situation.

This type of prayer, like the wrote prayer can fall, into the same problems we encountered previously where the prayer becomes the function, and not prayer. If vocal prayer is what your called on to do with a certain regularity, then it is possible that your efforts at prayer become the function you perform, and not the prayer you intend.

I had the opportunity to serve as a chaplain at one particular Cancer hospital a number of years ago, and serving in this capacity , it was my privilege to serve the patients there, along with their families and friends. Often I was called on to lead them in prayer. At the beginning, the surroundings were very new, very different from anything I had done before.

Prayer in circumstances where it’s needed and sometimes expected and vocal, might move from fear, and attention to saying ” the right words” and “sounding good”, or trying to make the prayer flow out of our mouths the right way, into comfort, as the necessity or practice increases. It might move past comfort, into the function of ” the thing” , or the practice of performing the action, and away from the prayer. It might even be that the action, becomes service to those who request prayer, but looses the function it was intended for us.

Priests, deacons, religious, and lay people all suffer from these processes. But I suspect that religious leaders fight with this part of prayer the most often, simply because it is what is “expected” of them.

Extemporaneous prayer causes us to work “off the cuff” and not only to speak in that way, but also to speak from the heart. To translate some of those feelings, those thoughts and process those thoughts and feelings into words that actually make sense, and can be followed. It leaves us vunerable, in some cases. It takes work and it takes practice. Moving from experience, to feeling, analysis, and processing these things into words, that not only relate, but “lead” is alot to ask in some cases.

Many people have this issue where the there is a disconnect between the form and function. The thing, rather than the action.

Particularly for those who serve in ministry. Many ministers find that they have to go to Mass twice or more in order to get the spiritual feeding they were looking for. THis is a result of a difficulty in getting lost in the performance part of the ministry, and missing the relationship within the liturgy.

As I said this takes work to overcome. It takes relationship, it takes presence of mind and spirit. Even then, like many other things we may attempt we might fail at first. It may be that we still need to go more often to complete the process.

Think of it like this. Your prayer life can be a little like going to the gym, in that, when you first start going to train, you may have to stay for a longer time, to work, and it is hard work.. The muscles are sore, the body finds it difficult to adjust to the things you are trying to get done. You have to keep at it. Sometimes, you might reach a plateau, where you might not see the progress you are making at all but you know you still need to put in the work. You might have to change things a bit, try something a bit different. In the end, your learn new things about yourself, and what works for you.

If extemporaneous prayer is not in your wheelhouse, or is not your thing, try putting in a little work in this area. Even if its not the tool you use a lot, it is good to have a good tool that you can use if you need it.

Next time… Meditative prayer..,

May God give you the gift if his peace !


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