Vocal prayer is prayer in word or action. Since man is composed of soul and body, he must not only use his mind in prayer, but also his body and its senses for the glory of God. You express your interior sentiments and reverence for God in articulated words or in bodily posture, such as kneeling, standing, bowing, or folding your hands.
The great value of a vocal prayer always lies in the fact that it is a means by which you lovingly adore God. Each prayer is useful to the degree that it lifts the mind and will to God.
In vocal prayer, we use a prepared form of words, either a standard prayer from a prayer book or a prayer we have made up ourselves, and we recite this prayer, aloud or silently, from the book or from memory.
Invoking the saints aids vocal prayer
The practice of invoking the saints keeps before your mind the consoling doctrine of the Communion of Saints and of the universal motherhood of Mary. We help one another here on earth by mutual prayer; we pray, too, for our beloved dead and for all the souls in Purgatory; and to the saints in glory we look for assistance, calling on them to intercede for us with God. In this way, we can keep alive the family spirit that binds together the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, under the fatherhood of God and the motherhood of our Blessed Lady.
Devotion to our Lady is a sort of echo of our Lord’s bidding to become like little children if we wish to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Our Blessed Mother enters largely — as in a lesser degree the other saints also enter — into the scheme of salvation.
External worship of God
The Church follows the example of our Savior, who prayed orally and taught His disciples to pray in the same way. She attaches great importance to prayer that is offered by the faithful in groups, such as at public services in churches, at Mass, during novenas, and at Benediction.
Public prayer has a special power with God and is very pleasing to Him, for our Lord said, “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in Heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Jesus is near them with His grace and will support their prayers by His intercession with the Father.
The Liturgy is the corporate prayer of the Church
The Liturgy of the Church is made up of the prayers said during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Divine Office, and the prayers used in the administration of the sacraments and sacramentals. The Liturgy never represents the prayer of a single individual, praying in his own name for his own purposes, but rather the prayer of the whole Church, praying to God as one body, the Mystical Body of Christ.
Pope Pius XII wrote,
“The Divine Redeemer has so willed it that the priestly life, begun with the supplication and sacrifices of His mortal body, should continue without intermission down the ages in His Mystical Body, which is the Church.
“In obedience. . . to her Founder’s behest, the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the sacred Liturgy. She does this in the first place at the altar, where constantly the Sacrifice of the Cross is re-presented and, with a single difference in the manner of its offering, renewed. She does it next by means of the sacraments, whose special channels through which men are made partakers in the supernatural life. She does it finally by offering to God, all good and great, the daily tribute of her prayer of praise. ‘What a spectacle for Heaven and earth,’ observes Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI, ‘is not the Church at prayer! For centuries without interruption, from midnight to midnight, the divine psalmody of the inspired canticles is repeated on earth; there is no hour of the day that is not hallowed by its special Liturgy; there is no stage of human life that has not its part in the thanksgiving, praise, supplication, and reparation of this common prayer of the Mystical Body of Christ! . . .’ ”
The Church is called the Mystical Body of Christ because her members — in Heaven, on earth, and in Purgatory — are united by supernatural bonds with one another and with Christ, their Head. Thus, all together they resemble the parts of the living human body. Christ is the Light of the World.
The light of each individual is sanctifying grace, which, like a light in each soul, unites all the members of the Church.
The doctrine of the Communion of Saints — the union of the faithful on earth, the blessed in Heaven, and the souls in Purgatory, with Christ as their Head — assures you that you have millions of friends, bound to you by the supernatural bond of divine grace and charity flowing from Christ.
In his encyclical letter On the Liturgy, Pope Pius XII wrote,
“Along with the Church. . . her divine Founder is present at every liturgical function: Christ is present at the August Sacrifice of the Altar both in the person of His minister and above all under the Eucharistic species. He is present in the sacraments, infusing into them the power which makes them ready instruments of sanctification. He is present finally in the prayer of praise and petition we direct to God, as it is written: ‘Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ The sacred Liturgy is consequently the public worship which our Redeemer as Head of the Church renders to the Father as well as the worship which the community of the faithful renders to its Founder, and through Him to the Heavenly Father. It is, in short, the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and members.”
Prayer and the sacraments are the ordinary sources of grace for the individual and for the family as well. Happiness reigns in the home insofar as these sources of grace are used, because they are the means of bringing God into the home. Parents who are deeply religious and are convinced that religion is not something just to be believed, but something to be lived, will encourage family prayers in the home.
Back in the third century, St. Cyprian indicated that group or family prayers were in keeping with the spirit of the first Christians: “We do not say my Father, neither do we say give me, but give us; and this because the Teacher of unity did not wish prayer to be made privately, that is, that each should pray for himself alone; for He wished one to pray for all, since He in His single Person had borne all.”
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from Fr. Lovasik’s The Basic Book of Catholic Prayer, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.