A Guide to Mental Prayer

A Guide to Mental Prayer


by St. Alphonsus Liguori

It is certain that without the divine assistance we can do nothing good for our souls. God also has declared that graces are granted to those only who ask for them: Ask, and it shall be given you (Matt. 7:7). Seek, and it shall be given you; therefore, as says St. Teresa, he who seeks not does not receive. Hence it is a common opinion of the holy Fathers, with St. Thomas, that without prayer it is impossible to persevere in the grace of God, and to save one’s self. But he who prays is sure of the help of God; we have his word for it, which cannot fail, repeated so often in the sacred Gospels:

All things whatsoever you ask when you pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come to you (Mark 11:2).

Every one that asks receives (Luke 11:10).

Amen, amen, I say unto you, if you ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it you (John 16:23).

God grants everything that we ask him for in the name of Jesus Christ.

 If, then, we wish to he saved, we must pray, and pray with humility and confidence, and above all with perseverance.



By St. Alphonsus Liguori

I. In the PREPARATION the following acts may be made: 
My God, I believe that You are here present, and I adore You with all my heart. I deserve at this moment to be burning in hell for my sins; O my God, I am sorry for having offended You; pardon me. Eternal Father, grant me light in this meditation, that I may profit by it.

Then say a Hail Mary to the divine Mother, and a Glory be to the Father, etc., in honor of St. Joseph, of your guardian angel, and of your holy patron.

II. Then read the MEDITATION [such as from the Scripture or other spiritual reading]; yet whilst reading we should stop at those passages in which the soul finds that it is receiving nourishment; and we should try to produce acts of humility, of thanksgiving, especially of contrition and love, of resignation and self-offering. We should say:
 O Lord! Dispose of me as You please; help me to know all that You require of me: I wish to please You in all things. We should especially apply ourselves to making petitions, in asking God to grant us holy perseverance, his love, light, and strength, that we mostly need in order to do his holy will, and to pray always. 

III. The CONCLUSION is made thus: We make the resolution to avoid some particular sin into which we fall the most often. We should finish by saying an Our Father and, a Hail Mary, and never forget, in meditation, to recommend to God the souls in Purgatory, and all poor sinners.



by St. Alphonsus Liguori

“We must observe that Saint Alphonsus makes the practice of mental prayer simple, clear, easy, and not less fruitful. Owing to the method which he teaches, this exercise, indispensable to him who wishes to sanctify himself, is really put within the reach of all. He wishes that every one should learn how to meditate. He earnestly recommends that for this purpose special instructions should he given to the people.” Rev. E. Grimm.

“Mental prayer consists of three parts; the preparation, the meditation, and the conclusion. The preparation consists of three acts: one of faith in the presence of God; of humility, with a short act of contrition; and of prayer to be enlightened. saying as follows, for the first: My God; I believe that you art present with me, and I adore you with all the affection of my soul. For the second: O Lord by my sins I deserve to be now in hell. I repent, O Infinite Goodness! with my whole heart, of having offended you. For the third: My God for the love of Jesus and Mary, give me light in this prayer, that I may profit by it. Then say a Hail Mary to the Most Blessed Virgin, that she may obtain light for us; and a Glory be to the Father, to St. Joseph, to your guardian angel, and to your patron saint, for the same end. These acts should be made with attention, but briefly; and then you go on directly to the meditation.

In the meditation you can always make use of some book, at least at the beginning, and stop where you find yourself mostly touched. St. Francis de Sales says that in this we should do as the bees, which settle on a flower as long they find any honey in it, and then pass on to another. It should also be observed, that the fruits to be gained by meditation are three in number: to make affections, to pray, and to make resolutions; and in these consists the profit to be derived from mental prayer. After you have meditated on some eternal truth, and God has spoken to your heart, you must also speak to God; and first, by forming affections, be they acts of faith, of thanksgiving, of humility, or of hope; but above all, repeat the acts of love and contrition. St. Thomas says, that every act of love merits for us the grace of God and paradise:

“Every act of love merits eternal life.” Each act of contrition obtains the same thing. Acts of love are such as these: My God; I love you above all things! I love you with all my heart! I desire to do your will in all things. I rejoice that you are infinitely happy! and the like. For an act of contrition it is enough to say: O Infinite Goodness, I repent of having offended you!

In the second place, you must pray; ask God to enlighten you, to give you humility or other virtues, to grant you a good death and eternal salvation; but above all, his love and holy perseverance. And when the soul is in great aridity, it is sufficient to repeat:

My God, help me! Lord, have mercy on me! My Jesus, have mercy! and if you do nothing but this, your prayer will succeed exceedingly well.

In the third place, before finishing your prayer, you must form a particular resolution; as, for instance, to avoid some occasion of sin, to bear with an annoyance from some person, to correct some fault, and the like.

Finally, in the conclusion, three acts are to be made: in the 1st, we must thank God for the inspirations we have received; in the 2d, we must make a determination to observe the resolutions we have made; in the 3d, we must ask God, for the love of Jesus and Mary, to help us to keep our resolution. The prayer concludes by the recommendation of the souls in purgatory, the prelates of the Church, sinners, and all our relatives and friends, for which we may say an Our Father and a Hail Mary. St. Francis of Sales exhorts us to choose some thought which may have struck us more especially in our prayer, that we may remember it during the rest of the day.”

From St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Preparation for Death, Rev Eugene Grimm Trans., Redemptorist Fathers Brooklyn Publishers (1926) p. 445. Imprimatur +Patrick Cardinal Hayes, 1926.

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