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Is prayer the same as meditation?

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Meditation can be a form of prayer, but it depends on the context and intention.

Prayer and meditation are two spiritual terms that are often used interchangeably. However, are prayer and meditation the same thing?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prayer is loosely defined as any interior action to raise our mind and heart to God.

Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart? He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer, Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,” are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. “Man is a beggar before God.” (CCC 2559)

On the other hand, meditation is more narrow in definition, focused on a particular thought or spiritual theme.

Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. the required attentiveness is difficult to sustain. We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history the page on which the “today” of God is written. (CCC 2705)

Today, the term mediation is often separated from a Christian understanding, although there is no universally accepted understanding of what the term encompasses in its popular use in our day.

Meditation in the Catholic tradition involves the intellect more than general “prayer,” but it can be said that meditation can be a form of prayer.

Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire… Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him. (CCC 2708)

With this in mind, Christian meditation is normally a prayer, but prayer isn’t always a meditation. There can be many similarities, but it depends on the circumstances and context.

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