While meditation and mental prayer are important, we shouldn't discount vocal prayer, our first prayer.
While Pope Francis often warns against praying like a “parrot,” the pope on April 21 emphasized that vocal prayer is important, and for a specific reason: It is the type of prayer that is “the surest, and can always be practiced.”
In contrast, he said, feelings in prayer, “are always uncertain: they come and go.”
Further, the Holy Father noted, “Words are born from feelings, but there is also the reverse path, whereby words shape feelings.”
The first human prayer is always a vocal recitation. The lips always move first. Although we are all aware that praying does not mean repeating words, vocal prayer is nevertheless the surest, and can always be practised. Feelings, on the other hand, however noble, are always uncertain: they come and go, they leave us and return.
Not only that, but the graces of prayer are also unpredictable: at times consolations abound, but on the darkest days they seem to evaporate completely. The prayer of the heart is mysterious, and at certain times it is lacking. Instead, the prayer of the lips that which is whispered or recited chorally is always accessible, and is as necessary as manual labour.
As Jesus taught …
Francis said that we can’t dismiss vocal prayer
… we must not disregard vocal prayer. One might say, “Ah, this is for children, for ignorant folk; I am seeking mental prayer, meditation, the inner void so that God might come to me…” Please! Do not succumb to the pride of scorning vocal prayer.
It is the prayer of the simple, the prayer that Jesus taught: Our Father, who is in heaven…
The words we speak take us by the hand; at times they restore flavour, they awaken even the sleepiest of hearts; they reawaken feelings we had forgotten. And they lead us by the hand towards the experience of God, these words… And above all, they are the only ones that, in a sure way, direct to God the questions he wants to hear. Jesus did not leave us in a fog. He told us: “Pray then like this.” And he taught the Lord’s Prayer (cf. Mt6:9).
Read the full text of the pope’s reflection here.