There are several expressions of prayer. There is vocal prayer, meditation and contemplative prayer. The first two help prepare for contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer is a gift, a grace, as all prayer is, but contemplative prayer is the total response within a love relationship with God. It can only be accepted in poverty and humility. Vocal prayer and meditation help us obtain
these virtues. If there is no progress in humility, St. Teresa of Avila says, then everything will be ruined.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, [#2700-2704] vocal prayer is using words, mental or vocal, to talk to God. Jesus taught vocal prayer when He taught the Our Father and when He prayed the liturgical prayers in the synagogue. One should enter into this prayer with his heart and his feelings. God seeks worshippers in Spirit and in Truth, and thus prayer should rise from the depth of one's soul. The Catholic Church is a church of unity, and thus vocal prayer and memorized prayer is accessible to groups. One also uses vocal prayer when praying internally. When it is internalized to the extent that one becomes aware of Him "to whom we speak" as St. Teresa of Avila in the Way of Perfection teaches, vocal prayer becomes the beginning form of contemplative prayer.
"God is conceived of as an 'object'", wrote Father George Maloney, SJ, in Journey Into Contemplation, (p12) "to which you direct your affectivity [expressed emotions], your petitions, your sorrow, your deep gratitude for His kindnesses in His gifts given to you. Prayer, therefore, is the general art whereby you as a human being communicate with God in knowledge and love. You lift your mind and your heart toward God".