I can't help but notice how, for example Eastern-Orthodox only pray prayers that are written in books. Either by saints, or clergy, etc. While for example Methodists pray freely, formulating their own ideas.

Is there a name for these two different prayer views?

  • Prayers by rote. Prayers from the heart
    – 007
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 15:09
  • 1
    @User14 Prayerbook prayers can be from the heart (and also not by rote!) And on the other hand off-the-cuff prayers might be by habit and not really from the heart.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 15:16
  • @User14 Orthodox have a tradition of rote prayers as a way of accessing the heart. I suggest "spontaneous prayer" and "liturgical prayer" as these go not carry an implication that one is better than the other. Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 18:09
  • Might be worth it to note that these are only two forms of vocal prayer lest we set up a false dichotomy. meditative and contemplative prayer are very different interior forms of prayer many Christians also utilize.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 19:33

2 Answers 2


There are two major forms of public prayer, in regard to the content of the prayer either being unpremeditated or being prepared and written.

Extempore prayer is as described by the Oxford English Dictionary

At the moment, without premeditation or preparation; at first sight; off-hand. Now usually with reference to speech, composition, or musical performance. to speak extempore in present use often merely means to speak without notes, or without reading from manuscript. to pray extempore is opposed to using a set form of prayer.

Liturgical prayer is prescribed by date or form :

Pertaining to or connected with public worship; having to do with liturgies or forms of public worship, or spec. with the Liturgy or Eucharistic service. Also, pertaining to liturgics.

Oxford English Dictionary


Is there a name in Christianity for free prayer vs book prayer?

The short answer is yes, of course there is a name in Christianity for free prayer vs book prayer?

Free prayer performed without aid of any particular formula is known as mental prayer.

Recitation of prayers from a book of prayers, as you call it whether from some book containing a collection of Christian prayers or from official liturgical prayer book of some particular denomination is known as vocal prayer.

Mental prayer is a form of meditational prayer, "performed without aid of any particular formula." It is distinguished from vocal prayers, "prayers performed by means of a given formula." The aim of mental prayer is 'to inflame souls with the love of God' and 'live without sin'. In mystical practice, it is to be followed-up by contemplative prayer.


Mental prayer is a form of prayer "performed without aid of any particular formula." It is distinguished from vocal prayers, "prayers performed by means of a given formula," Prayer is mental when the thoughts and affections of the soul are not expressed in a previously determined formula.

According to John Hardon, mental prayer is a "form of prayer in which the sentiments expressed are one's own and not those of another person. Mental prayer is accomplished by internal acts of the mind and affections and is either simple meditation or contemplation." According to Adolphe Tanquerey, vocal prayer is expressed by words or gestures, while mental prayer "takes place wholly within the soul."[citation needed] According to Mother Teresa, "In vocal prayer we speak to God, in mental prayer he speaks to us. It is then that God pours himself into us."

According to Teresa of Ávila, mental prayer is meditational prayer, in which the person is like a gardener, who, with much labour, draws the water up from the depths of the well to water the plants and flowers. According to Teresa of Avila, mental prayer can proceed by using vocal prayers in order to improve dialogue with God. According to Lehodey, mental prayer can be divided into meditation, more active in reflections, and contemplation, more quiet and gazeful.

Some modern authors recommend that this prayer be called "interior prayer". Jacques Philippe:

It would be better to say interior prayer instead of mental prayer, because in our modern culture, the word "mental" is associated with thoughts – as something cerebral – whereas this form of prayer is more an affair of the heart, instead of reflection. St. Teresa of Avila said that it is not an act of thinking much, but of loving much.

Personally, I am in favour of calling it interior prayer rather than the traditional title of mental prayer.

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