Last week I spoke about the importance of prayer and in particular mental prayer or meditation. In the past I have written quite a bit about Lectio Divina. I believe it is the easiest and most organic way to begin and to continue developing your prayer and spiritual lives. I also know that this is not for everyone. If everyone felt immediately at home with this, it most likely would be the only form of prayer in the Church. Lectio Divina was developed in the Benedictine Monasteries of the 5th and 6th centuries and expanded throughout Europe. Many associate it with the Benedictines.
The Carmelites in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance times developed their own way of prayer which was promoted and enhanced by St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila. In the 16th century St. Ignatius developed a style of meditation for his Jesuits, which leads from a discursive type to a more contemplative way.
These are just very successful methods to help us to learn to do mental prayer. As we get into it, and get better at it, nearly everyone makes personal adaptations. So in reality there are as many ways to pray as there are people praying.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church talks about the main expressions of prayer in numbers 2700-2719, very well summarized in 2720-2724. Vocal prayer is speaking to God, in formulated prayers or your own words and meditation is basically reflecting or thinking about the will of God as it applies to your life. Contemplation is a unitive prayer in which we feel taken up in God as our will becomes one with His. These three ways engage the mouth (vocal), head (meditation) and heart (contemplation) of the one praying.