The simple answer is… it depends, haha.
As I have expressed before, I tend not to use spiritual readings or structure when it comes to my period of meditation, but I do not think that is the case for everyone. I have recently come to believe that such discernment should take place on an individual level and that there are several factors involved.
First, some of us do not have the sufficient learning and study needed to relate to the Lord in a more spontaneous manner. Before we can imagine the mysteries of the faith and allow our intuition to guide us, our interior life must be filled with a certain amount of data. We must know some basic theology and have some formation in the different aspects of the faith. Also, we should be familiar with the scriptures and the events of Christ’s life.
If any of those things is lacking, we should at least dedicate daily time to study and meditation on the scripture.
Second, some of us don’t have a very active imagination. There is nothing wrong with that. Some of us can benefit greatly by being inspired by spiritual writers that have a certain creativity that does not come easily to us. Let us keep in mind that creativity and an ability to think spontaneously does not indicate a moral or spiritual superiority. For certain it is a character strength, but I am sure that people who lack these kinds of strengths have other great attributes which guide them.
The goal in all of this is not necessarily to live up to some standard, but rather adapt our prayer periods to meet our specific needs.
That is why I want to make room on my website for those who are drawn to the more spontaneous type periods of prayer and those who benefit from a more structured approach. On a previous post, I posted the Carmelite Method of Mental Prayer. I am going to continue to try and make available the totality of the riches provided by the Catholic tradition.
Hopefully, this will help you to connect with the Lord no matter what is your personality or temperament.