Ignatian Contemplation

Attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) and articulated in his "Spiritual Exercises," the Ignatian method of praying with Scripture invites us to enter actively into the mystery presented in a Scriptural text by using our imagination. Generally, Ignatian prayer works best with narrative material in which actual characters live an experience of faith, e.g. in the Gospel stories.  Ignatius commended the imaginative use of the five senses in such meditation. You apply your senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling to draw you into the scene of the story and then carry it forth just as you were there.  You can imagine you are in the place of one of the characters or a random observer being drawn into the action.  Most of all, the aim is to draw near and encounter God and to enter the mystery being prayed.  

Steps in Ignatian Contemplation:

  1. Remote Preparations. Know your time and place for prayer. Know what Scripture passage you’ll be using ahead of time.
  2. Immediate Preparations.
    1. Consider how God looks at you lovingly as you begin to pray, or make another kind of Act of Presence.
    2. Briefly ask for God’s assistance.
    3. Ask for the grace you desire.
  3. Read the passage once or twice, slowly and prayerfully.  “Compose the place” in your mind--that is, imagine the setting and visualize the characters involved.  Put yourself in the story, either as a bystander or as one of the characters.
  4. Pray imaginatively with the story.  Allow the event to unfold through your imagination. Apply your senses:  watch, listen, taste, smell, and feel what is happening around you.  Allow yourself to creatively interact with the other persons in the event, especially Jesus, Mary, or whoever the central character may be.
  5. Allow yourself to be drawn to the point of greatest interaction and being with God.  Pause and remain where you feel consolation, i.e. thoughts, feelings, and desires that lead you towards God and an increase of faith, hope, and love.  Whenever during your prayer you experience that God is giving himself to you, loving you, touching you, or filling you, then simply stay there quietly and receive. Also, slow down and be attentive to areas of desolation, i.e. thoughts, feelings, and desires leading away from God.  Bring these desolations conversationally to God humbly and relate them honestly with trust.  Take a moment to receive his love for you even in your weakness.
  6. Colloquy.  Conclude your time of prayer by responding spontaneously in a conversation with God the Father, with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and/or Mary.  You may choose to converse with just one, or two, or all of them.  It may be helpful to conclude each conversation with learned prayers such as the Our Father, Anima Christi, Glory Be, and the Hail Mary.
  7. Review of Prayer.  After your formal prayer time, take some additional time to review your prayer. What did you notice in your mind, feelings, sentiments, emotions, desires, etc.? Write these down, and try to discover what they are saying to you.