Ways to Pray | Ignatian Contemplation
For this final week in our series on ways to pray, we will take a look at Ignatian contemplation. The idea of contemplation has different meanings and practices depending on the spiritual tradition out of which it comes. In Ignatian spirituality (following the spiritual tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola), contemplation specifically refers to the practice of praying with your imagination. This doesn’t mean that you are making things up when you are praying this way, but rather, that you are paying attention to the ways in which God is stirring your heart and working through your imagination.
Ignatian contemplation is done with Scripture, and usually the Gospels. The idea is to vividly picture the scene in a particular passage: What did it look like? What sounds might you have heard? What would you feel, smell, or taste? Take the time to really place yourself in the scene and ask God for the grace to experience what it might have been like. Then, imagine yourself as a person witnessing the scene. Perhaps you are a bystander. Alternatively, you might experience the passage as one of the central figures—the prodigal son, for example.
Once you have read your selected passage a few times slowly and set up the scene in your imagination, let the scene play out. Pay attention to what stands out to you and what your feelings are. In this very personal form of prayer, God can speak to you through these responses. You may find that the words of scripture come to life in a new way or speak to something that is happening in your own life. It helps to enter into this kind of prayer without expectations so that God can use your prayer to speak to you in the way that he desires.
Once the scene has played out in your imagination, take a few minutes to talk to God about what has happened. Thank him for the insights he has given you and for the intimacy of being with him in prayer. You may also ask him what he wants you to do with any insights or feelings you received in prayer.
Ignatian contemplation is a wonderful way to open your heart and allow God in. It can help you to understand the fact that God is alive and with you now, and that he longs to speak into your heart. Today, try praying with your favorite Gospel passage in this imaginative way, and be open to God wants to tell you as you experience it yourself.