Traditionally, one of the most commonly used methods of prayer for getting in touch with Jesus is that of Ignatian contemplation. It is a form of Imaginative Prayer recommended by St. Ignatius of Loyola; where one moves from thinking to feeling to being.

Ignatian contemplation is an experience of prayer that sets our imaginations free from anything that limits them. This is God revealing Himself to us through the sights, sounds, characters, feelings of the particular gospel stories. As Fr Kevin O’Brien, S.J. recalls, Ignatian contemplation is especially suitable for the Gospels – we can accompany Jesus through His life by imagining scenes from the Gospel stories. Contemplating a Gospel scene is not simply going back in history to remember it, but it is letting God take our imaginations and reveal something to us. In contemplation, the Holy Spirit makes present a mystery of Jesus’ life in a way that is meaningful for us now.”

Before you begin the prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand with clarity your thoughts and motives, attitudes and actions. Pray for the grace you need.

Grace to ask for:

  • The Grace To Proclaim Christ By Following Him
  • The Grace Of Sensus Christi
  • The Grace Of Transformation
  • The Grace To Imitate Jesus In His Kenosis
  • The Grace Of Being Christ

Preparatory steps:

  • Choose a Gospel text for your prayer (narrative or descriptive)
  • Get settled in a comfortable and quiet place. Ask God to open your heart and guide your imaginations
  • Be still for a time and know that God’s presence is within and all around you. Be aware that the Holy Spirit is guiding you
  • Read and re-read your chosen Gospel passage slowly and let the details settle into your memory
  • Imagine the scene as if you were standing right there. What is around you? Who else is there? What do you hear? What do you smell?
  • Now, begin to imagine the scene you read about. Who are in it? What conversations take place? What is the mood – tense, joyful, confused or angry?
  • Pay attention to details: the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings of the event. Let your creativity take over, and do not worry if your imagination seems to be running wild. At some point, place yourself back in the scene
  • Place yourself in the scene – a bystander, observer or disciple. Personalise your conversations and interacts with the persons in the story. This Gospel passage becomes the backdrop for your own involvement with Jesus
  • Talk to Jesus and let Him speak to you. You can respond to what He says, or simply tell Him about your life
  • If at a certain point you feel drawn to be silent and simply relish God’s presence, stay there. Do not feel the need to move on
  • Because you have offered your time of prayer to God, trust that God is communicating with you. If you wonder whether your imagination is going “too far,” practise some discernment. Where did your imagining lead you: Closer to God or farther away? Is it bringing you consolation or desolation?
  • Gather the main strands of your contemplation and spend a few moments to reflect on what moved you most deeply
  • Take a few moments at the end of your reflection to rest silently in God’s presence. Recognise that God also speaks to us with the language of silence
  • Conclude with the Our Father or some other favourite prayer

If we will allow ourselves to become children again and plunge wholeheartedly into this seeming world of imaginative prayer, we might be delightfully surprised to discover Christ there behind all the imagination and discover him in greater depth here than in all our theological reflection and speculation.

Recommended Gospel passages:

  • Jesus at Nazareth Lk 4:16-30
  • The cure of a paralytic Lk 5:17-50
  • The cure of the blind man Lk 18:35-43
  • The agony in the Garden Lk 22:39-62
  • The trials and hope of the Apostolate 2 Cor 4:7-11

There’s more…

This article is #5 of a series of 5:

  1. Introduction to Prayer: Why Pray?
  2. SOAP
  3. The Daily Examen
  4. Lectio Divina
  5. Ignatian Contemplation