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Ignatian Ways of Praying with Scripture

St. Ignatius taught different methods of praying with the scriptures using our intellect, memory, and will. He considered all of our faculties an integrative approach of experiencing the reality of God's presence in His in word.

What God has to Say to You

St. Ignatius understood through his own experience and by working with others, there were different methods one could use to lead one to a more profound 'felt knowledge' of who God is. He came to understand how we have been designed by our Creator within an interior affectivity or what I referred to as the physiology of the soul.

Depending upon the scriptural text, we will be naturally inclined to use more of our imagination when there is Jesus in action. This if used formally is called Ignatian contemplation ( two methods- the ‘composition of place’ and ‘application of senses’) using our God-given imagination to construct the scene and engage our senses so as to experience being there with Christ.

In Ignatian Meditation, we are seeking what God is revealing to us through the words we are reading, while in Ignatian Contemplation, we are using our imagination to construct from the scene to experience being there with Christ.

The method of composition of place and application of senses is a practice that is deeply incarnational. “It prevents prayer from being merely an exercise in abstraction and it assures that the whole person's body-mind will senses imagination is involved in the communication with God. It constitutes I think one of the greatest gifts Ignatius has given to the spiritual tradition.” Bishop Barron: St. Ignatius Pivotal Player

We have: 6 mental faculties - imagination, intuition, will, perception, memory, and reason; and 5 senses- see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. What human faculties will naturally come into play depends upon the text in prayer, reading or studying. Ignatian prayer methods are all active and intentional and incarnational During our prayer time in encountering the word – images, thoughts, memories, and feelings usually spontaneously emerge.

In both methods, we are on a quest to encounter God personally and to discover God's revelation to us in those words or images, reflecting upon them, and with our hearts, we respond in sharing with God our thoughts and feelings. Then moving into the silence, we receive the grace of just being with God; we stay awhile.

Ignatian Meditation– (Intellect and Will)

It is a Mental Prayer in reading and re-reading a selection in which we seek to discover on each reading more of an understanding of what God has for us. In this discursive process, we reflect upon what thoughts, images, memories, or insights were brought to mind - here, we now listen to our heart using our intellect and memory.

Meditation Questions

  • Reading: What does the text say?

  • Reflecting: What is God saying to me through the text?

  • Responding in Prayer: What do I want to say to God about the text?

  • Action: What do I want to do based on this prayer time?

Ignatian Contemplation– (Imagination and Senses) - 2 Methods

It is an Imaginative Prayer where we use our imagination to bring to life the experiences of being there. We allow ourselves to be caught up as in a movie or a book. Jesus used imagination in his teaching on how to live life – ex: the Parables – here we imagine (make present) a mystery of Jesus' life in a way it becomes real, as it is.

It is in quiet reflection, patient noticing – is how we sense God who is ever-present by using our imagination and interior senses (self-generated efference input).

· 1. The Prayer of Composition of Place

In praying the scripture, we imagine the scene as a video and enter in to become a bystander or a participant – ex: Moses on Mount Sinai or The Nativity, or in one of the healings.

To grow more fully in faith knowledge.

· 2. The Prayer with the Interior Senses

In praying the scripture scene, we place ourselves right in there – we now add our senses to imagine - seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting as a bystander or a participant – ex: The Passover, The Last Supper.

To grow in a unique and personal relationship with God through felt knowledge.

Contemplation Questions

In Composition of Place or Application of Senses, by imaging the place as in a movie, we come to experience God in action.

  • What is going on? Where am I in this scene? Where do I want to be? Where does Jesus want me to be?

  • What is God sharing with me?

  • What do I see, hear, smell, feel, taste?

  • What is this experience like for me?

  • What do I want to share with God?

Lectio Divina Process

4 Phases

Reading, Reflecting, Responding, Resting

Lectio, Meditation, Oratio, Contemplatio


Praying with Scripture


We are to become aware of our thoughts, feelings, desires, longings, intuitions, attractions, resistances, or those unnamed senses that have changed. In praying with scriptures we move from the literal > to the affective > to the spiritual…from our head > to our heart > to our soul.


As you finish the time of prayer, take a moment to speak person-to-person with Christ, sharing what comes up from your heart – this is called a Colloquy Prayer.


Sitting in silence so as to be open to God's action - (active 'c'ontemplation), for the gift of union (infused 'c'ontemplation).

After Prayer


How we deepen our experience and remember the graces we received is to write them down. Here we permanently impact our minds, filling them with memories.


You may return to a phrase, word, image, or those interior movements that were particularly strong or what the Holy Spirit may be nudging you to consider to remember or reflect upon as you go through your day or week.

Note: Remember there is no right or wrong way to pray. These methods are what have been passed down to us helping one communicate with God. It’s not the method that counters but the content of our hearts. Methods are ways to dispose ourselves, our human activity yet prayer is always first God’s invitation to us and grace.


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