Words of Hope: Ignatian Contemplative Prayer

Our family loves Ignatian contemplative prayer. You listen to the passage and imagine yourself in the story. Recently, we experienced a prayer session together on the Good Samaritan. The guide asked us to imagine the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Was the sun hot or the day cool? What was the landscape? How did we feel walking on the road? How long had we been walking? We approach a person who is wounded on the road. He has been severely beaten. What wounds do we immediately see? What do we feel looking at the wounded man? Next, he invited us to place ourselves in the role of the priest; where are we going? What do we feel? What thoughts do we have seeing the person on the side of the road? 

Next, we place ourselves in the role of the Levite, the part of the Samaritan, and the role of the wounded man. We felt each person’s experience in the story from different points of view. Finally, he asked us to imagine Jesus coming toward us and interacting with us. What do we imagine He does when He sees us? What is He asking of us as we consider this story? What a glorious way to pray and engage the scripture! Such empathy comes from placing ourselves in the shoes of someone else. We encounter such wisdom and care when we picture meeting with Jesus face to face. One member of our group pictured Jesus hugging him, holding him like a brother, gently turning him around, and reorienting him. He sobbed as he considered this to mean Jesus pointing him to a new life calling and the joy of this discovery. Dad loved contemplative prayer—as defined as gazing with love at God, who gazed back with infinite love. This moves us out of scripture as purely intellectual or emotional into something that engages the heart, the mind, and the spirit.

“Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life,”

Proverbs 6:21-23