Ignatian Prayer

Preparing to introduce a group to Ignatius’ approach to prayer the other day, I was pondering how common it is to be preoccupied with our performance. Am I doing it right? What should I be doing? What should I be experiencing? Why aren’t I…

I am aware, that for both myself and others these rather self focussed thoughts intrude and disrupt the very act of seeking to engage with and be open to God in prayer. They undermine our intentions.

If my experience is common, and in sharing it with the group, it seemed that it was, when giving time to pray, it is normal to find some aspect of self-evaluation if not self-criticism accompanying any attempts to ‘get down to it’! No sooner do I seek to give attention to God, whatever the way, the self-conscious critic or evaluator pops up with a kind of running commentary on how poor one is doing, or watching to notice at what point prayer starts to ‘work’ or affect one in some way – doing a brilliant job at undermining the intention to give attention to God. It seems that built into our human nature we have a need to monitor and evaluate!

I was struck by the realisation that Ignatius offers a way of managing these thoughts. He doesn’t tell you that they should be resisted or kicked into touch. He’s as ever, more helpful than that!

He offers a positive use for them, but in a much better place than in the midst of the prayer itself. He puts this ‘evaluation’ of prayer to a later stage – to the time of reviewing prayer – but he also shifts the paradigm of evaluation from am I doing this right or well, to the paradigm of consolation/desolation. So he moves the place for this into the review and then deftly moves the goalposts from our crude and self-centred evaluation based on our own particular prejudices about what makes prayer good, successful or worthwhile, to a God-centred reflection and where consolation and desolation were experienced in prayer.

Of course one of the effects of the intrusive self-evaluation in the middle of the process of prayerful seeking God is that those thoughts bring desolation! The review will help recognise and build the desire to resist those thoughts should they arise again! I find my self delighted by the way doing discernment is so revelatory!

2. Ignatian Prayer

Resources accompanying the Grove Book:
Ignatius of Loyola (S130)


Chapter 2: Ignatian Prayer

Recommended Books
Taste and See – Margaret Silf
Sleeping with Bread – Linns

Sacred Space – produced by the Jesuits in Ireland provide a daily prayer time using the Ignatian process.

Pray As You Go gives a daily podcast or audio stream of a led prayer time using the Ignatian process. Each session lasts about 12 minutes.

Pray As You Go offers some led Imaginative Contemplations on Gospel stories

The Pathways to God website provides many resources for engaging in prayer.

A useful guide to Imaginative Contemplation from Rob Marsh SJ

Resources from Ignatian Spirituality Website

Ignatian Imaginative Contemplation

Articles under the heading ‘The What and How of Prayer’

YouTube Resources:

James Martin SJ gives a brief introduction to Imaginative Contemplation (4 minutes)

Nicholas King SJ – Ignatian Spirituality and Prayer (56 minutes) – address given at St Giles’ Church Oxford as part of a series of talks on Ignatius

Gerard W Hughes SJ – Talking on the Ignatian Examen at St Giles Church Oxford (57 minutes)

Nick Helm’s Grove Books

Information on Nick’s other Grove Books 

  • Finding Support in Ministry
  • Soul Spark
  • Seeking Spiritual Direction



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