Praying with St. Ignatius

St. Ignatius of Loyola, sitting at desk

July 31 is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), and a man whose life was dedicated to introducing people to Jesus and encouraging their conversations with him—their prayer. So let’s approach this week’s posts with a focus on Ignatian prayer.

First I want to point out that the Society of Jesus was the first religious order to move away from the practice of praying the Divine Hours. That is, they did not come together as a community several times a day to pray together. From the beginning, their idea was to be out in the world doing all kinds of evangelistic work, and they didn’t want to be pulled from that work back to a monastery every few hours. You might think of Ignatian prayer as prayer on the move.

However, the Jesuits used a portable prayer form called the Examen. This is simply a prayerful review of the day or of the past few hours. It doesn’t take long, and you can do it anytime and anywhere (many Jesuits do it at noon and evening), but it can readjust your soul in the midst of whatever is going on. You review in order to express gratitude for where God has been present and to ask for help in matters that aren’t going so well.

St. Ignatius also stressed that we should have a personal relationship with Jesus, getting to know him through the Gospel accounts of his life and praying to him directly. In a number of the prayers in Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, the person praying is encouraged to pray with Jesus in a conversational way.

And St. Ignatius discovered through his own long conversion and spiritual formation that the Holy Spirit will work through a person’s imagination during prayer. He had learned to trust this process as he daydreamed and reflected and prayed. He also discovered a lot about discernment that, centuries later, psychologists and pastors affirm as wise and practical.

If you were to describe your own prayer spirituality—in 50 words or less—what would that description include?

For more about Ignatian spirituality, see 31 Days with St. Ignatius and the lighthearted Find Your Inner Iggy.


  1. says

    50 words or less? Easy: just what you said. :-) Sometimes it seems to be a constant back and forth conversation. Imagination is cool. I also set up my Google Alerts to go off every hour between 9 and 3 with a simple prayer exercise or petition – it keeps my mind on God throughout my work day. At night, I go to sleep listening to daily mass on CatholicTV through my iPhone. I love hearing the readings as I fall asleep.

  2. says

    Over time, the evening Examen has become a very important feature of my prayer life. Even if I’ve had a lousy day, I can always find God’s presence in it when I when look back over the day.

    I’ve had some very powerful experiences of praying with my imagination and situating myself in Gospel stories. It’s almost like entering another dimension of prayer. Recently I imagined my two young boys being among the kids rushing to Jesus and sitting on his lap, and seeing him embrace them so lovingly made me feel a new fondness for Jesus.

  3. helen says

    I’ve developed the “attitude of gratitude” wherein I say thanks or arising and before falling sleep, and throughout the day when I am aware of the presence of God. I’m still working on seeing God in all things, and this is helping me do that (still a long way to go). I’m a pilgrim on a journey to God, and I’m getting closer and closer. For which I say, “thank you, God.”

  4. patti says

    Mine is sort of a constant conversation with God. I notice simple ordinary moments of the day that I find God, I make time to find stillness each day and to just rest in Gods care, I try in challenging times during the day when I am frustrated or hurt to ask Gods grace to help me pray for that person and to find forgiveness even when I don’t want to , to surrender to humbly punch myself down and be consistently humble and surrender to Gods will for me to most of all Trust in Gods path for me and to love others really try to love others like Jesus loves us, and this is not always easy but it is a journey .

  5. Pat says

    Each of the preceding commentaries have beautifully stated my thoughts: I try to work through the examen each night 9a work in progress!). I have found great help in reading Fr James Martin particularly his book on Ignation practice and I am making strides with gratitude and with seeing God in all things especially in nature. I struggle with seeing God in interpersonal struggles, but my daily journal helps here. I use this as a writing reflection after morning prayers with Give us this Day as my prayers.
    God Bless each of us on our journey

  6. patti says

    I used to find it hard to find God in interpersonal conflicts and struggles, and then as I faced them right on and did not just avoid them A priest told me to see the anger and resentment and hurt I was carrying and the difficulty in forgiving as the evil one getting his foot in and perpetuating that feeling. It always felt bad and never healed up just the way the devil would have it. So I try to know recognize that and not let the evil one win. I pray to God and ask him to help me to forgive that person, Tell God honestly that I am hurt and that I don’t even necessarily like that person right now but to please help me to pray for them. and I also offer up my suffering from it for sins, combine it with Jesus passion and by doing these things I am more peaceful, more open to love like Jesus does even when it is the most hard humanly to do so. So I pray for the ones who hurt me and I also apologize and I pray that other will forgive me when I have hurt them.

    This is how I have grown to learn to handle interpersonal struggle and always remember that God is always with you you are never alone.
    “Come Holy Spirit”


  7. Carol says

    Vinita and all –
    Wow! I am deeply inspired by all of the responses. I feel a sisterhood with each of you just knowing we are connected by our steadfast desire for union with God through Jesus.
    The only thing I can contribute is devoting time each day with my daily devotional called “Jesus Calling” which meets me right where I am each day. Also, I crave time with a phone app called “Pray as You Go”, a mini-worship/meditation time with celestial music. If you scroll down on the site, you will find The Examen as the final option.
    Praying with you,

  8. Jane says

    Great stuff here. There is so much encouragement in reading all of your descriptions of prayer. Thank you!

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