Three Ways to Pray Ignatian

Three Ways to Pray Ignatian - St. Ignatius of Loyola

There’s no great mystery to Ignatian prayer, but this week is a good time to review. If you want to pray in the Ignatian way, here are three ways to do it—not an exhaustive list but a good start.

1. Do the Examen.

At the end of the day, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your memory over the day’s events and conversations. Give thanks for the blessings of the day. Ask God’s forgiveness if you have wandered from Jesus’ path of truth, compassion, and kindness. Ask God’s help with any negative patterns you see in your life, or for strength and wisdom to deal with upcoming events or issues. You can do this prayer once a day, twice a day, three times a day; the important thing is to develop a pattern that’s best for you. For more about the Examen, click here.

2. Put yourself in a Gospel story.

Just choose which character you’re going to be, and walk right into the scene where Jesus heals someone, delivers a teaching, or feeds thousands. You can be a main character in the story, or you can be a bystander or friend that you simply invent for this prayer. Don’t get distracted by trying to be historically accurate or in line with church teaching about a certain story—this is not about you interpreting Scripture in a scholarly way. The point is to encounter Jesus. You ask the Holy Spirit to guide this very spiritual function, the human imagination, to where you need to go.

3. Pray as though you are having a conversation across the dinner table or in your living room.

In the Spiritual Exercises, this is called a colloquy, but actually it’s just conversational prayer. You speak to Jesus as you would a close friend. You speak to Mary, his mother, or to God the Father/Creator, or to the Holy Spirit who is comforter, or to one of the saints, who can be part of this conversation with the Divine. Sometimes, when we pray the way we talk, it can enable us to be more honest. Probably the only danger is that we become flippant or casual, but this isn’t much of a temptation when we remember who it is we’re talking to.

So, in honor of St. Ignatius, whose feast day is tomorrow, give Ignatian prayer a try. Let us know how that goes.


  1. says

    Vinita, thanks for this list and the encouragement to bring new traditions to our prayer life. I did not know about colloquy, so I’m looking forward to talking to Jesus as I work around the house, walk in the park, or try to fall asleep. Nowadays people who have a blue tooth in their ears seem to be talking to invisible people, so there’s the precedent!

  2. says

    Vinita – thank you for this review of some of the Ignatian ways of praying. I can not tell you how profoundly moved I was the first time I entered a gospel story. An amazing experience to have ‘permission’ to use one’s imagination in this way. I highly recommend it!

  3. Jean C says

    Ignatian prayer transformed my spirituality by opening up avenues to growth. In imaginative prayer, one of the Gospel stories in particular, opened my eyes with regard a troubling family situation, brought me to a place of acceptance, forgiveness and peace. This worked by inserting myself one at a time, as each of the story’s figures until one clicked, a great “aha” revelation finally received from God. For this and for all Ignatian spirituality has brought to me I am profoundly grateful. Wishing all a great summer and keeping DDF community in my prayers.

  4. Andi says

    Thanks for this. I have been struggling with the idea of prayer since my return to Catholicism – I tend to laspe in imaginary conversations with Christ, and then feel guilty about that. I can not express how much it means to see that I am not offending God by this practice. Again Thank you.

  5. Annie says

    I started work in a Jesuit school this year and as part of our spiritual formation we were lead through the examen – which I found very useful. I used to do something along those lines but not quite as purposeful. I like the one about ‘entering’ a bible story – will try it and let you know how I go.
    Sometimes I also just sing a hymn that I remember the words to (they are usually the ones I remember from my childhood). :)

  6. says

    Dear Vinita,
    I thank you for sharing some of the Ignatius tradition with a special touch.
    However, regarding the second point, I have seen some problems when accompanying people who see themselves in one of the character. The problem is the contradiction in prayer: sometimes I am this, sometimes I am that, and not myself. I prefer to go with being a friend, an independent character who contemplates the others and entering into communion with them through what they are doing or what they say, or what they are being told!

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