St. Ignatius and Methods of Praying
St. Ignatius had a detailed methodology on meditative prayer in his Spiritual Exercises. Within his methodology one can find the primary elements of prayer which include adoration, contrition, petition and thanksgiving. However, more emphasis is given on adoration, contrition and thanksgiving than petition. Petition correlates with the will of the Father and the not the individual will.
From a meditation standpoint, the value of reflection is very high in St. Ignatius’ types of prayer. The first method involves deep analysis of the soul and its relation to the Ten Commandments and the Seven Capital sins. One is to show contrition and reflection on moral betterment via reflection on each sin and vice. One is to measure how he or she has kept or failed the commandment in question. Petition is found only in the begging of grace to amend one’s life.
Contemplation is found in the second method. When one is praying a particular prayer whether it is the Our Father or Hail Mary, one is to remember to reflect on the meaning of each word during a one hour session. If one dwells on one word longer and it takes up the whole hour, then one should continue the next day on the next word. One is to not rush the images and meanings that come to one from the Holy Spirit during this deep contemplation.
Finally, St. Ignatius while promoting freedom of thought nevertheless finds value in ritual prayer. While praying ritualistic and written prayers, St. Ignatius emphasizes that one should employ the rhythmic functions of the body during prayer. As one recites a word, he or she should reflect between breathes on the meaning of the word. In this way, the prayer is said within a reasonable time but with deep reflection in a meditative state.
Christian Counseling and Spiritual Counseling should emphasize these methods of prayer. Whether the pray encompasses one or all four of the purposes of prayer, each prayer can reach higher states of union with God by the methods suggested by St. Ignatius. Through these relaxed contemplative states, one can reap a higher spiritual yield while in communication with God.
By Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C