A Way for Prayer: Format and Reflection

Updated: Jun 16

The Ignatian Prayer Period format is used during The Spiritual Exercises, it is structured with a beginning, middle, and end. When praying with the scriptures it naturally has the movements found in Lectio Divina: with a preparatory (beginning), then naturally flowing into Lectio (middle section) and ending with a formal close) followed by a Reflection. This same structured format of praying is what we can use for the daily Mass readings


Presupposition: If needed study the scripture beforehand to address questions for understanding. Studying, reading, and praying are different ways we encounter scripture, yet are not the same.
THE BEGINNING: PREPARATORY

Compose Self

Turning attention toward God

Image the reality of God's gaze of love upon you (Looking at God looking at you)

(This time of gaze is in and of itself is a contemplative prayer ‘of being with’)


Preparatory Offering Prayer – a surrendering, offering of your complete self

In your own words or

St. Ignatius’ Prayer: Receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Take my memory, understanding, and entire will. Whatever I have or possess, You have given me; I restore it all to You and surrender it wholly to be governed by Your will.


Preparatory Petitionary Prayer – it’s a grace request – deepest desires, needs, hopes

o In your own words or

o Use your imagination Jesus asking you “What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:51 and respond to his question. _______________________. or

o Formal prayer: “I ask for this grace_________(specific) and that all my intentions, actions, and operations may be ordered purely to the service and praise and greater glory of God my Creator and Savior.

THE MIDDLE: THE ASSIGNED EXERCISE

o Praying with an assigned Scripture* as the Exercise; or

o Praying with an assigned Meditation as the Exercise ie. Two Standards


Depending upon the Exercise either a Scripture or a specific Meditation it will elicit either more of a discursive mental method- Ignatian meditation (using mental powers of intellect, memory, and will) or imaginative methods of entering into prayer- Ignatian Contemplation - Composition of Place and Application of Senses


*During this Prayer of holy reading (Lectio Divina), we enter into different levels of experiences while praying with scriptures or non-scriptural-based holy writings, depending upon the method we use. In the beginning, we need to learn the different methods and practice them intentionally, so they become natural and intuitive.


This is the human side of the activity, to help us be disposed, all the time remembering that all is gift, we have been drawn by God desiring to be with us.


The Four Movements of Lectio Divina are:

· Reading - Lectio

· Reflecting - Meditatio

· Responding - Oratio

· Resting – Contemplatio



We enter into ‘reading’ – lectio; we become aware, we consider – meditatio; we enter into a dialogue, respond – oratio; we come to a place of rest – contemplation. These are four movements with different levels of accompanying experiences that may seem mechanical at first - a step-by-step pattern (Scholastic method of intentional movement) yet we allow the Spirit to move us through each phase as the Spirit will (Monastic method) in a back-and-forth movement in different patterns.


Though we begin prayer in Lectio, we may be drawn immediately into contemplation, or be filled spontaneously with an oratio, as we allow ourselves to be led.


Ignatian way of praying with Scriptures is with attention and intention; it takes ‘work’ on our part. That is why he used the term Spiritual Exercises


THE END: CLOSING PRAYER

3 Ways to Close our Exercise

· Formal Vocal Prayer (Our Father, Hail Mary …)

· Colloquy (Personal prayer or the Exercise Colloquy)

· Gestures (Sign of Cross, Kneel)

THE REVIEW:

After the Close of Prayer Period

The Importance of the Review

· The Review is an intentional conscious inquiry of our prayer period, as important as Repetitions for "an affective assimilation of and deepening personalization of our previous interior experiences." (George E. Ganass, SJ The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: A Translation and Commentary)

· Outside of our prayer period, we are to come to reflect upon our experiences during the “Spiritual Exercise” where we begin to learn - to be aware, to understand, and to ‘discern’ where God met us so as to move towards taking actions.

· Though it is difficult to put such an encounter into words, it will help us remember and imprint this within our mind and soul, thus transforming our minds and soul forever.

· This is also a time that can spontaneously turn into another moment of oratio.


PRAYER REVIEW QUESTIONS

It is a time to ask what happened, so as to notice and reflect upon the graces received, to savor them, to make notes dotting them down on paper (physically or mentally) for this builds up our soul’s mind by creating a permanent memory that can be recalled.


Without a review of the experiences of grace, those moments are left at the unopened door of our long-term memory, thereby forgotten, yet not forgotten by God.


Questions to consider.

· How was I when I came to prayer?

o Was I rested, tired, hungry, distracted, upset, contented, excited?

o What were my desires, requests, needs?

o What were my expectations? One of anticipation, hesitating, or not sure about trusting?


· Was my prayer

o More in my head (thoughts, analyzing, searching) or heart (felt senses, responding) or moved between both?

o Was I engaging my imagination?


· What came up in this prayer time:

o From me - What stood out as the significant interior movements*?

o From God - What were the insights, promptings, and or graces received?


· Where am I now after this prayer time?

o Feelings of consolation, dryness (desolation)**?



These questions help with one’s noticing, attention, intention, and commitment, and when noting down the specifics on what was shared with God and shared by God with you.


This is different than journaling in prayer yet it is an aspect of journaling when you write them down, and with these, it can lead to an extension of the prayer at another level of prayer, to something else connected in our memories or insights.


Later when you review your notes you may see a theme or themes have developed.


Should we do this review after every prayer period? Yes and No.

During the 30-week 19th Annotation Retreat in Everyday Life of the Spiritual Exercises yes on most days.


You may find during praying the daily readings of Mass, you found one, in particular, stood out, review that one; or may find yourself drifting back to one prayer moment that was filled with such abundant graces that you desire to return again. Return to it, use these review questions to savor the graces even more.