In our Year of Prayer here at St. Josaphat, the month of February is devoted to praying with scripture. Praying with scripture is my favorite form of prayer. I am always excited to help people dive into the Bible. So I would like to invite you to pray with scripture using the Ignatian Imaginative Method of prayer, developed by St. Ignatius in the 16th Century.
Begin with a passage from a Gospel or another book that's familiar.
Or use the Readings of the Day from the usccb.org.
I encourage you not to pick random chapters or verses in the Bible.
And then pick a quiet place to pray, somewhere comfortable and free of distraction.
Many volumes have been written and websites dedicated to Ignatian contemplative prayer, and I encourage you to investigate these. In brief, these are the four essential steps:
Begin with prayer to the Holy Spirit to guide your reading. Then read the passage through twice.
The first time, read through it normally to get the overview of the passage and what's happening. The second time you read it, engage all of your imagination. Make it real! Focus on the sights, the sounds, the smells, tastes, etc. Remember, the people in the stories are real people. So what would be the attitudes and reactions of the people in the story?
Meditate by spending a few minutes reflecting on the passage. What stood out to you? What sight, sound, word or image grabbed your attention the most? Did you feel drawn towards a particular character?
Read the passage again this time focusing in on your character or that image that grabbed your attention. Notice, what keeps stirring in you? What do you think your character would be feeling, thinking, etc? How do you see this applying to your own life? Is there something going on in your life that this passage speaks to or brings up a memory? If so, what do you want to say back to God in prayer? Example: Ask God for help. Pray for someone you know who is in need. Give thanks to God for the people who have shown you love or helped you during a hard time. Ask God for forgiveness for judging others harshly, etc.
Read the passage one final time. Then simply sit in the presence of God for a few minutes. Finish with a prayer of thanksgiving for the time spent in prayer and what God has revealed to you. Your closing prayer can be anything from the heart or a simple Our Father, Glory Be, or whatever prayer comes to mind.
Finally, always keep in mind, this is meant to be a conversation between you and God. God speaks to us through the scripture passage, we listen and take notice of what stirs in us and then we respond to God in prayer. This may be difficult the first few times you try it on your own. That's ok! Like all things, practice makes perfect! So keep at it and I promise your love for scripture and your relationship with God will certainly grow!