Praying with the Bible: Ignatian meditation
St Ignatius Loyola was a 16th Century Spanish nobleman who, as a young man, had something of a reputation as a swashbuckling hothead, much addicted to stirring tales of historic heroes like El Cid.
Seriously wounded when the French attached Pamplona in 1521 he was laid up for a long period and in great pain. During this time, alongside the heroic tales he was so fond of he also read De Vita Christi,(of the life of Christ) by Ludolph of Saxony, in which Ludolph proposes to the reader that he should place himself imaginatively in the scenes of Christ's life as a form of contemplation. This appealed very much to Ignatius, and he found himself profoundly moved, challenged and comforted. His heroic instincts turned towards the religious life and he eventually founded the Jesuit Order of missionaries. He developed Ludolph's techniques into what became known as the Spiritual Exercises. At the heart of these was the imaginative reading of the Bible which enabled people to feel part of the story they were reading and to be aware of their reactions to it, so that they could better hear what God was saying to them through it.
The experience will vary, of course, depending on the Bible passage, but here is a brief outline of how you could begin.
Be still and quiet. Thank God for being with you as you pray.
Read the Bible passage through a couple of times.
Close your eyes if this helps you to imagine the scene.
What can I see? Look around in your imagination- what is straight ahead of you, to the right, to the left? What are you standing or sitting on? What can you hear? What can you feel? What is the weather like? Imagine the scene as vividly as you can.
Then imagine the events of the story unfolding.
Where and who are you in this story? Are you a bystander? A disciple? At the heart of events or on the margins?
What do you say or do in response to the events of the story?
What does Jesus say or do?
How do you feel?
Allow yourself time to imagine the scene. If you find it difficult to let your imagination run free, try imagining yourself telling someone else what is happening.
Ponder your reactions and share them with God in prayer, saying whatever it is you need to say, and listening for his response.
Read: Luke 5. 1-11
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.