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“Praying with the Bible – Ignatian meditation”

“Praying with the Bible – Ignatian meditation”

“The word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”

Deuteronomy 30.14 (NRSV)

The Bible has been used for centuries as a fruitful way into prayer. Praying with the imagination and intuition can be helpful if you have spent a lot of time in study and now want to deepen your encounter with scripture, or perhaps if you struggle a bit with the Bible’s content and want a different way in.

The pattern of imaginative Ignatian meditation was developed by St Ignatius of Loyola in the sixteenth century and many people still use it today. St Ignatius was convinced that God can speak to us through our imaginations as well as our thoughts and memories. It can be used with any story in Scripture, and is particularly suited to books such as Ruth and the Gospels. In your mind’s eye, you place yourself in the scene, say an event in Jesus’ life, and become a participant interacting with the other characters.

The following is one possible model. Explore Prayer on the Cathedral website has links to more audio and written resources or see Anthony de Mello’s book Sadhana: A Way to God, Christian Exercises in Eastern Form (pdf).

Choose the passage in advance of your prayer time, so you don’t waste precious minutes. You might like to choose the Gospel reading for the day, or return several times to a particular story. Spend a few minutes settling down and let your breathing become gentler. Pray that your heart may be opened and receptive to the gift God knows you need today.

Read the passage very slowly twice, aloud if you find that helpful, then put the Bible down. In your mind’s eye, place yourself in the scene. Take time to imagine it as vividly as possible, its sights, sounds and smells. Compose yourself in the place.

Now imagine your way through the story. Perhaps you are a bystander or one of the characters. Observe how you interact with the other characters and any thoughts and feelings that arise. Keep yourself open to God’s communication and nudging. If distractions set in, gently return to your breathing, then to your place in the story.

At the end of the meditation, return gradually to an awareness of your breathing and your posture. When you are ready, open your eyes, and bring your prayer time to a close with thanksgiving or the Lord’s Prayer.


This is one of a series of articles appearing in Exeter Cathedral’s monthly news, complementing the material I contributed to the “Explore Prayer” section of the Cathedral website. I hope you find them helpful.