Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV

Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with 
Scripture by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV, New York: Crossroad 
Publishing Company, 2008.

The purpose of the Book: “to present in a clear and usable way two Ignatian methods for prayer with Scripture” (12).

  1. Ignatian Meditation = The loving reflective process by which we (1) call to mind, (2) ponder, and (3) embrace the truths in a Scripture passage.
  2. Ignatian Contemplation = The loving imaginative process by which I imaginatively (1) see the persons, (2) hear the words, and (3) observe the actions of a Gospel scene, participating personally in the event. 

Overall: These two methods “are simply gateways, open doors into the richness of God’s Word… Having entered reflectively or imaginatively, our hearts are utterly free to follow the drawings of grace” (44).


Before the Prayer Begins: Make sure to choose a specific time and place with an appropriate Scripture passage. Ignatius suggested that we prepare this the night before so that the Scripture passage is our final thought upon retiring, and our first thoughts in the morning.

5 Tools to Prepare us for the Body of the Prayer:

Remember that the purpose of these following tools is to prepare us for the body of the prayer. Once our hearts are ready, the tools have served their purpose. They are a launching pad, not a straitjacket. Whenever heart begins to speak to heart, the preparatory phase is done (66).

  1. “I will consider how God our Lord looks upon me.” –> For a brief moment – “for the space of an Our Father” – we want to be aware of the Lord who is with us. This is of the greatest importance for prayer because it allows our prayer to become what it most profoundly is – relationship: the human person in relationship with God.
  2. I offer all my will and actions to God (preparatory prayer) –> “The preparatory prayer is to ask grace of God our Lord, that all my intentions, actions, and operations be purely ordered in the service and praise of his divine majesty” (St. Ignatius, SE 46).
  3. I review the Scripture for this prayer –> Often, we may need to read the Scripture passage 3-4 times so that we have to freedom to close our eyes and enter into the scene.
  4. I imaginatively enter the place of this Scripture (composition)-> Ignatius invites us to “compose” ourselves imaginatively within the event described in the text. Even when the prayer in meditative, this imaginative composition may be of assistance.
  5. I ask of God what I wish and desire in this prayer –> Why am I praying today? What does my heart seek? Express your heart’s desire and ask for its fulfillment.


Body of the Prayer:

  1.  Meditative:
    1. I call to mind this truth, with love (memory)
    2. I ponder it, with love (understanding)
    3. I embrace it, with love and desire (will).
  2. Contemplative:
    1. I see the persons.
    2. I hear the words.
    3. I observe the actions.


  1. I speak to God as my heart is moved (colloquy) –> While colloquies may arise at any time in prayer, Ignatius specifically invites us to include a colloquy at the conclusion of our prayer.
  2. I conclude with an Our Father –> Ignatius invites us to conclude this colloquy itself with an Our Father (without any further explanation). Gallagher notes that the Our Father continues and elevates the direct address of the colloquy, it summarizes all prayer, and it serves as an effective bridge from the time of prayer to what follows.

Reviewing Our Prayer: This review deepens our awareness of the gift given in the day’s prayer and helps us to conserve its fruit. Some questions may help: What was I thinking? What was I feeling? What stirred my heart? What struck me? Did I struggle in any way?

Some General Tips:

  1. Freedom — Gallagher recommends that we adopt a personal approach to the general method allowing a certain freedom to adapt it as you see fit. We must allow ourselves the freedom to pray with Scripture in this way (especially with Ignatian contemplation). At times, elements of both methods will mingle in a single time of prayer. Also, give yourself the freedom to stop at any point you feel moved: “In the point in which I find what I desire, there I will rest, without anxiety to move forward until I am satisfied” (St. Ignatius, SE 77).
  2. Persevere — We must be patient and persevere in continuing fidelity to this time of prayer and trust that God truly assists our efforts.
  3. ColloquiesColloquies may arise at any time in our prayer. When they do, our prayer has reached its deepest center. Then all anxiety to move forward, all further reflecting or imagining, may be simply relinquished. This heart-to-heart communication has primacy over all else in prayer. When the colloquy has concluded, we may gently resume the reflecting or imagining.
  4. Authenticity — Growth in love confirms the authenticity of this prayer.

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