Before you begin An Ignatian Prayer Adventure, here are a few recommendations for preparing yourself.
Getting Ready to Make the Retreat
[If you choose to commit to using these retreat materials each day for eight weeks,] commit to spending 30 to 40 minutes per day in private, personal prayer. You need an extended period of time to engage the prayer material deeply and savor the graces offered. If you are not in the habit of praying that long in one sitting, then slowly build up to that time. To help you establish a habit of praying, try praying at the same time each day.
Find a regular prayer space: a quiet room in your home with a comfortable chair, a favorite church or chapel, even a secluded place outside. It is often helpful to keep the same prayer space throughout the retreat: such regularity helps you ease into prayer. To remind you that this space is sacred, mark it with a candle, icon, painting, photograph, rosary, or crucifix. If it’s helpful and not distracting, light incense or play soft, meditative music.
Each day you will have material to pray over: Scripture passages, Ignatius’s meditations and contemplations, or other exercises. Look over these materials before you formally begin your prayer period—either the evening or morning before. This preparation allows you to sort through any questions or confusion about the prayer material itself, thus removing unnecessary mental clutter from your prayer period. You can dive right in when you go to your prayer space.
Pray for the Grace
At the beginning of each prayer period, Ignatius advises that we pray for a certain grace, or gift from God: “ask God our Lord for what I want and desire” (SE 48). Simply naming what we deeply desire opens us to receive the gift God wants to give us.
Each week we will suggest specific graces to pray for. Always feel free to articulate a different grace or to use different words if the Spirit is moving you in that direction. Imagine God asking you, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Although grace is revealed in the particular gifts God gives you, grace above all is God’s presence in your life. The Giver is the gift!
Do the Prayer
Having taken some time to compose yourself and center your mind and heart, engage the material presented for prayer. Ignatius leaves room to adapt the retreat to meet you where you are, emotionally and spiritually, during the retreat. This flexibility is especially important during a retreat in everyday life, when some person, problem, or experience may become the focus of your prayer or when you spend several prayer periods lingering over one meditation or contemplation.
Close Your Prayer
You should formally bring your prayer to a close. You can conclude with a favorite prayer, such as the Our Father or Hail Mary, or with another prayer of your choosing. You might spontaneously pray to God the Father, to Jesus, or to Mary in a very conversational manner. Use your body to mark the closing of prayer: such as with a bow, by making the sign of the cross, or with an open gesture of the hands or arms (SE 75).
Continue to Review the Prayer.
Excerpts from The Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O’Brien, SJ.