A Framework for Contemplation

This is an approach to imaginative prayer proposed by Joseph Tetlow, SJ,I come into God’s presence and feel His loving gaze, and then I offer myself completely to God.

First, I recall for a moment some details of the particular part of sacred history that I am going to pray about.

Second, I compose myself in the scene I am going to contemplate, or in the place where it takes place.

Third, I ask for what I want: I want to know Jesus intimately, friend to friend. I want to share great love with Him. I want to go where He goes and do what He does.

Then, I enter into the event. I can do that in many different ways, and nothing constrains me to do it one way rather than another.

  • One way that helps some people: I notice the people themselves, keenly, lovingly. Then I listen to what they say. Then I watch how they are acting.
  • Another way that helps: I simply get involved in the event, at whatever point I feel drawn into it. I act in it, a part of the event—holding the light, fixing the hayrack, helping with the animals.
  • And a final way: I go along with one of the persons in the event, letting the event be a dynamic background. We talk with and listen to one another.

Whichever of these ways I use, I try to keep myself involved. For intimate knowledge reaches both into the one known and into the one knowing and deep love of God comes only to the one who knows himself or herself loved even while loving.

After I have spoken with the Lady Mary or with Jesus and with the Father, as always, I end with the Our Father.


  1. This has been a powerful way for me to pray . I was profoundly moved to hold the newborn Jesus in my own arms, an experience I often revisit. Other special moments of imagination for me include the walk to Emmaus with Jesus and many of the gospel stories that include Peter. I think Peter’s humanness is a touchstone for me because Jesus chose him in spite of (and because of) his wonderful human nature, flaws and all. Thank you for posting this.


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