Fr. James Martin, SJ, author of books including My Life with the Saints (10th anniversary edition) and Jesus: A Pilgrimage, recently shared with Sean Salai, SJ, some thoughts on prayer, specifically Ignatian contemplation.
Salai: Beginners in Ignatian contemplation sometimes struggle to distinguish between what comes from God and what comes from their own heads when they use their imagination to pray. As a spiritual director and retreat master, what do you say to them?
Martin: Ah, good question! Not everything that pops into your mind is from God, of course. But usually, it’s easy to tell. Anything that draws you deeper into prayer, helps you feel closer to God, or, as Ignatius says, builds you up, encourages you, gives you hope, is probably coming from God. God’s voice also has the ring of authenticity. Usually, when good people are praying, in my experience, what happens in their prayer is from God. And in time it gets easier to discern. Of course, a good spiritual director is helpful.