Rest – Prayers in the Ignatian Tradition

Dr. Douglas Gregg, Christian Formation and Direction Ministries

Prayer of Rest in the Ignatian Tradition

Brief Description: The prayer of rest (traditionally called contemplation) is a helpful way to conclude a prayer time. Here, one moves into silence to experience God at a deeper and more intimate level. 

In the Ignatian tradition, lectio moved one naturally toward contemplation as the culmination of the encounter with God through Scripture—as rest without any effort or focus in the presence of God, as union with God (see the mystics). This has been lost in Scripture study in the last 500 years post-Reformation—see Thomas Keating’s writings, Contemplative Outreach, etc. Thus there has been a renewed emphasis on the prayer of rest or contemplative prayer, but it is a mistake to divorce this from lectio (see document entitled “A Lectio Leading to Prayer of Rest”). Approach: Be silent in the presence of the Lord without words or images. Release all distractions and surrender to his presence, to his gaze. When your mind wanders, use a breath prayer, what Keating (Centering Prayer) calls the “sacred word,” to return to His presence. You are responding to Jesus’ invitation in Matt. 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Let God love you and give you rest. This is like two lovers in a quiet spot enjoying one another’s company, exchanging looks or expressing and sensing emotion—a communion beyond words.

See also the section on physical rest.