Expanding our image of God through Imaginative prayer
by Karen Krige
One way that we can open ourselves up to seeing God in new ways is through imaginative prayer. We are all born with a colourful imagination and we can ask God to use our imagination to speak to us and to reveal Himself to us.
God can speak to you as surely through your imagination as through your thoughts and memories. In imaginative prayer you accompany Jesus through his life by imagining scenes from the Gospel stories. You let the events of Jesus’ life be present to you right now. You visualize the event as if you were making a movie. Pay attention to the details: sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings of the event. Lose yourself in the story. At some point, place yourself in the scene.
Praying a Gospel scene is not simply remembering it or going back in time. Through the act of gospel imagination, the Holy Spirit makes present a mystery of Jesus’ life in a way that is meaningful for you now. Use your imagination to dig deeper into the story so that God may communicate with you in a personal, evocative way.
Some people find imaginative prayer difficult. They may not be able to picture the scene easily, yet they may have some intuition or gut reaction to the story. Or they may hear or feel the story more than visualize it. In a spirit of generosity, pray as you are able; don’t try to force it. Rest assured that God will speak to you, whether through your memory, understanding, intellect, emotions, or imagination.
Below is a gospel scene you might like to try to pray with imaginatively.
Luke 5:1-11. THE FIRST FOUR DISCIPLES ARE CALLED
Begin with a quietening exercise
Sit comfortably. Close your eyes and allow yourself to relax….
Become aware of the sound of your own breathing. Each time that you breathe in, be aware of God with you, like your breath constantly sustaining you whether or not you are aware of Him.
Slowly read the gospel story Luke 5:1-11
Imagine that you are at the lake of Gennesaret…. What is it like? What kind of day is it? Is it hot or cool? … Notice what you can hear? The sound of water? Birdsong, people’s voices? What can you smell? Can you taste the saltiness in the air?
See the place as clearly as you can…. What does it look like? Look at the movement of the water, what does the shore look like? What kind of boats are there?
Now see the fishermen outside the boats washing their nets. What do they look like? What are they wearing? Listen to their conversation as they wash their nets. What are they saying to each other?
Now see the crowd in the distance. Who are they listening to? You see the man, who you recognise as Jesus, notice the boats and come over to ask Simon if he may use his boat. What does he look like? Watch him get into the boat and begin to teach the crowd. What is the feeling in the crowd as they listen to Jesus speak?
Why are you here today at the side of the lake? Is it just by chance that you were passing by or are you often there?
Jesus finishes speaking and says to Simon, “Put out into deep water and put out your nets for a catch.“ Watch the expressions on the faces of the fishermen. What are they feeling when Jesus says this? You hear Simon say, “Master we have worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so we will put out the nets.”
What do you decide to do? Do you watch quietly from the side? Or maybe you get into the boat? Suddenly you realise Simon and the others are trying to pull in the net, but it is so heavy with hundreds of fish that they can’t manage. They call to their friends in the other boat to come and help them. See the hundreds of fish filling the boat until it nearly sinks. Maybe you watch from a distance, or perhaps you are also helping bring in the huge catch. Look at the faces of the fishermen – their amazement at what has just happened. Simon falls at Jesus’ feet and says, “Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” Jesus looks at him and responds, “Don’t be frightened – from now on it is people you will be catching…..” Watch Peter’s face. What is he feeling?… They leave their boats and follow him. How do you feel? What is it that you want to say to Jesus? Talk to him…. What does he say to you…..?
Imagine Jesus inviting you to walk a little away from the crowd with him; imagine him saying, to you, “Come, I want to talk to you.” Spend some time talking to Jesus about what you have seen and heard. Listen to what he has to say to you….
When you are ready open your eyes and bring your awareness back to the room.
Acknowledgements: Jesuit Institute of South Africa, and ignatianspirituality.com