Talk with Jesus from a Gospel Story: Day 25 and Imaginative Prayer

What would it have been like to bump into Jesus along a dusty road in Galilee? Can you imagine the setting of the picnic by the lake, when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish? Are you able to envision the dust filling the room when four guys tore off the roof to let their paralyzed friend down in front of Jesus?

And then, right at that moment in the story, Jesus turns and locks eyes with you. He smiles. What do you say?

Today’s challenge is to talk with Jesus, right from the middle of a gospel story. Through the use of our imagination, we will find ourselves near Jesus, and sharing with him our questions, our thoughts, our heart.

Here’s how we do it.

  1. Pick a gospel story you find intriguing. There are many to choose from, ranging from Matthew through John. I hesitate to suggest any to you. If you aren’t able to pick a story within a few minutes, simply turn to the early chapters in Mark, and find one there.
  2. Taking the story you’ve chosen, read it through several times. And as you do, focus on the details. What are you told about the location, the setting, the time of day? Who is there? What is happening? What just happened before this story? What is the emotional mood within the story (are people upset? concerned? joyful? confused?)? Soak in the story for a bit.
  3. Once the story has begun to solidify in your imagination, begin to walk around in it. Our imaginations are powerful. As you see this story take shape, look at it from different perspectives. Breathe deeply: what does it smell like? Listen carefully: what sounds to you hear? Is there food? What does it taste like? Press further into the scene to experience it imaginatively.
  4. Now that the scene of this story is familiar to you, where is Jesus? Look for Jesus within the story. Who is getting his attention? What is he doing? How are others reacting to him? What is his facial expression? What is he saying?
  5. And now, imagine Jesus turning to look at you. He smiles, and then walks over, eyes never leaving yours. As he comes up to you, he asks, “How are you, friend?”  What do you say?
  6. Here is where you have a conversation with Jesus. Perhaps you both find a more comfortable place to sit together, or you take a walk down the lane. Maybe you are already sitting, and Jesus joins you on a patch of grass. See it all unfold, and then just talk to him. Talk to him, and as you do, imagine his eyes, attentive, listening, focused, warm. He is fully fixed on you, his beloved friend. Open your heart and share with him all that you are thinking and feeling and wondering.
  7. When you are done your conversation, imagine it finishing naturally. Perhaps someone else came and needed Jesus’ attention, too. Maybe a child of yours came close and asked for your help. Or you both had somewhere else to be.  Finish as you would a conversation with any dear friend–with a hug, a handshake, a few quick words, a farewell.

Imaginative prayer is an incredibly powerful tool for conversation with Jesus. And while it may be very new for many of you, I encourage you to give it a serious try.  On a first attempt, it may seem a little stiff, but I know that as you practice it, the ability of your own imagination will grow, and you will be able to see Jesus more clearly and discover conversation with him becomes more easy and more real as you do.

Let me know how this goes for you. I’d love to hear about it. You can comment below. 

My prayer for you today: Father, help us to see your Son within your story. Give our imagination insight and courage, so that we may indwell your Word, and speak to your Son from within it. Overcome our fears and open us up to conversation with Jesus, by your Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Looking at God, Looking at You, and then hearing what he says: Day 10 of the Pray-May Challenge

How do you think God looks at you?

Today we will explore just that. Using our imagination, we will stand back and look, with our mind’s eye, at our Father, who is in turn looking at us. 

This is a fun, and somewhat challenging, exercise rooted in Ignatian Spirituality. But it is so powerful and so encouraging.

How does your heavenly Father look at you? (PC: PIxabay Free Images)

I first learned this exercise at a retreat last November–and I was blown away with how much God spoke to me through it.

Here’s how it works:

Day 10: Looking at God, Looking at You, and then hearing what he says.

  1. Find a quiet space and time where you don’t think you’ll be interrupted for a while. You will need around 15 minutes for this prayer practice.
  2. Take a Bible and a notebook.
  3. Open the Scripture and get oriented by a few Scriptures on the Father’s love for us. I’d suggest a few verses from 1 John 4.
    • 1 John 4:9-10 NIV “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
    • 1 John 4:16-19 NIV “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”
  4. Sit in quietness with these verses for just a few moments. Let the truth of God’s perfect love for you cast out all the fear you may have.
  5. And now, in your mind, imagine that you are looking at the Father (or if it’s easier, at Jesus) as he is looking at you.  For some, it is easier to imagine this in the third person, as though you are standing a little to the side, and you are looking at God who is looking at you (you can do these kinds of things in your imagination!). For others, you can sit and look straight into his face.
  6. For 3-4 minutes, fix the eyes of your imagination on his expression, on how he looks at you, upon his smile, his eyes, his facial expression. See how he really sees you. Really stay with this and look at him, looking at you. Keep looking.

    PC: Pixabay Free Images
  7. After a few minutes, pick up your notebook and write what he is saying to you. Start your writing with, “Dearest ____ (insert your name)”–“Dearest Tom”, “Dearest Paula,” “Dearest Carrie,” “Dearest Brad.” And then write his words, based upon your experience of observing him looking at you. Prayer is a dialogue, and in this exercise, you are hearing his word to you, rather than speaking your word to him. Let the Spirit speak his grace and truth to you as you write.
  8. And when you are done, look at what you’ve written. What did you notice? What did Jesus say to you? How is the Father encouraging you or challenging you? And how can you respond? Feel free to talk back to God on this, sharing with him what you see and think, what confused you or what you were surprised by.

As I’ve already said, this can be a challenging exercise. We are invited to look from a very different perspective, and it requires laying down some of our preconceptions about prayer. I hope that you will try it, and that through this practice, you will hear the voice of God, and live.

I’d love to hear from you:

  • What was helpful about this exercise?
  • What was difficult?
  • What did you hear?

Share in the comments, or send me a private message. 

And receive my prayer for you today: Father, may we look upon you today, as you look upon us. And may we receive by your Spirit all that you would say to us, knowing that in you there is love, and that your perfect love casts out all our fear. May this exercise today move us closer to you, and your heart for us. Amen. 

Are you finding this Pray-May challenge helpful? Do you want others to get in on it? If so, would you please share this post with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or via email? The links to do so are below–I’d be grateful that you did, and others will, too!

If you discovered this post today, we are a third of the way through a month-long prayer challenge. You can simply scroll back through the May posts and see what some of our other prayer challenges were–I invite you to join us!