Our imagination is God’s gift for our enjoyment and to enhance our creativity and appreciation of the greatness of God’s creation. It is possible for us to pray using our imagination. This type of prayer is also known as contemplation, contemplative prayer, “imaginative prayer,” or Ignatian prayer. While Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) is not the first to use it, he recognized that it is a powerful form of experiential prayer if used appropriately. He had made it the central form of prayer in his Spiritual Exercises.
One of the ways to pray this prayer is to imagine ourselves being part of a scene from the Bible. Here, we must be passive rather than active participants. We are not here to be a Hollywood director or an avatar in a virtual world. Our desire is to imagine ourselves to be present at the scene to see and note what is going on. We are with our imagination use our fives senses in order to better appreciate what is going on in the scenario. We are not to create characters or change the happenings.
One of my favourite uses of this prayer is imagine myself to be present at the mountain slope when Jesus preached the beatitudes (Matthew 5). There was a crowd at the valley. Jesus walked up the mountain slope and sat down. His disciples came and sat with him. Then he began “Blessed are the…”
I imagine myself near the disciples on the windy mountainside. It was late afternoon and the sun was not too hot. While the sound of Jesus’ voice was clearly heard, I felt the warm sun on my face and felt a slight stirring of the wind. I smelt the fresh grass and fresh air there. I reach out and touched the grass I am sitting on. I tasted the faint tang of my lunch of fish and bread on my tongue. And my attention was draw to the voice of the man speaking which was clear to my hearing, “…poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,”
By imagining myself there with my five senses and reading Jesus’ sermon, I felt closeness to him and also a better appreciation of his words. I also felt that he is aware of my presence and may have even looked at me directly. I can feel his love for me. This act of imagination and reading of the word is prayer.
We can also use other scenes from the Bible. Some good scenes are Jesus stilling the storm (how fearful we must felt), healing the blind, at the cross at the time of the crucifixion and at his resurrection. Maybe even be there when Jesus showed Thomas his wounds! Other scenes from the Old and New Testament may be used.
By placing ourselves into Biblical scenes with our imagination while limiting ourselves only to what was written and not to introduce or change the scenarios, the prayer of imagination is a powerful experiential prayer we can use to deepen our spiritual life.