A Gospel Encounter With Jesus
Ever imagine what it would’ve been like to walk with Jesus? I often have. I can only imagine the profound effect watching as He healed the sick, raised the dead, or gave the Sermon on the Mount would have had on my faith and trust in Him. While we obviously can’t physically know what this experience might have been like, there is another way. We can still have a personal encounter with the Lord in the Gospels through a form of Ignatian Prayer known as; Imaginative Prayer or Imaginative Contemplation .
St. Ignatius was convinced that God could speak to us through our imaginations as much as through our thoughts and memories. It is an active way of praying that uses the mind and heart and stirs up the thoughts and emotions. St. Ignatius found the Gospels especially well suited for this form of prayer. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit you place yourself into the particular Gospel scene and let it play out as a movie. Pay attention to the sights, sounds, smells the scene suggests falling even more deeply into the scene. Become one of the characters in the Bible, or be yourself as you accompany Jesus in the scene. As you dig deeper into the Bible scene, interact with Jesus allowing the Holy Spirit to guide. What personal message does God have just for you?
For those of you that are visual, and as a first step into this prayer, I invite you to watch this short video clip taken from Mark 4:35-40 as Jesus calms the storm. As you watch the clip, try to immerse yourself in the scene. Imagine what it might have been like to have been on the boat with Jesus and the disciples, or if you had been one of the disciples.
If you’ve followed me for very long, you probably know, I first found Jesus in my imagination as an abused and wounded 5-year-old. I’d created a special imaginary sanctuary where He and I played together. Here I was safe and loved from the atmosphere of fear that I lived in. Here my deep love for Jesus was born. So I’ve long used my imagination in prayer in some way. While Imaginative Prayer is generally used along with the Gospels, as you can see as far back as 5-years-old the Holy Spirit was leading me to a personal encounter with Jesus using my imagination. I can’t begin to express how this time with the Lord as a child saved me. But there is yet another way I’ve been led to use my imagination in prayer … in forgiveness work.
How many of us have lost someone in our lives that we still needed to make amends with? Perhaps we needed to forgive them or vice versa. This was the situation with my mom who passed away three years ago. I was hurt and angry by how we’d left things. I couldn’t understand some of the actions she’d taken in the last few years of her life that had been so hurtful towards me. I didn’t understand her reasoning, but I knew no matter what that I needed to forgive her in order to free myself. So I called on Jesus to be with me and asked the Holy Spirit to guide me, and in my imagination I went a place pretty much to a tee like the image below.
Jesus, Mom and I sat together on a plain wooden bench beneath an ancient oak. Basking in the warm, radiant rays of divine light with Jesus beside me, I felt safe and loved. Mom and I talked, and I began the process of forgiving her. It was a very emotional experience, but a positive step toward healing a deep wound that was causing me great angst. Was it real on any level? I always say, judge things by their fruit. But Saint Ignatius has some very useful guidance in this area. Did your imagining lead you closer to God or farther away? Is your imagining bringing you consolation or desolation? In this case, I felt great consolation. I felt as though I had made great progress in letting go of the hurt and was moving toward total forgiveness and release — a very positive beginning! There is great healing power in engaging our imagination in prayer, and we shouldn’t fear using it when done with discernment. Use Jesus as your focus and the Holy Spirit as your guide.
I want to leave you today with an MP3 of an Imaginative Prayer guided meditation. This Gospel scene between Martha, Mary and Jesus is one of my favorites. I’ve included the verse here for you to first read along with on the audio. After that, follow along with the meditation closing your eyes and immersing yourself in the scene. Who will you choose to be? Martha, Mary or yourself? What is Jesus saying to your heart? This audio and more like it can be found at https://www.pray-as-you-go.org/home/
Jesus Visits Martha and Mary
38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ 41 But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’ Luke 10: 38-42
I am often asked how I pray. Well, there are many ways but this is definitely one of my favorites. I hope you find as I have that Imaginative Prayer is a compelling new way of deepening your prayer life. And wherever your Imaginative prayer journey takes you, I pray God’s grace would lead you to your own personal encounter with Him that you may feel His presence, know His peace, and experience His healing love.
In Christ’s Love,
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