Humans are made in God’s image in so many ways, not the least of which is our imagination. Imagination is essential for child development but is also necessary for anyone who creates or innovates. We all use our imaginations anytime we think of a scene or an object not currently present to our five senses. Jesus used his imagination quite effectively in teaching by parables.
Every builder, cook, author, or artist imagines a final product before beginning his work. And imagination makes empathy possible as we imagine how another person may be feeling.
How then can we use this valuable tool of imagination in prayer?
Read through a story of Jesus, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart and mind through this recounting. Next, imagine yourself to be present in the narrative, either as a person named in the story or as an unidentified observer. Deliberately engage all five of your senses to interact with the scene and the action: Smell, Sight, Sound, Taste and Touch. Look around you. Pay particular attention to Jesus. What is he like? How are you relating to him? How are others relating to him? Allow the story to unfold gradually and notice your thoughts and feelings as it happens. Stay with the experience, perhaps even longer than you think is needed.
After the prayer of imagination story has “concluded,” try experiencing it from another vantage point. Do not evaluate the story while you are “in” it, but only after the imaginary part of the prayer has concluded. When the action has finished, consider questions such as the following: How were you drawn into the story? Were you experiencing any pushback from the story? Was your experience in the story in keeping with the truth Scripture teaches? What was Jesus like in the story? How were you relating to him? What moved you? What surprised you? What do you want now? What is God’s message or invitation for you in this story?
The objective for this prayer is not exact historical and scientific accuracy in imagining the story and its setting. The goal here is to watch and wait for a revelation from God. Our God is self-revealing and truth-telling. Our desire in this prayer is knowing and experiencing God and His truth. Similar to the way Jesus used parables to teach truths, God can use prayer of imagination to teach our hearts and minds about Him, about ourselves, and about the world. God can use prayer of imagination in the same way He uses art, music and poetry.
The Spirit of Jesus who dwells within us as Jesus followers is the same Spirit who was present as Christ walked this earth and lived these historic accounts in Scripture. God knows what happened there and why. Let God use your imagination to show you what He wants you to know and understand about the events recorded in Scripture.