My latest article in print, With Jesus on the Road to Destiny, appears, at first glance, to be a creative re-imagining of Jesus' final week leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. Certainly an appropriate Palm Sunday piece.
But while it is that, my main point is about using creativity and your imagination in your spiritual disciplines.
Imagine the conversations Jesus and the disciples had during all those long walks. That’s exactly what I do when I pray, using my imagination to chat with them about what they—we—are seeing, doing, and hearing. As we sit around a campfire in the evening, I ask Jesus questions about the people we encountered and the things he said during the day.I've used this imaginative method of prayer frequently since I first got the idea from Richard Foster
In Foster's book Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, he talks about "sanctifying the imagination" in the chapter on Meditative Prayer.
The simplest and most basic way to mediate upon the text of Scripture is through the imagination . . . This is a wonderful aid as we come to the text of Scripture. We are desiring to see, to hear, to touch the biblical narrative. In this simple way we begin to enter the story and make it our own. We move from detached observation to participation.In Celebration of Discipline, Foster talked about another application of imaginative prayer, one that I've taught to people in church, in campus ministry, in counseling, and in the prison
Let’s play a little game. Since we know that Jesus is always with us, let’s imagine that he is sitting over in the chair across from us. He is waiting patiently for us to centre our attention on him. When we see him, we start thinking more about His love than how sick Julie is. He smiles, gets up, and comes over to us. Then, let’s put both our hands on Julie and when we do, Jesus will put His hands on top of ours. We’ll watch the light from Jesus flow into your little sister and make her well.Obviously, this is only physically happening in your imagination. You're not actually controlling Jesus and his hands.
I often, when I'm praying for someone in need, picture Jesus giving them a hug or standing by their bed with their hand in his. It helps me to focus, and it's a way of specifically communicating to God what I'm praying for.
Some have criticized this form of prayer as too new-agey. I like this explanation by Greg Boyd in
CTPastors: Learn Imaginative Prayer:
Differentiate imaginative prayer from the New Age movement. Imaginative prayer is focused on biblical truth; whereas New Age uses the imagination to go on shamanistic journeys. This is simply thinking about God in concrete and vivid ways. It's rooted in the biblical tradition.Some won't like this type of prayer simply because their personality isn't constructed that way. Some of us learn and interact better in very concrete, black and white ways. Others, like me, always see the abstract and the imaginative even in the midst of real world events.
If this helps you in your prayer life, I'm glad. If not, I sincerely hope you're still praying.