Ways to Pray Series

Imaginative Prayer

Everybody has an imagination. You experience it whenever you daydream, play, create, or even when you are sleeping at night. Many people get in touch with their intuition through their imagination. If you have ever had a an image come up during meditation, you have experienced your intuition, your inner knowing, at work. God speaks to us freely through our imagination. So let me introduce you to using your imagination as you read holy texts.

To start, pick a passage to read slowly.  You may want to read it more than once.  Then set an intention for your prayer time.  Ask God to use your imagination to reveal something to you.  It might be to reveal something about God, something about yourself, something about a relationship, or it may be to give you something else that you need today.

Let’s try it with the story of Zacchaeus:

 He entered Jericho and was going through the town and suddenly a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance; he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He kept trying to see where Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd; so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I am to stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house,’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of man has come to seek out and save what was lost.”

(Luke 19:1-10)

For me, I like to journal the answers to the questions below and let the story take on a life of it’s own.  Others may just glance over these questions and then close their eyes and see where it takes them.

Begin by deciding who you would like to be in this story. 

Do you want to see it from Zacchaeus’ point of view, from someone in the crowd, or even from Jesus’ point of view?  If you choose to be someone in the crowd, are you someone who lives there and knows Zacchaeus?  Has he cheated you or collected taxes from you?  Perhaps you are a fellow tax collector or a Roman watching from afar.  Deciding who you will be in the story will give you a unique perspective.  You may even read it again from a different point of view later.

Now take in your physical surroundings.

What is the weather like?  Maybe it is hot and dusty.  Perhaps the sun is glaring in your eyes.  What are you wearing? Think about if you are comfortable in your own clothes, or even in your own body. What do you see around you? Maybe people are packed in tight around you and you cannot see much.  Or maybe you can see the big picture from afar.  If so, what do you focus your attention on?  Now, what do you smell?  Maybe it is the body odor of the crowd or food wafting from street vendors.  What do you hear?  Is it noisy or quiet with expectation?  Does your heart feel any longing right now?  Or maybe you are feeling annoyed and just trying to get to where you want to go. 

Then revisit the action in the passage, hear the words spoken.

Zaccheaus scrambles up a tree.  Jesus speaks to him.  “Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I am to stay at your house today.” Why do you think Jesus speaks those words?  How does it make you feel to hear him say that?  Zacchaeus hurries down the tree and goes to Jesus.  Is he saying anything?  The crowd is complaining.  What do they say?  Why are they saying it?  How do you react to their words?  When Zacchaeus commits to give back to others and Jesus proclaims that salvation has come here, what does that do in you?  How do you respond?

Finally, speak to God about this journey. 

What insights about yourself, God, or the world came up for you? What questions do you still have? Maybe there is one image or quote that you want to carry forward with you through your day.

It’s amazing how the same text can take people so many different ways. Would love to hear how your imagination played out with this text!

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