Category Archives: Imagination

Distractions and Imagination Prayer

Our first week of AROFPM, we practiced head prayer. The examen was thought based. Last week we practiced body prayer. Today we’re moving on to heart prayer, which seeks the experience of being with Jesus in meditation. We’ll use visualization, but also draw on our abilities to empathize with the characters we encounter.

Practicing Prayer v. Praying

By now, you’re probably noticing some similarities in how these prayers function. There’s the prayer exercise that is somewhat artificial. And then there’s the nitty-gritty of life, which you recapture, intentionally including God in that aspect of your day. For example, in the examen, we made space to ask where we had seen Jesus throughout the day. Eventually, we began to recognize him and his work in the moment. With body prayer we did a coloring exercise to engage the right brain as we sought God, but the goal was learning to listen to ourselves and him as we performed repetitive tasks like vacuuming. With today’s method, we’ll imagine ourselves into a gospel story, but ultimately we seek to be mindful of Jesus even in our daydreaming.

This is like the difference between practicing scales and playing a piano concerto. One of my friends in high school was a concert pianist. She practiced three hours each day and longer on weekends. At least one of those hours was giving to playing scales. Hence, we do these funny, sometimes eyeball- rolling exercises. Then when you need the prayer-tool in day-to-day life, it’s already an engrained habit.

Ignatius of Loyola and the Spiritual Exercises

photo credit: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/seil/index.htmIgnatius of Loyola developed his Spiritual Exercises as a tool for conquering selfishness, examining conscience, realigning habits, and making decisions. He asserted that the fear and joy Jesus’ contemporaries felt was a true response to his personality, work, and words. We can have this intimacy and certainty of Christ’s presence, too.

Spiritual Exercise # 54 was designed to help us experience being with Jesus by using our imaginations to skirt the analytical dominance of the mind and by engaging our social awareness to minimize emotion for emotion’s sake. It won’t necessarily help you to gain new spiritual insights (though those may come), but it will work to deepen your relationship with Jesus.

Quick Summary of the Imagination Prayer Method

You can find an in-depth explanation of how to practice imagination prayer here.

  1. Pick an action scene from the gospels as a foundation for your prayer.
  2. Read the passage several times.
  3. Invite the Lord to be present with you, to guide and protect as you seek to be with him.
  4. Now quiet yourself before God.
  5. Let your imagination work on the gospel scene.
    • Imagine the location.
    • What time of day is it?
    • See the people involved.
    • How do your feet feel?
    • What do you smell?
    • What do you taste?
    • What is being said by Jesus and others?
    • What actions are taken by Jesus and others?
  6. Take the place of one of the characters and see the scene through the eyes of that person.
  7. Release your imagination from your inner critic.
  8. Choose to be “taken in” by your encounter with Jesus without being sucked under by the scene.
  9. Stay with a particular picture involving yourself and Jesus. Talk to him and listen to what he says.
  10. Write down what you have heard, what happened, what you said, or what the themes were.

Dealing with Distractions

When you try this on your own, it’s very easy to get distracted. To wander out of the passage. You’ll find some  some suggestions for dealing with those distractions on this page.

Homework

  1. Memorize:
    • Our 3d guiding promise: “We can know the truth in freedom rather than fear.”
    • The source verses for the promise: John 8:31–36
  2. Practice imagination prayer. In class we used Mark 6:13, 30–37a, a conflation of the lectionary Gospels readings for yesterday and today. Other suggestions for passages to serve as context for your prayer are here.

Consider and Share

  1. Which character did you identify with and why?
  2. What was the nature of your conversation?
  3. How do you relate it back to the non-imagined aspects of your life?
  4. If this style of praying was difficult for you, talk about what interfered.
  5. Fully knowing someone involves sharing experience with that person, not just knowing about him or her. What are the advantages to relational knowledge that you cannot get with mere information?
  6. What do you risk in knowing Jesus this way?
  7. What do you fear Jesus discovering in you?