In this session we look at employing our imaginations to place ourselves into a gospel story. Amy Boucher Pye interviews communicator and academic Micha Jazz about his experiences of imaginative prayer.
Dr Micha Jazz is director of Waverley Abbey Resources. He has worked with Youth for Christ, the Evangelical Alliance and Spring Harvest. He broadcasts on Premier Radio and is a professional mediator, communicator and academic. Micha’s ability in enabling people to realise their potential is ideal for leading the development of Waverley Abbey Resources in equipping people to live everyday with Jesus. Micha and his wife also run St. Cuthbert’s Oratory, a house of prayer offering hospitality, hope and healing.
With imaginative prayer, we put ourselves into a gospel story as if we were there, employing our senses through visualization. A benefit of this way of engaging with Scripture is that it speaks to not only our minds but also in a special way to our hearts. As we enter in to the story, we can bypass our analytical mind and use our emotions to feel the narrative from different perspectives. We go on a journey of discovery, perhaps uncovering emotions and experiences that were otherwise hidden in our hearts. God can gently reveal the root causes in order that we may grow and become mature in our faith. Note that he will work at his own pace and time, respecting our limitations and individual needs.
We might face a few challenges with this type of prayer. One is getting our distracted minds to cooperate! If we struggle this way, we can ask God through his Spirit to quieten our minds and hearts. Another challenge can be to keep an open mind, seeking not to bring preconceived ideas and prejudices to the prayer practice. Rather we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us from the story, wanting to be humble and open. We can trust the Holy Spirit to guide us to just the areas that we can best look at and pray about.
As we read in chapter six of 7 Ways to Pray:
Entering into a gospel story with our imaginations opens us up to the work of the Holy Spirit in different ways from when we rely on our rational minds. Receiving a truth directly, such as when someone speaks it to us, can be painful, and we might erect barriers to guard against hearing it. In contrast, when we use our intuitive and imaginative senses, we don’t seek to control how we’re praying. We can let our imaginations roam, asking the Holy Spirit to guide and guard us. By doing so we tune in to what Ignatius [of Loyola] called ‘felt inner knowledge’ – what we know through our hearts, not our heads; inner knowledge that is unique to us and known by God.
When we unearth our desires with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be changed. We come to know what we’re feeling and therefore understand ourselves better. God reveals our hidden feelings that we may have buried out of pain, shame or negligence. As they are unearthed, we can move closer to God, speaking to him about what’s going on in our hearts and minds and then listening for his response, the creative words that affirm our true selves. The wisdom and understanding we glean will be more intimate and profound than something another person teaches us.
Using the Bible passage in this interview, ‘A Woman Caught in Adultery’, place yourself in the story. Read through the passage several times to become familiar with it. Try to hear the sounds, smell the smells, and experience the story. As the story unfolds, who are you in this narrative? Perhaps you’re one of the crowd, one of the religious teachers or the woman.
At the end of the practice, share how the experience was for you – how did God meet you? How did you respond? What surprised you? Receive the offerings in an attitude of welcome.
This week, choose a favourite gospel story from the list on page 134 in 7 Ways to Pray and use imaginative prayer to help you unpack and deep dive into the Word. Keep re-visiting the story to see if your reflections change. Is the Spirit highlighting any deep-rooted motivation that needs to be exposed and brought into the light? How is God touching you through this story?