Imaginative Prayer | Mark 6:45-52
Written By Gabriel Coyle
Though some practices of prayer are lacking or misunderstood in certain circles, we want to lean into them for our focus on the discipline of prayer. One such practice is imaginative prayer. Ignatius of Loyala (1491-1556) called this contemplation. Ignatius was convinced that God can speak to us by the power of the Spirit as surely through our imaginative efforts in Scripture as through our thoughts and memories of Scripture.
In Ignatius’ Exercises, contemplation is a very active way of praying that engages the mind and heart and stirs up thoughts and emotions. (It’s important to note the distinction. In other spiritual traditions, contemplation has quite a different meaning: it refers to a way of praying that frees the mind of all thoughts and images.)
Imaginative prayer is especially tailored to deepen our engagement with the Gospels. Rather than just mining the pages for historical facts, we invite the Holy Spirit to personally communicate the story to us in a personal way, visualizing the scene, smelling the smells, hearing the sounds, seeking to feel the story as much as know it.
For today, read about Jesus walking on water in Mark 6:45-52. Be present in the text. If you must, close your eyes. Find a quiet place. Play out the passage in your mind like a movie, but imagine you’re there in the midst of it all. Take note of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and overall emotions you feel. Who is there? How are they responding? What is Jesus doing? Saying? Feeling? Expressing? Do not rush this time.
Now, what words do you want to say in response to the Triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? What has God stirred up within you after the Holy Spirit has communicated His word in you?
Some fear this practice of prayer can take us beyond the text, and due to the nature of prayer, that danger is always present even in our daily intercessions. Simultaneously though, this form of prayer guides us deeper into the text that we might not just know it but experience it by the power of the Spirit in imaginative prayer.
This may be difficult and for some will stretch muscles lying dormant since you were a child. But give it time.
Check out this video to hear more about this captivating way of praying that engages the mind and heart and stirs up biblical thoughts and emotions.
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