Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus, wrote a classic devotional book called “Spiritual Exercises.” In this book, he commends a specific approach to prayer that emphasizes the use of the imagination as a way of praying. Instead of reciting words to Jesus, you take a Gospel story and visualize the story in your mind’s eye including all of the different characters, sights, sounds and smells. Imaginatively place yourself in the midst of the story as one of the characters or as a bystander. Smell the incense burning, feel the dusty road beneath your feet, feel the sun on your face, and listen to the words of Jesus as if he is speaking directly to you. The purpose of Ignatian prayer is so we might encounter Jesus through the medium of our minds and our capacity for visualization and imagination. Below is a five-step process for imaginative prayer.
A Five Step Imaginative Meditation Exercise
Premise: Placing oneself into the biblical text and interacting with the text through the imagination and the five senses allows one to fully experience the text.
Step 1: Select
Choose a passage of Scripture rich in imagery such as John 1:35-42; John 21:1-14; Mark 9:1-12.
Step 2: Settle
Find a quiet place and situate yourself in a spot that is conducive to sacred reading. As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, let yourself settle down. Let go of all the thoughts, tensions and sensations you may feel and simply rest in the love of God. Deliberately call on the name of Jesus to help you select a passage and to illuminate it for you.
Step 3: Read and Imagine
Select and read slowly and repeatedly a biblical story, pausing periodically to picture the scene and savor what you are reading. Using all five senses imagine the geography, the smells, tastes, sights and the sounds. Imagine the personalities and listen to the conversations taking place.
Step 4: Converse
Place yourself into the story and converse with the characters and respond to their questions. Respond to God in prayer about the meaning of the emotions and sensations that you are experiencing and again ask God for illumination.
Step 5: Reflect
If in a group, share aloud your experience and the feelings and sensations that were evoked and the insights you gleaned. If alone, take the time to journal, paint, sculpt or draw the scene you imagined.
Posted on February 14, 2023