Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
Do you sometimes find that your prayer is, well, rather dry, perhaps even seemingly irrelevant? Do you ask yourself why am I wearing out the knees of a good pair of trousers rattling off words that, whilst familiar frankly do not seem to mean very much? You know that prayer is a conversation between two people, but is God listening? Then try another approach.
Have you, for example considered praying with scripture, either Lectio Divina, which we can consider at another time, or with the imagination? One way of doing this is to place yourself in a Gospel story; to take the part of a character, being with Jesus and being aware of what’s going on and how you are feeling. Now it is important to remember that you are not trying to recreate history. It doesn’t matter if your imagination takes the story in a different direction to the Scripture. Equally it doesn’t matter if the story takes place in 1st Century Palestine or 21st century England, or wherever you happen to live. What is important is what God wants to say to you through this passage. Some people initially have difficulty praying this way but stay with it for it is worth it.
Here is a personal example that I would like to share with you.
On Sunday I looked at the Gospel story of Jesus reading in the synagogue from this perspective.
‘And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” —Luke 4:16-21
In my prayer I placed the story in 21st century St Mary Magdalene church rather than the synagogue at Nazareth. Having done so immediately I realised that I had read the Epistle at 8am Mass on the day our Catholic brothers and sisters celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. At His baptism Jesus’ ministry on earth began as the heavens opened and a voice was heard saying “This is my beloved son, listen to him”. Luke 3:21.
Is this what God was telling me in this prayer, that I am beloved of God and that He has a mission for me? I believe so.
So what will God say to you if you pray with your imagination? Try it and see.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years