In the last post on imaginative prayer, I described a type of praying in which you imagine a gospel scene. Here you enter the story of Jesus and meet Him there. For this post, I want to go in the opposite direction. What would it be like for Jesus to enter your story and meet Him there? This is imaginative prayer so that you sense Jesus with you.
By contrast, we can spend so much of our waking hours feeling on our own and left to ourselves to figure things out. It’s a typical pattern with men. But what if that pattern could be broken? That’s the hope with this form of prayer. To find out how it works, keep reading!
Let’s start here. Jesus is alive and with us as His followers. This truth is uttered in so many places and in so many ways throughout the New Testament. Imaginative prayer helps us take this truth and experience it as real. Here are three different ways it can happen.
Experiencing Jesus in a Place of Prayer
This way of praying is pretty straightforward. It’s calling attention to the reality that He is present with you as you pray, listening to you. You just imagine what it would be like to have Him sitting with you as you pray. Then you talk to Him as you would a close friend who is present. Imagine how He might react to what you are saying or asking. Imagine how He might respond to you.
Some find that setting up an empty chair close by is helpful. It’s a physical cue to remind them that He is really there listening. As you imagine Him there with you, notice what you feel and speak to Him about that as well.
Experiencing Jesus as a Safe Place
This way of praying is based on images of God throughout the Psalms. There He is pictured as a rock, a fortress, a strong tower, a hiding place, a shield, etc. Each of these images implies a place of safety and security. The Psalmist often experienced God as a safe place. So that’s what we do here with Jesus.
First, you imagine your own safe place. It can be a real place that has pleasant associations, one that comes from past memories or one that you experience presently. Or you can just make up your own safe place, using your imagination to form a space in which you feel comfortable and at peace.
Once you set up the safe place in your imagination, invite Jesus to come and be with you there. As you do, you may just sense His spiritual presence. Or you may see a physical presence coming to you. Whatever happens, notice what you feeling and thinking. Notice what the Lord does and how He positions Himself near you. Then talk to the Lord about whatever is on your heart. Or just spend time being with Him.
My Experience of a Safe Place
My own experience with this prayer has been so transformative. One time as I was seeking to come up with a safe place, I immediately went to a scene from my cross-country coaching days. I was on a race course, sitting up on a fence with Jesus sitting next to me. Other runners were there training, but this wasn’t about running. It was about being with Jesus in a place that felt safe and free. What was instructive about this safe place is that I felt that I was back in high school. As I began to meet Jesus there repeatedly, I knew He wanted to touch some of the pain I felt as a young man. He wanted to be with me there, speak words of affirmation, and heal those memories so that they would no longer be an obstacle.
But it’s important to note that your experience of this prayer will be very different from mine. He never comes to another man in quite the same way.
Experiencing Jesus in Your Day
This form of prayer is a helpful way to pray through your day before it happens. Run through the day’s schedule in your mind. As you picture all that is planned, imagine Jesus with you in each event. Picture Him there in the conversations that will happen. Imagine Him with you in the tough situations or decisions that are looming. As you pray this way, notice what happens to you as well.
This type of prayer lends itself to stopping throughout the day for a few minutes at a time. Here you remind yourself that He is with you. It is practicing His presence. As you do, many things about you will start to change. You will also sense Jesus wanting to partner with you.
One final note of caution. When Jesus enters a man’s story, watch out. Anything can happen. But it’s always for the better!