Our journey into imaginative prayer has taken us through objections and answers, entering a gospel scene, Jesus’ presence with us, and inner healing. For this last post, I want to offer some suggestions on experiencing God in imaginative prayer through Bible reading. I have touched on this in previous posts, but now I want to zero in on it. But first, I need to give you a brief backstory about how I missed this for years.
My Story with the Bible
I have always been intrigued with the Bible, even from boyhood days. Being a bookish lad, I was fascinated by its length and breadth of subject matter. From those tendencies, I intuited an idea that seemed undeniably true: The more I know about the Bible, the more I will know God. And that’s the goal of being a Christian. And so began a quest to know the Bible that eventually led me into detailed Greek and Hebrew studies in seminary and thousands of pages of theological reading.
But twenty years into the quest, my life fell apart. In my mid-30s, depression conquered me, making me non-functional for daily tasks. Shame and abandonment issues from my past rushed into my consciousness. Anger and grief stalked me. It was a crisis of faith. Either all that I had read in the Bible was untrue, or there was something terribly missing in the way I was accessing the truth. It took me a long time to understand that the latter was correct. But what had I been missing?
What I Had Missed
First, I had missed the whole point of the Bible. Knowing the Bible and good theology is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. It’s like playing baseball. You have to get to first base before you can score on home. But who wants to stay on first base all day? Knowing the Bible is like first base. It’s a necessary start, but it’s not the goal. The goal is experiencing God and union with His Son. The Bible is our surest portal into that life. But it’s a portal, not the destination.
Second, I missed understanding myself. My fallen sense of being (what Paul calls the flesh) was formatted through my experiences in life. But the way I was taught the Bible and read it myself was primarily a cognitive exercise, not an experience. It was more knowledge I could master. And so my flesh remained largely unchanged. The deep transformation didn’t happen until I experienced biblical truth through my imagination. Remember, in our God-given imaginations, we are able to picture truth so that we can experience it as real. Now union with Christ was no longer just a theological category, but a gut reality.
Reading the Bible Imaginatively
All of this brings me to some practical suggestions. Here are four Bible passages with suggestions for imaginative prayer: Try one or two that strike you and see what happens.
- Psalm 23 – Imagine the Lord as your shepherd. How does He lead you to green pastures and quiet waters? Picture Him leading you through the valley of the shadow of death. What does it feel like? Finally, He sets a table before you in the presence of your enemies. Imagine Him doing that for you. What’s on the table? What is it like to have Him anoint your head?
- Psalm 32:7 – “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Picture the Lord as a hiding place, a safe place for you. What is that place like? How is the Lord with you there? How is He protecting you? Imagine Him surrounding you with songs of deliverance? What does the singing sound like? What are the words? How does it feel to be surrounded by those songs?
- John 17:26 – “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” Jesus is here speaking to His Father. Imagine being loved by the Father the way He loved Jesus. Then imagine Jesus being in you. What picture comes to mind? How do you experience Jesus in you?
- Eph. 1:3-4 – “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Imagine the heavenly realms and living in them. Picture each spiritual blessing as a gift. What are the gifts? What does each gift look like? Then imagine yourself as holy and blameless in God’s eyes. What does that look and feel like?
Men as a general rule use their imaginations in destructive ways: indulging in illicit sexual fantasies, conjuring up worst-case scenarios, planning ambitious conquests, or plotting revenge. But what if men allowed their imaginations to be a conduit for experiencing God? It would not be just transformation. It would be revolution.
Come join me in this revolution. Reply back and I’ll offer more suggestions for you.
Photo Credit: Ben-White via Wunderstock (license)