I recently wondered whether we’ve lost the art of having a creative imagination. I thought that to be the case, until I watched my 3-year-old grand-daughter at play. She would sit on my motorbike and pretend she was me or dress up in costumes she devised pretending she was a character from her favourite television shows. She’d play with dolls, doing all sorts of interesting things she had seen on a kid’s friendly iPad. My hope for her generation was reinstated as I watched her play with a wonderful, surprising and creative imagination.
I worry though that Christians have lost the art of a creative imagination. In our rush toward objectified theological truth, I fear we may have lost the capacity to imagine God. We struggle with Revelation, with its rich imagery, because we can’t seem to objectify it into our unimaginative objectification of faith. We read the Bible as a book of facts, rather than a story of faith. We worship with a set patterns with no variance for the imagination. And we pray as if we are too scared to see what God may be doing with us or through us in prayer.
I have known people who have the gift of healing. In our conversations they’d describe to me how it happens for them. They’d ask a few questions about the persons problem, and imagine it invading and damaging the person. Then they’d pray specifically about it, imagining God reaching out to take the problem away. At other times they’d picture God carrying the person up in His arms through their sickness or injury. I often do similar when I pray for people, imagining God wrapping his arms around the person for whom I am praying. The amazing thing is that many of these people see God healing the person before their eyes and while the rest may not see it, the individuals concerned often talk about something divine happening at that moment in their life.
Imagination in prayer is a long-held practice. Paul talks about it in 2 Cor 12:1-4. John’s entire Revelation is a prayerful imagination in which God reveals the plan of salvation. In multiple places God’s people are called to use their imagination as God acts in ways that are beyond the seen reality, such as Is.43:16-21. God calls us to use our imagination as we see him at work in our lives, and the lives of those around us.
Next time you pray, find a quiet space, and using your imagination picture God at work. Allow your mind to see Him reaching out to you with love and grace. Extend that into the lives of those around you. Picture the Spirit softening the heart of those who give you a tough time. Image Jesus sitting with your sick or injured friend. Use the Scriptures, such as Is 43, and picture God transforming the wilderness areas of your life, or the life of those you love, into places of hope and healing. Or centre yourself in prayer by setting up a specific time (10mins) in which you simply focus on one aspect of God. Push aside distractions and thoughts and continue to focus on that one aspect.
Prayer is a powerful and life changing aspect of our spiritual life. God is as much at work in you as He is in the lives of those you pray for. By allowing yourself to picture God at work thorough your imagination, you start to see God at work in ways you have never seen before. When you combine this with daily Bible reading, the power of prayer promises to take you to that next level. It is a wonderful and amazing invitation our God has extended, to be part of the world He created. Prayer gives us this special unforgettable moment of faith.