I often say to myself I need to turn off the TV, the music, the computer, and simply sit down with a good book and just read for a while. I love reading about history and getting into the small details that went into battles and fighting. I’m currently listening to a book on tape about the battle of Britain. However, I still try and read either a digital book on Kindle or a paperback book. What I particularly enjoy about reading is it helps me to engage my imagination. I too enjoy reading mystery novels and especially novels that are in a series. As I read all of these books in a series, I begin to imagine and create an imagine of what that character looks like. The color hair he or she has, how tall, how old, what kind of clothes they have on and many other things. For me, reading is more than just reading words on a page, but to it is about creating in a sense movie in your mind.
Scripture too can play a similar role in our own lives. For me, it is easy to get tied up in the facts and the meaning of the story. What was the reason Jesus was baptized, why did John say someone greater than him was coming? Why did the Holy Spirit come in bodily form like a dove? However, I believe we can enter more deeply into the scripture when we take the time to enter into the story with our imaginations. Just like I do with those novels and picture in my mind what the characters look like, I too need to remember we can do the same with the scripture passages.
I first larned about this approach to prayer As a part of my priestly training; I attended a spiritual program in Omaha Nebraska. It was an excellent experience for me, not just because LSU made it to Omaha that year! We went 0-2, but it was still amazing to see LSU play in the greatest show on dirt! However, LSU baseball aside, during the summer I spent in Omaha I learned a lot about using my imagination in prayer.
All of us can approach praying with the scripture in this way. Scripture can be more than just an academic or reading exercise as we try and learn about the stories in the Bible. It too can be an opportunity for us to interact personally with the scriptures. I know for me the Father’s words are something I call to mind a lot in my own life. Try to place yourself in the son’s shoes. How clearly did Jesus hear his father’s voice? Did he immediately recognize the voice of his father? We can even begin to imagine what Jesus would have been feeling. Did the phrase calm him? Did the phrase give him confidence? We can even place ourselves in the place of the characters and see the story from their perspective as if we were them. My spiritual director at times even told me to take a scripture passage and imagine the words in scripture being spoken directly to me.
You could take this passage for example. We are familiar with the Father speaking to his son about him being his beloved son and being well pleased in him. However, can we imagine God speaking this about us? Can we hear God our Father saying, “you my beloved child, in you, I am well pleased.” At this moment we may not be able to answer this question.
However, I challenge all of us myself included to approach the scripture in this way. To see if praying with our imagination can help us enter more deeply into scripture. If you find a quiet moment in your day spends some time with this passage, we just heard. I don’t know what God may reveal to you in this simple practice. However, I know for all of us this passage speaks volumes about who we are and how God sees us. I believe that the Father sees all of us in the same way, he sees us as his beloved sons and daughters, as someone who he loves and is well pleased in. It can be easy for us to think of God as a judge as someone we have to earn his pleasure or approval. However, God loves us just like a father loves his child. God knows we fall and mess up, but we know that no matter what he will always love us. As we continue our journey with the lord may we never forget that the words he said today to his son he also wants to speak to us. “you are my beloved son, with you, I am well pleased.”