“God never tires of giving, nor exhausts of mercies; let us never tire of receiving.”
– Teresa of Avila
St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the order of the Jesuits, was convinced that God can speak to us through our imagination in addition to our intellect, feelings, memories and intuition. In Ignatian tradition, praying with the imagination, or entering the scene, is a time when the spirit of God illuminates a part of Jesus’ life in a way that is meaningful for us in the here and now.
Find a place and position where you feel comfortable being present with God. Set aside 30-40 minutes of your day. Be generous with God, asking for the grace to know and feel God’s love as you enter. Choose a story from the Gospels where Jesus is present and speaking. While any story can be used, entering the scene is generally best suited to the Gospels (an example is provided below).
Trust that God is in this time.You may worry that your imagination will take you “too far.” This type of prayer “is not simply remembering it or going back in time. Through the act of contemplation, the Holy Spirit makes present a mystery of Jesus’ life in a way that is meaningful for you now. Allow yourself to use your imagination to dig deeper into the story so that God may communicate with you in a personal, evocative way.” (Kevin O’Brien, The Ignatian Adventure)
Read through the scene, entering where you feel drawn. Feel free to wander, or stay in a particular place as long as you like. Engage all your senses, if possible. Notice what you see, hear, smell, touch, and even taste. It’s normal to wonder if you’re entering the scene “correctly". Simply notice what you notice. When you feel curious, ask questions. You can ask Jesus or others in the scene. If you want to do something, do it. Pay close attention to your feelings as the scene unfolds.
Remember, you are not trying to obtain information or new knowledge. This is about being with Jesus and getting to know Him more intimately. Even as you imagine, Jesus is inviting you to come close and giving to you moment by moment. Remember, it’s God’s work to make prayer happen, not yours. If you find yourself working hard, stop and talk with God about it.
Reflect on your time with Jesus. Write whatever is coming up in your heart and mind. Be honest; there is no need to edit. Simply write what comes. Jesus is moving and active even as you journal. You don’t need to work hard to remember. It’s ok if it feels messy, incomplete or like too much.
Write down details or subtleties you noticed about Jesus. His movements or position, His hands, face, eyes. As you interacted with, or observed him, was anything new or surprising about Jesus? Did anything feel familiar?
You may have experienced a range of emotions. You may have experienced two different feelings at the same time. Write down all of them. Did you notice distance between you and Jesus. What did you you want to do with it? Was there anything particular you felt drawn to? Did you feel invited to experience something? Did you move toward it or resist it? What was that like?
*All journaling tips are invitations, go where you are led.