Ephesians 3:20: “…. to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.”
Christians in prayer often use the pattern of The Lord’s Prayer, remembering to give thanks to God and recognise his glory and majesty, but so often we then launch into a series of requests. Like children we often want ask our parent for things and forget to spend time listening to what they might be saying to us from their experience and wisdom. It’s no different with our heavenly parent.
So here’s one way of listening you might like to try. Use your imagination.
“When surrendered to God the imagination can become a glorious means for his revelation.” (Karen Case-Green, “Text message” 2014, p155)
St Ignatius of Loyola first grasped the importance of imagination during his long convalescence from battle wounds and the use of the imagination is an important part of Ignatius Spirituality. I guess we all day dream, but this is day dreaming in the Spirit!
I love the Narnia stories, they have fed our imagination. Their author C. S Lewis is often credited with writing an allegorical tale, but in his own words:
“Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided what age group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out ‘allegories’ to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way. It all began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn’t anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord.”
(C.S. Lewis in “Of This and Other Worlds”, an essay collection edited by W Hoope)
If you want to read a bit more about using your imagination, and why it sometimes got a bad press among Christians you can read this: “The Preaching Life” by Barbara Brown Taylor 2013: pp 45-46.
She writes here: “Are we really prepared to confess that God is the property of our imaginations? No, but we may be prepared to confess that our imaginations are the property of God. All our other facilities are useless to us; we cannot perceive God as we would a ginkgo tree or a speckled trout or children chasing a dog. Those clues to God’s existence are all available to our sense, but the One whom they suggest is not. The reality in front of our eyes is not deep enough to contain its creator. When we sense God’s presence, we glimpse another reality, one that we may enter only by the door of our imagination.” (2013, p46)
So, using the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern, imagine….
Our Father – imagine all that is good about a father or mother, how you would see a true parent treating you – picture this, imagine the words they might say to you, words that encourage, words of love, possible words reminding you of the good you need to do and can do with his help and the indwelling spirit.
In Heaven – picturing heaven, what would it look like, how can it look like as it comes down to earth through Jesus, with us living full lives within that Kingdom. How do we imagine this in the context of our daily lives, our church community, the wider community in which we live, the whole world. What would that love of the Father feel like; is it warm, is it joyous?
And so on…
Read through the Bible passage, Ephesians 3:14-21, then, quietly alone, asking God to ‘imagine’ within us what he wishes to speak into our lives. Listen; allow God to blend our own imagination with his inspiration by the presence of the Holy Spirit to bring a freshness, a newness, a fullness beyond the words and deep within our own spirit.
Is it words? Is it a feeling, an overwhelming sensation from God’s presence? Is it a picture? If you surrender your imagination to God you might just imagine something that will change your life, the life of another, or even the lives of those who need something bigger than their own circumstance, or to find purpose, or maybe just the next bite to eat, cup of water, or to feel someone cares and loves them.