How to Use an Imaginative Meditation on Scripture
Imaginative meditation on Scripture is prayer with Scripture. Originall inspired through the teaching of St Ignatius of Loyola, this form of prayer is meeting God through the story. This form of prayer develops as you “live into” the story of Scripture story, using with all your senses and imagination. This short article will you an appreciation of how to become a participant in the story, and continue in the story in your heart, mind, imagination, spirit and body after the reading ends.
Set the Scene
If you find setting the scene with detail visual imagery difficult, it may be easier to focus on emotions: how is the sick person feeling? What do I feel when Jesus speaks to me? Try not to let the story just roll past you like a film: the whole point of the exercise is to let Scripture speak to you directly.
For reflection after the meditation:
The actual experience that you have during the meditation may or may not involve emotions; it'll depend on how you are in the moment. But what you experience is the least important part of the process.
Probably the most important is the self-offering that you do right at the beginning. What happens in the scripture meditation is that you are inviting the Holy Spirit, through the text, to work with your unconscious mind and bring up stuff that will be helpful for you to bring before God. So, wherever your conversation with Jesus leads, that is an invitation to do some more praying about this.
Hence the next most important part of the process is the reflection you do afterwards. Noticing what you felt or didn't feel, what surprised you, what was insistently asking for attention: what might be leading you to a particular action? These are all ways in which you are discerning God's leading through this prayer time. You may need to do quite a lot more pondering and praying in order to draw out what God may be saying to you through this.
And what about if you felt nothing, or if your response was all on the level of analysis and intellectual engagement, or rushing to external action without really engaging with the content at a deep level? All of this may simply reflect your personal temperament, or how you happen to be today. It may be that another way of praying will work better for you. But if the scripture meditation didn't work for you, it is also worth asking yourself whether this is because you are avoiding God in some way; because you don't want him to get too close or perhaps because he might ask too much of you.
Busy, busy Martha behaviour, or intellectualising and preaching a sermon to yourself, instead of responding simply as who you are, sometimes covers up uncomfortable feelings or lack of deep trust in God, just as over-reliance on uplifting emotions in prayer can cover up an unwillingness to encounter the cross. You're not going to cure that magically with one imaginative meditation. But showing God what's there, perhaps repeatedly over a period of years, is the best way of inviting him in to heal you.