I was one of those kids described as having an over-active imagination. It was easy to read a book, or watch a movie, and to imagine myself as one of the characters. I could transplant myself from my ordinary life into another setting in the blink of an eye.

While I knew my imagination was God-given, it wasn’t until I was much older that I began to explore its more spiritual implications, one of which being prayer.

While not the inventor of Imaginative Prayer, this practice was popularized by Ignatius of Loyola in his 16th-century book of Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius believed that, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our imaginations could be powerful tools in helping us connect with scripture. 

Exercises like imaginative prayer are just one way we can explore connecting with God in a personal way. God might try to speak to you through a message in this particular story, or use this experience as an aid in helping you to better understand or remember scripture.

When we practice praying with our imagination, we have the opportunity to live out small moments of scripture for ourselves. We might encounter Jesus in a different way than we would in our normal prayer lives. 

Interested in giving it a try? First, read through these steps! At the end, we have a list of a few suggested Scriptures that can also help get you started.


🔎 Choose a passage from scripture

Decide on a portion of scripture with enough details to spark your imagination. While you can pick any scripture, the Gospels are particularly powerful stories to use for this exercise. These are the times in the Bible when we get to hear about Jesus physically at work in the world. 


🕊 Invite the Holy Spirit to guide

While God is always with you, intentionally asking the Holy Spirit to walk with you during this time can help you remain aware of God’s presence and the truths he’s trying to draw to your attention. Think about what you’d like to receive from this experience. This can also help you check your motivations, asking that this exercise leads you closer to God.


📖 Read the passage

Find a quiet place to sit with God. Slow down and take your time with the words. You might even want to read the passage more than once, or find an audio version of the passage. Try to relax your body and mind more and more with each reading.


👓  Use your imagination to see the scene

Once you’ve read the story, notice what details from the setting stand out. Try to engage with the different senses: sight, smell, sound, touch, taste… What would the individuals in this scene be experiencing? How can you start to make the story come to life in your mind? Are there any particular details that keep standing out?


👥 Place yourself in the scene

Where do you see yourself in the scene? Who are you in this passage? Are you watching from the sidelines? Who else is there? What do you notice about the body language or facial expressions of people, like Jesus? How do you feel? What else do you see or hear around you? What do you feel inside (i.e. conviction, compassion, empathy, etc.)?


💭 Reflect on what you notice

What stuck out to you the most during this time of prayer? What was the most comforting or the most challenging? What made you feel the closest to God? Share your thoughts openly with God. To step outside of this time of prayer, it can be helpful to end with a more direct prayer, thanking God for this time spent together.


Here are some passages to consider beginning your Imaginative Prayer journey with:

  1. Psalm 23
  2. Psalm 90
  3. The Burning Bush (Exodus 3)
  4. The Lord Speaks to Job (Job 38)
  5. The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3)
  6. Jesus and the Samaritan Woman (John 4:1-23)
  7. Jesus Calms the Storm (Luke 8:22-25)