It is simpler than you might think. Consider prayer a conversation with God, one in which you share with the one who loves and cares for you more than any other what you are thinking, feeling, and experiencing in the dailyness of life. The words from Matthew’s Gospel—“Come to me!”—are an invitation to each one and all of us from God, to be with him and receive the refreshment and grace we need.
Begin by finding a quiet comfortable space within which to pray. Let this become your sacred space, setting it off by lighting a candle and perhaps playing some soft, quieting instrumental music. Pay attention to how you feel as you begin your time of prayer. Are you agitated? Confused? Thankful? Full of optimism and energy? Hopeful? Hurt? Lonely? Fatigued? Peaceful? Looking for guidance or direction?
Spend a few moments thinking about what you might be looking for during this time in prayer. Begin to share with God what you feel and what you hope for during this time. Then take a few moments of quiet before reading a passage of scripture. You could read the Gospel of the day, or some people might decide to read sequentially a particular book of the Bible, for instance, the Gospel of Mark. Some texts lend themselves more readily to imaginative prayer than others do. For example, suppose you choose to read Mark 8:22-26, the story of the blind man of Bethsaida. Picture the scene. You may choose to be an observer of what is going on, or perhaps you see yourself as the blind person needing healing, or you are one of the group of people that led the man to Jesus. Let your imagination go, and have the story unfold. Perhaps the friends are eager and persistent in their request of Jesus to restore his vision, or maybe the blind person wants to speak his own mind. Imagine what Jesus is saying or doing before the man has his sight restored. How might you respond?
Before you end your time of prayer, notice once again how and what you are feeling. Has your affect changed? Did you gain any insight? Spend some time sharing your feelings with God, and remember to thank God for any graces you may have experienced. A final step in your prayer could include taking the time to recount briefly in a journal what happened during your time of prayer. For example, having prayed with the passage about the blind man’s healing, you may note: “I came to prayer feeling disturbed and unsure how to see a situation in my family life. I asked God to give me the insight I need to deal with the situation. Having witnessed that it took two times laying hands on the blind man before he was healed, I realized that God was letting me know that it may take more time and effort for me to resolve the situation that had me disturbed. With that awareness, I found myself more relaxed and peaceful than when I began. Thank you, God, for once again helping me to see more clearly.”
There are many ways we can enter into a prayerful, life-giving relationship with God. This is one way that has a long history of helping followers of Jesus grow closer to him and helping us to notice the ways in which God communicates with us. Try it. You might really like it.
Take your next step: At least twice this week, engage in imaginative prayer. If you are looking for a place to start, try reading about the cleansing of the leper in Matthew 8:1-4 or the call of Simon in Luke 5:1-11. Pay attention to the ways that Jesus responds to you as you tell him what you are feeling and what you hope for from him.