Matthew 6:6 tells us, "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret..."
Mark 1:35, "In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there."
The Bible tells us that when we pray we should intentionally find a place where we can be alone with God. We need to find a place where we can be free to share everything with Jesus. We want a place where we can cry out to the Lord in anger, grief or sorrow and be comfortable shedding tears in front of Him or expressing our deepest fears regardless of how foolish we think they are. We need to find a place where we can humbly ask God to meet our needs when they are not being met by the people we love. We need a place where we can shout with joy and thankfulness when we feel so grateful to Him for all of the blessings He has given us. We need to find a place where we can be vulnerable and transparent before God.
One of the greatest blessings we have in being able to talk privately with the Lord is that we can do it without worrying about feeling embarrassed, judged or uncomfortable. Guess what...He already knows what we're feeling anyway..we may as well let Him hear it from us! It is only by humbly coming before Him and sharing with Him our innermost thoughts that we can begin to establish a meaningful relationship with Him.
Where do I begin??? First, you need to find that quiet place. Some of you may actually be able to FIND a quiet place: a park, a room in your house or a spot in your yard. Unfortunatly, it is often too difficult to focus on God when we are close to home or near anything that reminds us of our "to-do lists"
Many of you may need to use your minds and imaginations to create a quiet place.
Last week we talked about using your imagination in prayer. Today I want to help you experience how your imagination can lead you to a quiet place with God.
Try this experiment. Sit down somewhere where you will find the least amount of distractions, take a few breaths and relax. Close your eyes and think about a place where you either have been or might imagine that is peaceful to you. It could be anywhere. There is not a right or wrong place, it is simply a place that YOU experience as peaceful. Allow yourself to imagine the sights, sounds, scents and things that you feel (such as the wind hitting your face, or the ground toucing your feet). Make a mental note of these things and then notice how this place makes you feel emotionally. How are you feeling physically... relaxed? calm? warm? cool?
The purpose of this exercise is to make you very aware of your physical and emotional responses that occur when you intentionally use your imagination to create images of something that is not physically present. Becoming aware of these responses will allow you to be more attuned to the things and ways in which God will meet you.
Similarly, finding that quiet place will allow you to learn to focus more on the Lord and less on "all those other things you need to do today". Next week we will discuss the topic of discovering the Lord's presence in your quiet place.
Sometimes the concept of using imagination and visualization in prayer makes people uncomfortable because they are concerned it has a "New Age" or "Eastern Religion" component to it. Please open the articles on the side bar which address those questions. I am confident that the use of contemplation and visualization in our prayer lives is not only Biblical but something which has been used throughout the history of Christianity. Please feel free to post any thoughts or comments you may have.
Some of you may be wondering what I meant when I said you should use your imaginations when you pray. If you think about how you live your life, you use your imagination constantly. For instance, if you want to think about someone you love, you imagine them, or you may picture a past event clearly in your mind, While you may think of that as a memory, which it may be, you can only re-create it by using your mind and imagination. Your mind may recall the memory but it is your imagination which allows you to "see" what is happening. Obviously the person is not with you at that moment or the event is not happening in real time, so whatever you find yourself absorbed is in in part, due to your imagination.
Similarly when you think about the possiblity of future events, your "imagine" them in your mind. You use your imagination to create thoughts of pleasant things happening; a vacation, a night alone with your spouse or child or a time when you can relax and read a book or go for a walk. You may also find yourself imagining things which you find fearful. You may find yourself thinking about something negative occuring resulting from a bad choice you may have made or you may imagine something terrible happening to someone you love. With those thoughts come vivid images; some peaceful, pleasant and exciting while others may be troublesome and anxiety producing.
The point is, whether or not we are aware of it, we are constantly using our imaginations to think, process things and make decisions. Why should we expect our imaginations to leave us when we pray?
If you want to have a relationship with Jesus, you have to allow yourself to use your mind and imagination in order to feel His presence. While you can not "see" Him physically, he is present with you. Just as thoughts of someone you love can provide you with an immediate sense of calm, thoughts of Jesus will begin to produce the same sense of calm in your life. Over time you will begin to sense not only His presense but His direction and His deep love for you.
Allowing yourself to spend time with Jesus and patiently waiting for Him to "speak" to you takes practice, time and patience. For many of you, this will be a new experience which may make you feel awkward or simply uncomfortable. As you begin this new way to pray, do not get discouraged and do not get mad at yourself when you find it hard to concentrate or when you get distracted. You WILL get distracted!!
Next post we will talk about different ways to get started with this type of prayer. In the meantime, if you feel comfortable, try to take a little time at the end of your prayer time and just quietly sit and perhaps ask God if He has anything He wants to let you know. For now, just see what happens.
I can assure you of one thing. Even if you think nothing happens, SOMETHING is happening, because at that moment, you are telling God you have enough faith in Him to know He is there with you. By your requests and patience you are showing Him it is important for you to reach out to Him in order to experience this real relationship you keep hearing about. Believe me, THAT is pleasing to our Lord!
Too often we tend to think the more we know, the more we will change. Unfortunately, that is not really true. Gregory Boyd says in his book "Seeing is Believing" , "contemporary Western Christians are as a whole arguably the most informed generation of Christians in all of church history. Yet no one would be so foolish as to suggest that we are the most transformed; to the contrary, research suggests the faith of American evangelicals has very little effect on our day-to-day lives".
Why is this...because knowing something intellectually will never replace "experiencing" something.
There are many people who believe, as do I, that part of the reason for this lack of transformation is that we do not use our imaginations when praying or relating to God. Unfortunatly, too often we equate the imagination with a child-like perception of reality and associate it with a make-believe world. However throughout the Bible Jesus speaks to us in parables so that we are able to understand what He is trying to tell us; He purposely gives us images in order to allow us to understand who He was and still is. ie: the rock (psalm 18:2, psalm 62:6-7); the shepard (Isaiah. 40:11,
John 10:14) etc. These images must be processed through our imagination.
He created our minds and our imaginations, yet when it comes to relating to Him, we set our imagination aside and revert to our human-ness as we tend to become rational and methodical in our prayer life. We need to change our thinking and allow ourselves to let our minds and imaginations flow freely in order to begin to relate to the invisible God who is waiting to spend time with us. I believe God wants us to use our imaginations so that we are able to draw nearer to Him and begin to EXPERIENCE transformation.
Are you thinking "I pray, I read my Bible, I go to church and attend a Bible study...does that mean I have a relationship with Jesus?" One question you may want to ask yourself is "When is the last time I prayed, and then stopped to listen and hear what God might be saying?"
Unfortunately, many of us do not really understand what it means to pray. Prayer is meant to me a dialogue, not a monologue and our relationship with Jesus has to incorporate room for both you and He to interact together.
Oswald Chambers, author of "My Utmost for His Highest" says "The point of prayer is not to get answers from God, but to have oneness with Him"
We need to learn how to take the time to be still and to patiently wait on God. We will begin to explore this in the next post.
Prayer; Relationship; Healing past wounds; Letting go of guilt, shame and fears; Resting in His presence; Experiencing His peace; Hearing His voice; Sensing His guidance. He is waiting to share all of this with you. He is waiting for you to come to Him with all of your heart, mind and soul..and when you do..you WILL experience freedom, love and peace in the most extraordinary way. Please join us on this journey.We look forward to all of your comments, questions, testimonials and thoughts as we look to honor and glorify Jesus as not only our Lord and Savior but truly, as the very best friend we can or ever will have.
Join us and EXPERIENCE Jesus as you never have before!
I believe there is nothing in this world which can more positively impact or change our lives than a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
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