First, read the story carefully. It won’t be necessary to remember all its details since the story will change when you enter it. But approach it with a sense of caring and anticipation. Now imagine yourself in the story and imaginatively use your five senses to set the scene. Ask yourself:
- What do I see? (Jesus, a crowd, a temple)
- What do I hear? (wind, voices, silence)
- What do I touch? (clothes, stone, skin)
- What do I smell? (spices, blood, ocean)
- What do I taste? (wine, food, salt tears)
Now that you sense what’s around you as you enter the gospel story, let the story run itself. Don’t try to direct it (this gets easier with time). The story will often surprise you by changing from the way you read it — because you are really there with Jesus. Jesus transcends time and space and he is meeting you here and now!
For example, someone may come up and talk to you. You may feel compelled to approach Jesus yourself, or he may be looking for you (will he find you?) or you may just watch as the paralytic decides if he wants to be well, or as Zacchaeus climbs a tree, or as the woman with the issue of blood merely touches Jesus’ robe and she is healed. Who knows what you’ll see?
For example, prayerfully imagine yourself at the garden after Jesus’ resurrection. You may be Mary Magdalen, or a gardener, or yourself. See the burial garden slowly take shape as the early sun rises. Look at the mist on the ground, smell the wetness of the morning air and the faint hint of burial spices mixed in the green growing things. Hear the heavy silence and feel the feeling of a great waiting, of unseen presences waiting for the rising of the sun and with it the Resurrection of God.
Then Jesus appears, just as He did to Mary Magdalene. Hear what He says to you.
Let’s take an example of one of my own meditations, I imagined that I was the paralytic by the pool in John 5:2-9. In this story, many sick people literally lived by the pool of Bethesda because every so often the water began to bubble. The first person who flung himself into the pool was healed. (They believed an angel was stirring the water and so diving power had passed into the pool.) This paralyzed man had waited by the poolside for many years but had never been the first in the water.
During the first part of my imaging prayer, things happened just as they were recorded in the Bible. I entered the story and imagined myself as the paralytic, and the story began to move. In walked Jesus. He looked around the room filled with the crippled and the sick, and then spotted me. He walked over to me, looked down, and was silent. I was getting awfully uncomfortable under that steady look. Then he asked, “Do you want to get well?” I panicked! Did I want to get well? I literally had no idea what I was going to say. It would have been very comfortable to stay the way I was — a procrastinator, a discomfort-dodger, a victim of circumstances. To want to be healed — to really want it — meant to accept and practice responsibility for living.
I hesitated. He waited. Then I gathered up all my courage and said, “Yes, I want to get well.” This meditation helped me to understand some of my own reluctance about being healed and opened a new door in my life.