At Woodland Hills, we believe that Jesus invites us to connect with him at a heart level and not just a head level. Imaginative prayer is one of the gifts God gives us to do just that. Tania Skinner’s story is a beautiful example of how Jesus changes lives when we meet him in our imagination.
Tania is a third grade teacher in Johannesburg, South Africa and became a Woodland podrishioner a few years ago following a major tragedy in her life.
On July 1, 2018 after Tania had been in labor for ten hours, her son’s heart rate suddenly stopped. When he was delivered, he could only breathe with the help of machines. Three days after his birth, he died.
Tania was in shock trying to process the immense pain of this traumatic loss. As she grieved, she felt the need to move closer to God. “Nothing about this process was easy, but I did have a sense of peace in my soul even during these early stages.”
The next year Tania was given the book Lord Willing: Wrestling with God’s Will in My Child’s Death by Jessica Kelley about a mother’s journey through her son’s illness and death. Tania remembers, “Although I found her story remarkable, it was her intimate relationship with the Lord and his incredible compassion and comfort in her pain and anguish that enticed me and probed my curiosity. The author referred to books written by Greg Boyd and also briefly explained ‘imaginative prayer.’ I desperately wanted to experience what she had experienced with the Lord.”
Tania found Woodland Hills on YouTube, watched whatever she could find, and then began to practice imaginative prayer for herself.
“I found imaginative prayer extremely hard and quite awkward at first. I do not think of myself as creative and picturing Jesus felt phony and almost ‘illegal!’ I had a faint voice in the back of my head questioning whether we are allowed to picture Jesus. But, I knew I could not give up if I wanted to get closer to the Lord. I do believe, as scripture says, that God knows my heart and that he will come close to those who come close to him.”
Over time, through practicing imaginative prayer, Tania fell in love with Jesus. Her life began to change radically.
“I used to live to satisfy and indulge my every need. I had no self-control or self-respect. My weekends revolved around binge-watching series and movies and eating as much as possible. I suffered from extremely low self-esteem and I just did not like who I was. I did not believe God liked me either. As I started to believe what the Bible says about who I am in Christ, I began accepting myself. I am learning to stand up for myself. I also learned to take care of my body and my mind. I have allowed God to start the transformation process in my life.”
If you are new to imaginative prayer, there are obstacles to overcome, but Tania has some encouragement:
“The beauty of imaginative prayer is that there are no rules! I love rules and wanted to emulate the experiences I heard others had. But, I learned that God has the incredible capacity to love each one of us in a unique way. I have difficulty connecting with male figures, so when I envision Jesus I often see just an outline. I focus on his hands holding mine and this comforts me. Other times, I am just aware of his presence. I think the key to imaginative prayer lies in setting apart time with the Lord, and letting go of control. Whatever follows thereafter, will be uniquely different from anyone else’s experience.”
Imaginative prayer is for everyone! Want to get started? Rob Kistler, Woodland Hill’s Care Pastor says, “You can imagine a vacation in Hawaii and it can change your state of mind in a moment, so why not use our imagination to grow closer to Jesus? Our prayer ministry can help coach you through those tough first steps to having an impactful healing experience with Jesus. It has changed my walk with him in a huge way!”
We love hearing your stories, and how God is using Woodland to help raise up a Jesus-looking people to change the world in a Jesus-looking way. If you want to share your own story, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.