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Imagining Prayer

• Greg Boyd

Do you ever feel, during prayer, that you’re talking to the ceiling more than God? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In this sermon, Greg explains how using our imagination is not only a time honored way of praying, but the way in which God speaks to us in this world.

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Is prayer challenging for you? It can be very challenging when we don’t see the results, because it can feel like we’re having a boring monologue. It can also be difficult to continue praying when we don’t see the results of our prayers. This is why using our imagination is so important to prayer.

This is not a new age phenomenon. In the Hebrew language, the word for dream and vision is the same thing. And it meant a kind of seeing that went beyond our visual sight. Many people in the Old Testament were able to receive messages from God through using their imagination to see beyond this world.

Paul, in the New Testament, says that unbelievers have a veil over their minds. This veil blocks their view of God and Jesus. When we become believers, this veil is removed so that we can see God through our imagination. As we continue to grow in our faith, this veil is continually removed so that we can see more and more of Jesus. Yet, we don’t encounter Jesus face to face. Instead, we see through a mirror, and this mirror is our spiritual connection with God. And one of the most powerful ways to connect through this spirit is through the imagination, because there God can take form and speak to us.

The enemy wants to shut down our imagination because it will shut down our ability to gaze on God in this life. Without our imagination, we are left with the black of our eyelids and the sound of our own voice. And our prayer life would become boring, stagnant and may eventually be abandoned. Trusting that we can access the spiritual realm through our imagination will greatly increase our prayer life.

Some tips for using imagination in your prayer: Envision the people that you are praying for; imagining what they are doing and how your prayer might affect them. See a spotlight of blessing come down on them. Envision that their marriage is fixed, that their sickness is cured, and that their problems would be solved. Prayer is laboring in the spiritual realm to bring about God’s will in heaven here on Earth. Even though we aren’t certain this might happen, we can know that it’s God’s will that these things would happen. Seeing it concretely in your mind your prayer will give you energy to go after that goal. It doesn’t mean it will happen, but it will energize us to move forward in the future and brings a little bit of the Kingdom here on this Earth.

God rarely speaks in an audible voice in this world. We don’t see many flaming bushes or pillars of flame leading us around. However, within our imagination, we can hear God’s voice. We can use this spiritual gift from God to allow us to lift the veil and communicate with God. And we are commanded by God to do just this! God wants to speak with us, to hear our thoughts and see our visions and change them right before our eyes. It’s not always the same way, but each time God will listen and speak to us. The creator of the Universe will talk with us as Jesus in our prayers.

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15 thoughts on “Imagining Prayer

  1. Dave Pritchard says:

    I absolutely loved this message – fearsomely relevant! When it comes to the “imagination”, some of us seriously have a problem with it, in that, it almost becomes impossible to shut down or even redirect. As an Artist, I find this especially difficult where my mind has been trained over the years to harness the power of ones imagination in the service of creative expression. Also, as a teacher in the Arts, I’m in the business of training others to use their imagination to represent their inner world in expressive and tactile ways.

    When Greg mentioned the “1990’s” in his addendum to the message, one of the first things that sprang to mind was my favorite comic strip, “Calvin & Hobbes”. Bill Watterson’s work was a stroke of pure genius! Calvin (named after the 16th-century theologian John Calvin) was the quintessential daydreamer who escaped into his inner fantasy world where he often battled and worked through his hopes, fears and
    conflicts with adult conceptions of reality – (Kind of like the real Calvin – Ha!) His anthropomorphic stuffed tiger “Hobbes” (named after the 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes) had a more cynical view of human nature and often profoundly reflected on the irony of life, almost as an extension of Calvin’s subconscious. The fact that Hobbes becomes “frozen and life-less” and merely a toy when in the presence of “grownups” is akin to our Faith in Christ when we re-enter the stream of public consciousness. It’s one thing as a believer to have a rich and imaginative prayer life, where dynamic and beautiful reconciliations can occur in dramatic ways. But yielding to the Holy Spirit, in order to carry that passion and enthusiasm through in a real way, to truly love people with “Cross like love” as you move through the day, is a humongous challenge as Greg points out! Battling the “Snow Goons” that self-replicate and infect the Kingdom we’re invested in building, is all part of the Spiritual Warfare we find ourselves in.

    ….not through yet. For me, Watterson’s very last strip completed at the end of 1995, was personally profound. At the time, I was at a very dark and spiritually painful spot in my life and when I read the strip that Sunday morning, it gave me a tremendous sense of hope and clarity of thought for the future –

    Google – C&H : The last strip

    “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

    “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Cor. 5:17

  2. teresa says:

    “the building is not the church – we are the church. The building can be used for kingdom purposes …as a service center “— Yes! Amen! PTL!!!

  3. M85 says:

    I agree with Greg that there is a demonic influence going on here: it’s just too uncanny that new agers seem to know more about biblical principles than christians.

  4. This message was simply beautiful. It echoes the beauty and basis of the new promise from God in Hebrews 8:10. What a wonderful promise that we all can imagine it to be!

    “This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
    after that time, declares the Lord.
    I will put my laws in their minds
    and write them on their hearts.
    I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.” (Hebrews 8:10)

  5. Kathy D. says:

    With all due respect, there is a holocaust of nature going on right now, will God make that up to them, too??? This message made me weep but also makes me angry. We so often go only as far as the children. Well, good, I am glad for that and I mean no disrespect to the human race, and I care for the innocent children too! Yet we have to admit here, the animal kingdom suffers astronomically, I will venture to say MORE SO than the human race ever does, and we turn a blind eye, we don’t listen to their screams or watch the undercover videos of their suffering or speak out about it – WHY IS THIS?? Is their suffering not as important as ours???? They suffer every bit the same as we humans do, or do we really not believe that?? Or is it because they serve a utilitarian purpose for the human race and we don’t really want to believe they suffer or change our views of them?? Or perhaps the church sees them as not having souls so they are less important, after all, it is about evangelizing for souls, right ? so the animals can’t be worried about (….The lion shall lay with the lamb….a little child shall lead them)?? Yes, God gave us dominion, but not as blood thirsty tyrants and not to use them and abuse them but rather IN HIS IMAGE TO CARE FOR THEM – why are they not part of the doctrine of the church, it was our FIRST MANDATE to care for them and the earth; how would we react if they were billions of innocent children suffering in the place of the billions of animals in factory farms, vivisection labs, fur farms, and the like??? Have you ever watched an animal being electrocuted for it’s fur?? Or a pig being boiled alive with a meat hook sticking out of it’s chin? There is an urgency about this – is the church not addressing this urgency or are they not feeling this urgency? Which concerns me terribly………..Jesus Christ is LORD OF ALL CREATION and He is NOT being proclaimed as such. This same Jesus that I too talk to and envision and Who talks back to me IS VERY CONCERNED – do we perhaps have hard hearts, can’t we see what Jesus see’s all the way to the animal kingdom??? He walks in the slaughter houses and on the fur farms; in the sheds the size of football fields where His chickens are kept three stories high in small metal cages 4 or 5 to a cage, no room to even flap a wing, no natural light, only barrenness, misery, stench, excrement, brokenness, blood and pain……………I won’t EVEN go into the pig, cow, foie gras, or veal barns, etc….it’s ALL horrors of horrors………… The human Holocaust ended, Praise God……………this one rages on year after bloody year………… God’s love is INDIVISIBLE – isn’t it time the Church proclaimed Him as LORD OF ALL CREATION????

  6. Jill says:

    I haven’t been reading the posts much lately and decided to look at the posts for this sermon. What a post you have Kathy D. and how great that you are so gut wrenchingly honest. I help a women who rescues cats and who basically gives up all her time to save these beautiful animals. What she sees regularly and the stories she has are horrendous and this is just a tiny, tiny piece of what goes on in the anumal kingdom. I wish I could do so much more, but with a family I have to make sure to keep boundries because there is such a need out there I could easily use up every waking second helping. I have many of the same feelings you have shared and it feels hopeless. But, you need to do as much as you can with what time you have towards whatever cause hits you the hardest, and then know you are making a difference. No matter how it seems, every little bit helps.

  7. Kathy D. says:

    Jill, thank you for your comment. It makes me cry, just hashing over my email and yours, again. In all honesty, after I hit the submit button, I was afraid. Afraid because so often if we speak about animals, people get upset and it causes such a stir and no one wants to rock the boat, no one wants to tread on what someone else might believe that is contrary to ones own beliefs, etc. etc. Then I thought, no – what is happening to animals isn’t right no matter where on the spectrum of doctrine one finds themselves. Our Lord is a God of mercy. He is hurt and angry over what we are doing with His creation. Sure, he put them into our hands. Did he anticipate this happening? I really don’t think He did, we have free choice after all, and we are not puppets on a string. At one point in the OT He said He wished He had not made them (us people). After giving them (animals) to us for food, He put the fear of us into animals – how hard that must have been for Him to do! Imagine it, prior to this point, we had a relationship with animals, probably not much unlike the kind we have with our domestic pets today (at least to some degree – they did not fear us until after the flood). He see’s every sparrow fall, a small little bird that we consider insignificant is a treasure to our Lord, as so it is with each and every creature here on earth – them and us! What destruction our choice in the garden brought onto the whole of creation….it is unfathomable to me sometimes, and so very sad – if it feels this sad to me, I can only imagine the depth of sadness this brings our Lord and Savior. He died for ALL creation, to reconcile ALL THINGS to himself, and this includes animals. ALL creation is present at the redemption and will be praising our Lord and Savior with us! What a glorious vision that is! The thing is, sad as it is, I can see the world treating animals in the fashion they are treated in our industries, etc, but not His followers — not that we do so directly necessarily. But we don’t take a loud stand against it either; in most cases, creation care is not taught in our churches by and large, in fact most doctrine and all dogma of the church is human centered – animals are not included! Oh what a treasure it would be if all scripture were looked at through the lens of the cross of Christ like Greg so eloquently puts it, and as we read scripture from that point, read and practice and teach it with animals in mind, too!!!! Animals were not an after thought of Gods, they were created before mankind, and then – Adam named each one! We are interwoven inextricably and undeniably.

    I get angry with the churches more so than the secular world – I have to fall at my Saviors feet in tears again and again with the pain, with the anger, this is the cross that He has given me to bear with Him; I know He does not want me to carry the anger – I must reach out as He does in love to ALL people, secular or Christian, on this issue or the battle is lost……Yet there is a place to speak boldly as well, as Paul taught us – we are the Lord’s ambassadors!!! This means we are also ambassadors on His behalf for His creation, too. It IS time the church wakes up!!! It IS time the church brings animals into the doctrine of the church!! It is URGENT, and the church has responsibilities in this fashion! There is a whole mission field, a harvest, waiting for the church to come into, of people who want nothing to do with Christianity (and thus nothing to do with our Lord Jesus) because of the church’s general view of the animal kingdom, In many Christian circles even the egregious way animals are used is ignored, IF the horrific treatment of them is known about AT ALL! Satan certainly has a stronghold over the Christian faith and creation in this area more so than any other I think!! We are to be a people set apart from the world!
    It is the secular world who is indeed fighting for the animal kingdom and not the church so much, and unfortunately, the secular world’s way of handling these issues can cause more damage, is militant, not scriptural and does not glorify Jesus Christ as Lord of creation; Greg has preached on this – love is paramount to ALL else. Not just love of people – Jesus’s death on the cross and the WHOLE Gospel message of the bible is with ALL creation in mind.

    Jill, thank you again for the encouragement, the comforting words, too. And you are right. I can only do as much as I can do with what time I have. Lord help me, be the Lord of my time management and my priorities please. Which reminds me, and I hope you end up coming back and reading this – there is a group on line called Not One Sparrow – if you are interested in creation care issues, why don’t you come join us!! Ben is the founder and creator – there is a prayer group, by invite only, that you could join, too. A few of us (this is a new development) will most likely be splitting off soon to form a sister group prayer group dedicated to strategic prayer vigils around creation care – if you feel called to such, would love to have you join.

    Thanks again, Jill ~
    love and blessings to you in Christ,

  8. Kathy D. says:

    Oh, and Jill, tell Ben I sent you if you want to join the prayer group!! Thank you.


  9. Jill says:

    Hi Kathy,

    I did come back and read your post. I also read your post to the founder of the stray cat rescue I volunteer for. Her comment, “wow she gets it”. We talk so often about these same things, it’s like you are writing what I feel. I’m so glad you are so bold. I am not there yet. People close to me definitely know how I feel, but I don’t share the depth of what you write, but sure do feel it. As soon as someone makes fun of it or clearly doesn’t understand, I stop. The founder I volunteer finds it hard to believe God is present in a lot of her work and I believe we have been put together to help strengthen that part for her. I want her to come to church with me so she can hear Greg speak, his passion for Jesus, etc. I will definitely look into your group, thank you.

    God Bless you!

  10. Kathy D. says:

    Hi Jill, I am glad you came back!! We will be glad to have you on Not One Sparrow should you come! NOS has a website and blog (fantastic, a great source for animal lovers support and education) as well as their FB page and prayer group.

    I’m not sure if it is that I am so brave or anything as it is my passion. What stray cat rescue do you volunteer for? I posted something to the founder? Curious about that!

    Sounds like you are a bridge! There is such a harvest out there of animal lovers who feel that the Christian faith (and thus Jesus) doesn’t care about animals. Such a need for a bridge like you! I pray she gives WHC and Greg a chance! There is a great book that might be just right for your friend (and maybe you would like it), “Animal Welfare: Through The Cross” by Roslyne Smith. I believe it can be found on Amazon. Roslyne is a member of NOS, too. The book is a compilation of articles of the work of ACC (pronounced Assissi) in the UK. May Tripp founded ACC in 1985, and Roslyne is her assistant; it shows the work ACC has done in the Christian community to reach the animal welfarist souls and the churches for Christ while preaching the Gospel, quote: ” Christian animal welfarists do have a Gospel to proclaim, a Gospel desperately needed in our time: the Good News that there is a Saviour for all creatures, both animal and human, from this world’s darkness, a Saviour whose Name is Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Rev 22:13) This book is a treasure chest for the Christian animal welfarist; I find a lot in it to help me also reach others in our calling for animals.

    Are you on FB? Would you like to connect on there? I would love that!

    God bless you too, Jill!


  11. Jill says:

    Hi Kathy ,

    I couldn’t sleep the other night and was looking through the NOS website. Then I was looking at their FB page, etc. Could have kept reading for a long time, but unfortunately time is what I’m always short on. Do you attend WH church or are you a podrishoner? Yes, I’m on FB and we can connect there. You didn’t post to the founder, I read your post from above to her over the phone and she really liked it. I wrote down the book you mentioned and it sounds really good, thank you.

    God bless!

  12. Kathy D. says:

    Hi Jill! I hear you, time is in short supply…… O Lord be the Lord of my time management please!

    I am more of a podrishoner. And you? If I do go to the church, it is for the Saturday service. I haven’t been there in a while. The church is a bit of a drive.

    My name is Kathy Dunn, send me a FB friends request if you would, will be nice to connect with you, perhaps we can email too if you’d like.

    The book is available on Amazon. If you should decide to order it, and have any trouble, let me know, will find out from the author if there is any other route to getting it.

    There is another site you might like to connect with, Not One Sparrow. There is a website and FB page, as well as a prayer group (for all of us animal lovers, a place to go to pray about our animals, our concerns for animals, and find support). The prayer group is by invitation, would gladly suggest you to the author if you are interested in that as well.

    I did not check the site in a while….hope your message wasn’t waiting out here too long!!!

    Look forward to hearing from you,
    Bless you,

  13. Kathy D. says:

    Hi Jill, I see I was having a senior moment (should have read over our messages…) – I had already mentioned NOS! HA! Well…..we ate of the apple, and here we are as we head toward our middle aged years, the mind not so quick as it once was!


  14. M85 says:

    I totally agree with you Kathy D. , there is something satanically perverse in the way the western world (not only) currently treats animals and most of the professing church seems completely unaware of what is going on or worse still is openly hostile to animal welfare. It is truly an amazing and disgusting situation that i believe necessitates much prayer.
    God bless you!

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