“The imagination of man is made in the image of the imagination of God. Everything of man must have been of God first; and it will help much towards our understanding of the imagination and its functions in man if we first succeed in regarding aright the imagination of God, in which the imagination of man lives and moves and has its being.

– George MacDonald: The Imagination: Its Function and its Culture


1. To introduce imaginative contemplation as an Ignatian method of prayer which touches our lives through a reflective processing of our spontaneous actions and feelings.

2. To introduce art as both a vehicle for prayer and a response to prayer.

Our intentions: Participants to become aware of ….

  • the importance of the imagination to life in general

  • the use of our imaginations in daily life, of evoked feelings

  • and the connection between these feelings and life

  • the influence of imaginative contemplation on the conversion of Ignatius of Loyola

  • the importance of paying attention to feelings and spontaneous actions


Sharing Groups – on Lectio Divina


  • Brief introduction

    • Use of imagination in general

    • Imagination in the life of Ignatius
  • Using fantasy/imagination in prayer

  • Brief Review

  • Sharing


Imaginative Contemplation with Scripture

Jesus Calms the Storm (Luke 8:22-25)

  • Input (Look . . Listen . . Feel . . Sense)

  • Read . . . Repeat . . .


  • Led review . . .into journalling

  • Home-time work

Imagine yourself at home . . .what kind of a day is it . . . how is the house? Imagine Jesus arriving at your door – He just wants to see you in your home base . . . How does He introduce Himself . . . How do you welcome Him . . . What’s the initial chit-chat . . . At some point show Him round the house (and garden, if you have one) . . . Talk about the memories that the places and their contents hold for you (photographs, pictures/drawings, ornaments, plants, trees, books, decor, hobby materials etc.) . . . How does Jesus engage in the conversation? . . What’s His response to what you say – it may be said or it may be felt? . . Show Him your favorite place . . . Tell Him what you like to do, and perhaps what you don’t like doing . . . You might even offer Him a cup of tea and invite Him to sit and talk with you at the kitchen table, just like a good friend. Remember to let Him have his say . . . Listen . . . Sense how He is with you.

Take Jesus for a walk round your home area, showing Him people, places, things, and talking with Him about them . . . the best things about the area – things that are difficult or that need care and help . . . How does Jesus engage with you – and with the people? . . . . What do you show Him? . . What don’t you show Him? Think about your reasons for this and talk with Him about those reasons.

Jesus takes you for a walk round His world – our world. Where does He take you? What does He show you? What does He say to you about what He shows you? How do you respond to what you see and hear? Talk this out with Jesus – as a good friend.

How did I find this experience?

Was it difficult / easy / strange? In what sense?

How did I feel?

What were those feelings about?

Did anything surprise me?

What did I learn . . about myself . . . about Jesus . . . about other people . . . about the world?

Imagination is a gift from God which, among other things, helps us to know who we are and to sense who we might become. It helps us engage with reality, as does a film / novel / (auto) biography / radio drama. It opens up space for an ‘encounter’ – with God, self, others and the world, and is, therefore, an appropriate method of prayer. Its structure is similar to that for Lectio Divina, with some specific suggestions for the ‘Pray’ section.

The Night Before You Pray

  • Decide where, when and for how long you will pray the following day. Prepare your prayer space, if necessary.

  • Decide ‘what’ you will use for prayer, and look at it.

As you Approach Your Place of Prayer

  • Pause briefly – focus – consciously become aware of God, present and waiting for you. Imagine God looking at you . . Who / what does God see? . . Allow God to welcome you as you are! Listen to God’s question, “What do you want?” What gift/grace do you want /need /desire?

As you Pray

  • Become still . . respond to God’s question . .

  • Slowly re-read your prayer passage, perhaps more than once, until you have a sense of it . . then leave it aside

  • Become part of the scene . . use your senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste) on the environment and people as individuals and as they interact . . use your imagination . . to pick up attitudes and feelings, to read body-language, etc. . .Be drawn into the scene . . become part of it . . and then let go . . spending time where you are drawn . . and not worrying about completion . . . or about appearing to go off track!

  • Towards the end of the time (a ‘timer’ is useful) – or at any point during it, become aware of what’s going on in your mind and heart. Share this with God/Jesus as with a friend, at the same time being careful to listen.

  • If drawn, close your prayer more formally, perhaps with a favourite prayer or the Our Father.

Breather – Review and Journal/Treasure

If we want to ‘grow’ through prayer, it is helpful to reflect on what happened while we prayed and to journal this – either in notes, colours, sketches, a poem, song etc. These journal jottings record our presence to / encounter with the event. They help us get to know ourselves and the way God is drawing us. If regularly reviewed, this is an invaluable tool for growth by helping us sift through :

  • what we want to keep, treasure and develop, because they help us grow;

  • what we want to let go of, because they are an obstacle to growth; and

  • what are our deep down desires.

Select whatever questions below help you capture the encounter, even if these include difficult and/or embarrassing moments!

Reflect and Treasure (Review and Journal Entry)

  • What was your initial sense as you heard/read the story? Did anything catch your attention / surprise you / attract you? Did you resist anything?

  • Who were you in the story / with whom did you identify – one person / more than one / yourself? Were you engaged or an observer? What was the nature of your engagement?

  • How were you? What was going on in your mind and heart at different points? What feelings were around? What triggered them? What were they about? What did they evoke in terms of thoughts / actions / further feelings / desires etc?

  • Reflect on the above and, totally secure in God’s love for you as you are, ask yourself:

  • What do my jottings tell me about God and myself, about God’s relationship with me and my relationship with God?

  • What do my jottings tell me about my relationship with others . . . with the world, perhaps?

  • Is there anything still lingering / still drawing me, whether comfortable or uncomfortable? Is there anything that feels incomplete? If so, that could be the starting point of your next prayer period.

  • Ignatius of Loyola calls this Repetition: it is not a repetition of the same prayer material, but a continuation and deepening of it.

Mk 4: 35-41 The Calming of the Storm

Lk 15: 1-10 Jesus Welcomes Sinners (Parable of Lost Sheep)

Mk 2: 1-12 Cure of a Paralytic

Mk 10: 46-52 Cure of Blind Man , Bartimaeus

Lk 16: 19-31 Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Mt 14: 22-33 Jesus Walks on the Water

Lk 5: 17-26 Healing of the Paralytic

Lk 7: 36-50 The woman at Simon’s House

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out.

23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”  He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.

25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

It is not physical beauty nor temporal glory nor the brightness of light dear to earthly eyes, nor the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs nor the gentle odor of flowers, and ointments and perfumes, nor manna or honey, nor limbs welcoming the embraces of the flesh; it is not these I love when I love my God. Yet there is a light I love, and food, and a kind of embrace when I love my God – a light, voice, odor, food, embrace of my innerness, where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain, where there is sound that time cannot seize, where there is a perfume which no breeze disperses, where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lessen, and where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part. That is what I love when I love my God.

-St. Augustine, Confessions

This famous passage expresses an Ignatian paradox: God transcends the beauty and sweetness of the world, yet our experience of God is mysteriously anchored in our everyday experience.

Reflect on this passage. What do you love when you love God?

    1. Read and reflect on the quotation at the top of the front page. Perhaps carry it through the week with you.

    2. Try to use imaginative contemplation with one of your favourite scripture stories. Above under the “A Selection of Scripture texts for imaginative contemplation” may be a useful starting point. You may also find additional useful resources on the website Pathways To God (www.pathwaystogod.org).

    3. For further information and reflection read the articles :

    LINK: Article 1 – Imagination is the Key, by David Birchall;

    LINK: Article 2 – Imagination and Prayer, by Philip Sheldrake. Read and reflect on these articles.

    1. If you have time and feel inclined to do so, complete the Walks with Jesus.

    2. Re-read your journal. What stands out for you? What does it say to you?