Meditative Prayer by Janet Hinds
Recently while in Seattle, I completed three of the required four residencies with Renovare’ Institute, in pursuit of a certification in Christian Spiritual Formation. I began this journey some 16 months ago as I took the position of Director of Spiritual Formation, for Sanctuary Columbus Church. Like the previous residencies, this too was an arduous and yet rewarding, and spiritually profitable week of Spiritual Formation in my own life.
Now home, after my most recent residency; where the anointing of God was pervasive and healing, I’m kind of restless and can’t seem to get the day started. So here I am sitting down for prayer much later than I would have like to. As I began sitting in the quiet, my mind keeps lingering on David Benner’s dialogue about the possibilities of my actually running away from God instead of off loading some of the weight I’m carrying to him.
Anyway, I feel the need to spend time in Meditative Prayer, because with all of the traveling and re-entry into my real life; I’m laden down and somewhat distant from God. Sometimes depending on the depth of outside involvement, this does not take much. So while seeking God, I opened my bible to continue where I left off a few days ago; John Chapter 5. Over a year ago, I began using the Gospels in meditative prayer, to feel that deep connection with God; and He with me. I’ve learned to imagine the scene in which I’m reading. I pause and take the time to think about the scene and the characters, particularly Jesus; and his tone of voice; and who he’s speaking with and their response. Dallas Willard, describes Jesus as Relaxed.
To validate this method of prayer, we see Jesus in the Gospels using the imaginations of the people through the use of parables; as he spoke significant truths about the Kingdom of God. Ignatius Loyola calls this method of praying; Imaginative Prayer, and Richard Foster describes this type of prayer as a way to descend with the mind into the heart.
In John Chapter 5, The scene is the healing of the crippled man at Bethesda. During the reading I took note of Jesus’ voice; specifically the tone in which he spoke to the sick man who had been lying there 38 years, waiting to be healed. I placed a check next to Jesus’ words to the man, “Do you truly long to be healed?” I read the man’s response and wondered what Jesus must be thinking as the man replied. I pictured Jesus waiting for the man to pause, and when he did, Jesus said to him, Stand Up! That was pretty stern. I’m pretty careful when and where I use exclamation points, but I’m taking note of the tone in which Jesus is addressing this man. “Pick up your sleeping mat and you will walk !”
The next time Jesus appears, he is speaking to the man in the Temple, again, Jesus addresses this man. “Look at you now!” “Your healed!” “Walk away from your sin so that nothing worse will happen to you.” I can only imagine what this man was thinking. When you read the remainder of the text, you can see that this man has a plan.
Well, that is enough about this nameless man. I’m now thinking about my own healing of which I have waited more than 5 years; and now that I have a diagnosis, I am readily disappointed and in despair. I have feelings of grief and loss. I want to say, that I’m over it, but, I’m thinking again about Benner’s statement regarding how we hide from God, when we should be running toward him. So, now I feel deeply that I’ve spent most of the day, hiding from God. I discern he’s been calling me and I’d like to say that I’m over it, but I’m not. I praise God for what he has done, but like that man, I have to learn to get up and walk in this new revelation and physical healing.
As I finished my time in prayer, I glanced at the commentary, at the bottom of the page that further explains the translation of the words and intent of the text. In John 5:6, it explains that Jesus had a supernatural revelatory knowledge of this man’s situation. Of course that should not surprise any of us. But what caught my eye next, was the explanation of the dialogue Jesus had with this man. The translation explains it further:
John 5:6: Jesus says to the man; “Are you convinced that you are already made whole?” The commentary says that Jesus is asking the crippled man, if he is ready to abandon how he sees himself and now receive the faith for his healing.
So, I ask myself; Janet are you convinced that you are already made whole? Are you ready to abandon how you see yourself, and now receive the faith to be healed? Yes, Lord!
Richard Foster, in his book titled Sanctuary of the Soul, says: “As we read for spiritual formation, it is this type of meditation upon Scripture where we find the “sanctified imagination.” It means listening to the text of Scripture, really listening; listening yielded and still. It means submitting to the text of Scripture, allowing its message to flow into us, rather than attempting to master it. It means reflecting on the text of Scripture, allowing both mind and heart to be fully engaged in the meaning of the passage. It means praying the text of Scripture, letting the biblical reality give rise to our heart cry of gratitude, confession, lament and petition. It means applying the text of Scripture, seeing how God’s Holy Word provides a personal word for our life.
Bible: The Passion Translation (John 5:6)
Book: Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey Into Meditative Prayer, Richard Foster (40)
Book: The Gift of Loving Yourself, David Benner, (Chapters 2 and 3)