Prayer of Active Imagination

This practice of praying with the scriptures actively uses the imagination and senses and comes from the Ignatian tradition: for a full treatment of this method, see The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  The following adaptation is a much abbreviated form.  The stories in Luke’s gospel contain vivid images and are particularly suited to this method.


Read the sacred text. (eg. Luke 5:1-11):

‘Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet I you say so I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners I the other boat to come and help them. and they cam and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. They Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.’

Use the five senses to explore the scene:

What do you hear? (birds, water crowd, Jesus…)

What do you touch? (oars, ropes, rocking boats, sun…)

What do you smell? (water, fishing smells, boats, people…)

What do you see? (water, Jesus, boat, crowds…)

What do you taste? (What have you eaten today? How does the air taste?)

Read the text again.

Imagine you are washing your nets when you help Jesus escape from the pressing crowds. Didn’t he look funny scrambling into the boat? Listen to him preach as you continue washing, though you fished all night and yearn for rest and sleep. Help in the boat as you row out to deep water. Do you think you will catch anything? Let down the nets, though you have fished all night and caught nothing. What jokes do you tell as you wait to pull the nets back in? What does the net feel like as you pull it back into the boat? What goes through you mind as you row back to shore in a boat so laden it is in danger of capsizing.

Reflect on this experience and what it has to teach you in silence.

What practical fruit do you draw from this experience?  Ask Jesus what you should learn from this.

What special grace do you need to amend your life?

End with the Our Father.

(A You Tube introduction by James Martin SJ is available here.)