At times, for all of us, prayer becomes a difficult chore. It is often too easy for our thoughts to wander to other, more exciting things.
When we are in the midst of such a situation, it may be time to change the way we pray and meditate, and especially to use our imagination more effectively.
Italian priest Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli explained this in his spiritual classic The Spiritual Combat, published in 1589. He lays out a type of imaginative prayer that can wake us from our spiritual slumber and bring us closer to God.
When a considerable length of time [as a half-hour, hour, or an even longer period] is to be spent in prayer, it is advisable to make a meditation on some feature of our Savior’s life or passion; the reflections naturally arising from such meditation should then be applied to the particular virtue we are striving to attain.
An overlooked secret in the spiritual life: This author says it’s your imagination
Scupoli then provides an example that helps illustrate this method of meditation.
If, for instance, you need patience, contemplate the mystery of your Savior scourged at the pillar. Consider first the blows and revilements hurled at Him by the soldiers as they brutally drag their innocent victim to the appointed place as ordered. Secondly, consider Him stripped of His garments, exposed to the piercing cold. Thirdly, picture those innocent hands, bound tightly to the pillar. Fourthly, consider His body, torn with whips until His blood moistened the earth. And finally, envision the frequency of the blows, creating new wounds, reopening otherson that sacred body.Dwelling on these or similar details, calculated to inspire in you a love of patience, you should try to feel within your very soul the inexpressible anguish so patiently borne by your Divine Master. Then consider the excruciating agony of His spirit, and the patience and mildness with which that agony was endured by Him Who was ready to suffer even more for God’s glory and your welfare.Behold, then, your Master, covered with blood, desiring nothing more earnestly than your patient acceptance of affliction; and be assured that He implores for you the assistance of theHeavenly Father that you may bear with resignation, not only the cross of the moment, but the crosses to come. Strengthen, therefore, by frequent acts your resolution to suffer, with joy; and, raising your mind to Heaven, give thanks to the Father of mercies, Who didst send His only Son into this world to suffer indescribable torments, and to intercede for you in your necessities.
The meditation ends by saying a prayer asking God for the particular virtue you need help with.
Imagination can have a profound effect on our spiritual lives and can help save it from monotony.
7 Christian meditation aids for beginners
A brief guide to meditation on Jesus’ Passion by St. Paul of the Cross