I stood in the grocery line and wondered why the cashier was ignoring the customer…
A prayer I pray every day is the “Prayer to Protect Faculties,” found in Father Ripperger’s, Deliverance Prayers for Use by the Laity:
Lord Jesus Christ, let Thy Precious Blood flowing from Thy wounded Heart cover me, my cogitative power, memory, imagination, common sense power, sensitive appetites, my sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell (and any part of your body being affected) driving the demons to the foot of Thy Cross where they may be judged by Thee. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Imagination. I want to pull that word out and share a few thoughts about this God-given faculty of ours. Why do we ask our Lord to cover and protect our imaginations? When we were children, we naturally used our imaginations to create original and witty ideas, to make up stories or to put ourselves into our storybook narratives, envisioning the scenes in our mind’s eye.
As adults, our imaginative faculties often become relegated to imagining all kinds of unhelpful scenarios that create in us feelings of overwhelm, dread or despair. Let us learn to use our imagination to facilitate hope, peace, and moments of resting in Jesus’ loving embrace! What if we used our imagination to “image,” that is, envision, our Lord looking at us with His loving eyes, touching us with His healing hands? This is precisely what we do when we participate in the healing practice known as Imaginative Prayer.
Imaginative Prayer is an incredible and very powerful way our Lord invites us to use the gift of our imagination in the healing of past traumas and other adverse experiences. There are a couple of crucial truths to understand here:
- God abides within each of us. His Holy Spirit is present and actively at work on our behalf, nudging always towards healing and wholeness, often through our God-given “faculties.”
- Using the faculty of our imagination to facilitate healing encounters with the Lord is anything but imaginary.
- In the context of healing and integration of traumatic memories, we define our imagination as our inner seeing (power to image or envision), our inner hearing, sensing and knowing.
When recalled, unresolved painful memories often have the power to trigger post-traumatic responses. What does “unresolved” mean? When faced with a difficult or traumatic circumstance, such as abuse, betrayal, interpersonal conflict, a natural disaster, or any event causing us overwhelming emotion, our internal alarm systems go off in an effort to help us avoid the danger (by fighting, fleeing or freezing / fawning). When we were not able to adequately escape the danger, our brain and body, rather than returning to a state of rest, remain slightly (or extremely) vigilant, that is, on guard. The unresolved memory resides in the emotional brain (i.e.: limbic area) and, when recalled, manifests in physical reactions as if we were living through that traumatic moment again in the present.
Resolution comes when we enter into the traumatic moment with our Lord and follow His lead as He facilitates the “completion” necessary so the memory of that moment will cease to hijack the brain and nervous system and trigger our reactive emotional responses. As you’ll see in the examples below, completion involves a release of the emotions and impulses stifled or blocked during the original event.
Below are a few examples of Holy-Spirit-led healing encounters experienced in my coaching work through imaginative prayer. The names given here are not their real names.
In her mind’s eye, Carol saw her terrified 4-year-old-self hiding under her bed after being told by the babysitter that he was going to blow up the house. She saw Jesus enter her room and sit down on the floor beside her bed, peering underneath so He could see her. She saw (inner seeing) the look on His face which was kind, gentle and inviting. She sensed (inner sensing, inner knowing) that He was safe and was there to protect her. She met His gaze, He extended His hand, which she accepted, and He pulled her gently into His lap. Jesus cradled her in His arms as she cried until her body had released the painful emotions that had been stuck in that terrifying memory.
Anna had been the victim of years of manipulation, emotional and sexual abuse. As we sat with our eyes closed, praying and waiting for the Lord to reveal whatever He wanted us to work on in that session, Anna saw in her mind’s eye a little bird in a box. The bird was bloody and battered and was flying into the sides of the box repeatedly. We sensed that this bird was an inner part of Anna that felt trapped, stuck, desperately trying to get out, but to no avail. Outside of the box stood Anna and Jesus. We sensed that He was inviting her to open the box and free the part of herself represented by the bird. As she did this, Jesus looked deeply into her eyes and said (inner hearing) “we will not allow your dignity to be compromised again.” Jesus cradled Anna and Anna held the bird as years of anguish were emotionally released.
Susan began a session by telling me how heavy she felt, like a huge weight was crushing her. As we prayed, she saw in her mind’s eye a statue that someone had given her depicting a woman pushing a boulder up a hill. The caption on the statue read, “You are stronger than you know.” Suddenly, Susan shouted, “I am tired of pushing this boulder up the hill!” As we prayed, Jesus was instantly beside her on the hill. He gently moved her out of the way and they stood together, watching the boulder roll down the hill and smash to pieces. Jesus smiled a huge grin at her. As she relayed this vision to me, she and I both broke out in laughter. Next, she saw Jesus take her hand and begin twirling her around. She saw herself wearing flowing garments, laughing, letting herself be spun freely by our Lord. As the vision subsided, she had an inner knowing that the situation represented by the boulder was not her burden to continuing carrying. She now had this joyful memory of dancing with Jesus that she would return to whenever the old thoughts of “you should, you have to, you can’t…” surfaced. She further integrated this new experience by making a playlist of songs she wanted to dance to with Jesus and by listening / moving to them each day.
“Imaginative Prayer is an invaluable and adaptable tool, for it gives the Holy Spirit access to our mind, our spirit, our sensory world, our memories, our intuition, and our imagination.” – Tilda Norberg, Gestalt Pastoral Care Minister
Jesus doesn’t change what happened to us in the past. But He absolutely transforms the way the memories of past traumatic events impact us in the present. Will you ask Him to engage your imagination in your prayer time? Below are the links to a couple of peaceful guided meditations we’ve recorded. Listening and meditating with these would be a lovely way to step into the practice of Imaginative Prayer, before diving into a painful memory.
Closing prayer: Holy Spirit, open the eyes and ears of my heart, that I might perceive Your movements within me. I open myself to You and invite you to freely access my mind, my spirit, my sensory world, my memories, my intuition and my imagination. Lead me into the freedom and healing that You desire for me. Amen.
Copyright 2023, De Yarrison