Imaginative contemplation is the process of imagining ourselves in a Gospel scene, taking up a character, being with Jesus and being aware of what’s going on, and how we are feeling. When we pray with our imagination, we come into real intimacy with Jesus as we seek to place ourselves as fully as we can within a story from the Gospels.
We may have been told that we have no imagination or think we don’t, yet we use imagination whenever we remember experiences from the past, or engage in day-dreaming about possible future events. Most of us can do this readily in our own way, especially if we just do it rather than think about doing it. That same imagination can be a very powerful tool for prayer. It’s a gift from God to be used for encounter. What is important is being involved in what is being imagined, experiencing it rather than being an observer of yourself.
St Ignatius placed great importance on imaginative contemplation because he wanted each one of us to meet Jesus and develop a unique and personal relationship with him. I watch Jesus’s face. I listen to the way he speaks. I notice how people respond to him. These details bring me to know Jesus as more than a name or a historical figure in a book. He is a living person that each person encounters in prayer so that “We have come to know him ourselves...” (John 4:42)