Redeeming the Imagination

Mary Magdalene, in a dramatic 19th-century pop...
Image via Wikipedia

I believe prayer is often misunderstood.  We know what prayer is – talking to God.  “Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated.”  That’s what we tell new believers, especially.  “Just talk to God as if He were right next to you, because He hears you.”  And of course, this is true.  But we don’t always seem to have a very clear handle on why we should pray.  After a time, it seems as though we make prayer into an obligation, and we feel guilty when we don’t fulfill it frequently enough.  Other times, we have trouble talking to God because we feel as though the only times we do it are when we have our “wish lists” in mind.

I read a devotional the other day that put prayer into an interesting perspective.  To speak of prayer is to speak of redeeming the imagination.  N.T. Wright says  “It takes imagination to live in God’s world.”  One might even say that daring to imagine is not simply something we can do, it’s something we must do.  Ever since Christ was raised from the dead, God’s kingdom has been invading this world – even now.  If God’s kingdom is indeed coming, then we must learn to see things differently.  Christians must learn to exercise a mind that sees beyond the surface.

Hebrews tells us that faith is being “certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).  So to pray in faith means to open up our minds to what we could not otherwise see – all the ways God is moving and active in the world, as well as all the things that could be.

To put it differently, anyone can see the obvious, the marriage that is falling apart, the downward economy, the violence, abuse, loneliness, etc.  Our temptation (and the logical thing to do) is to see these things and react accordingly, surrendering to the delusion that because this is reality, what we see is the deepest truth.

However, if we want to see the world with God’s eyes, then we must learn to see through the imaginative eyes of prayer.  In other words, though the marriage is in a rut, that is not the deepest truth.  Wars, abuse, disease, fear, loneliness, are not the deepest truths.  Our sin is not even the deepest truth.  God is the deepest truth.  Having raised Christ from the dead, He has shown that nothing, not even death itself, is too great for Him to handle.

Therefore, for those who would claim to live in faith, we must learn to see beyond what is – to dare to imagine what we would otherwise believe is impossible – that marriage being restored, justice for the downtrodden, freedom and healing for the captives, etc.  Those who follow Christ see things differently.  It is tragic to see Christians settle into despair – accepting the status quo, believing that what they see in the world around them must be a part of God’s will or plan.  We must realize that to follow Christ is a matter of constant hope.  Hope does not deny what is going on around us, but it also recognizes that the darkness of our world does not have the final say.  Hope is more than mere wishful thinking or blind optimism.  It is a way of living.  It requires seeing through the eyes of faith, which is cultivated by prayer – redeeming the imagination and yearning, groaning, and praying for what otherwise can not be.

– Posted by Mike Rauwolf

Some parts were adapted from / inspired by an article by Winn Collier (Relevant Magazine).