I mentioned in my last post that I’m using an Ignition prayer retreat this Lent. A key part of Ignition spiritual practice is to place yourself inside a story either to observe it, or to play some part in it, and to see where the Spirit leads. For example, you may imagine yourself as part of the crowd when Jesus calls Zacchaeus, watching at the cleansing of the temple, or sitting in the crowd as you receive bread and fish from Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5000.
Another part of this particular retreat is, towards the end, to have a conversation with Jesus ‘face to face’. As I’ve engaged in this I’ve had a series of what I can only call visions…vivid pictures. I’m in a room, it is a mediterranean middle-eastern room, there is bright sunshine outside, but the widows are shuttered and the door is closed to keep the room cool. There is a simple kitchen area, some chairs and table, a fireplace with chairs, and in the corner a wooden bed with a hay filled mattress. When I turn up here, I am in one of the chairs and Jesus is always in the room somewhere. I never see his face, and they are not long scenes, no more than a few minutes, but in each he speaks some words and offers an act of love and service.
In one vision, he had a basin and towel, and he had my feet in his hands. He said ‘I understand these feet. I know where they’ve been. I know their wounds and I plan for their healing now.’
In another, I had my head on his chest, and he had his hand on the back of my head. The sense of his presence makes my heart fit to burst.
In another vision, he had made up a bed in the corner and he said ‘Come over and rest here’. When I went over, he then moved over to in front of the fire and slept on the hard floor.
In yet another, Jesus is preparing food and saying ‘You’re welcome to come here. I’m always present with you here’. And another, when he stands in front of me with his forehead against my forehead and we breath deeply the same air.
And there, in that room, with the brightest of light outside, held back by the shaded windows and door, I’ve discovered a sanctuary and a place of encounter. A place where the Risen One has welcomed me and ministered to me, in the depths of my heart. This, for me, is the heart of prayer. It is being in the presence of Jesus. This new experience of him has been a path for deeper engagement about important things and I now find that in my spirit, and in the space of my imagination I can access that visual image, find a rest there and hear his message to me in the moment.
On reflecting, I later discover that this house is the one that I often ‘see’ when I imagine the stories of Jesus in the bible. I don’t know if everyone does that when they read, but I can imagine the scenes. In this house I recognise that I’ve seen Mary and Martha, I’ve seen the woman search for a coin, I’ve seen the paralysed man lowered down through the roof, I’ve watched Jesus feet being anointed by the woman, and I’ve watched Zacchaeus hold out bags of coins to those he has wronged. I’ve heard him preach there, I’ve watched him raise Jairus’ daughter there, heal and be served by Peter’s mother in law. This, in my mind, is the Jesus Room. And now, I enter into it and I meet the Jesus who ministers there. Of course, all those things didn’t happen in the same room, but in my mind, I discover that I’ve already made this space synonymous with the presence of Jesus.
I wanted to share this because although I’m not recommending a particular method or way of praying, or suggesting its for everyone, I am, however, certain that the desire of the Father is for us to encounter the Risen Christ and that he will work with all the heart, soul, mind and strength offered to him for that encounter to take place.
I realise that in that room I am no-one apart from a friend of Jesus. That designation, friend, can seem like a bit of a cheesy one but in the very Johanine sense, I’ve sensed that deeper level of friendship with Jesus in that room through the acts of hospitality and welcome that I’ve experienced there. I’m reminded that I am one whom Jesus loves, welcomes and embraces; heals, restores and blesses. He knows us, and he knows the ways to capture our attention if we will indeed be open to meet with him.
I am so thankful for this gift; the gift of friendship and presence. There’s no place I’d rather be.