I practice the following spiritual exercise every day and have found it to be a tremendous way to consciously experience the love of God. (This exercise is taken directly from my book, The Godward Gaze.) I hope it will encourage you in your own daily communion with your loving Father.
Sit quietly and focus your attention on Jesus Christ.
Resist the impulse to immediately begin using words for prayer. Set your mind on the love that your heavenly Father has for you. Reject analytical thoughts about what this time is supposed to accomplish. It isn’t up to you to accomplish anything. Just turn your heart toward Him in quiet submission and wait.
If you seem to experience nothing, don’t become discouraged. If your thoughts tend to wander, remember that this is completely normal for people who have seldom known a quiet moment within themselves throughout their lifetime. Gently bring your focus back to center, upon Jesus Christ.
Listen to the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit.
While it is true that you have no agenda for your time of contemplative prayer other than to set your attention upon Him, God’s Spirit may gently guide your thoughts into various areas of your life where He wants to act. He may cause you to express prayer for yourself or others using words. However, there may be times when it isn’t necessary to frame your request in words.
Sometimes you may find yourself simply recognizing a need and mentally lifting that need upward and laying it at the feet of Jesus, without a word being expressed mentally or vocally. If you don’t know what to say, then say nothing. Simply present your requests to Him by imagining that you are laying them out before Him.
Use sanctified imagination to enjoy the affection of the divine lover.
The emphasis of the New Age Movement on visualization has caused many Christians to be afraid of using their imaginations at all in their relationship to God. However, the imagination of the believer is a powerful tool for experiencing intimacy with Him. It is tragic that many believers view the imagination as primarily the domain in which the enemy works. If the enemy of our souls will readily use our imagination, it certainly isn’t inappropriate for us to yield to the Holy Spirit to use it for God’s glory. Don’t allow the abuse of some to cause you to dismiss the value of imagination.
Some have found it helpful to imagine themselves being held in the arms of their heavenly Father, picturing Him embracing them with a big hug. Others imagine themselves sitting on His lap like a child. They imagine Him lovingly gazing into their eyes. There are many other imaginary scenarios that believers have found helpful. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how to combine your imagination with biblical faith to experience a deeper sense of intimacy with God.
Try this simple exercise as an example of using your imagination. As you read these next few paragraphs, slow down your thought process. Don’t hurry through these lines as if you’re on a mission that must be hurriedly accomplished. Use your imagination and see by faith what is described in the paragraphs that follow.
Imagine Jesus walking into the room where you are right now. He walks across the room and stands directly in front of you. He reaches out and puts His arms around you, and pulls you close to Himself to hug you.
Relax. Still your busy mind. Just rest in His embrace. He gently presses His face against your own and quietly whispers in your ear, “I love you so much. Do you know how proud I am of you? I love you more than you can possibly know. Sh-h-h. Be still and know that I love you.” Listen to Him. Wait until you sense an inner calmness. Ask Him to speak a personal word, just to you. Listen. Do you hear His voice? Linger here, in this still, quiet place, and allow Him to express His love. Wait – until you know it is appropriate to resume normal activity. Revel in His love. Don’t rush this exercise.
Are you uncomfortable with such an exercise as the one described in the preceding paragraphs? Is there anything unbiblical about what I have described? Is there anything untrue about the above scenario? Jesus does love you just as I have described. He does embrace you in His arms and longs to express His love to you in meaningful ways. I haven’t asked you to pretend anything, but rather by faith to see in your mind’s eye something that is real.
Don’t be uncomfortable with such intimacy. Sometimes men protest that such an exercise feels unnatural to them. They are correct. It is unnatural. It is supernatural. Relax. This isn’t an issue about gender. It is a matter of learning to relax in your loving Father’s embrace the way you always longed for with your earthly father when you were a young boy. Despite the messages of contemporary culture, men don’t outgrow the need for affection. If it is uncomfortable, practice the awareness of His affectionate presence until it becomes comfortable.
If you don’t see yourself as an affectionate person by default, ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind to the fact that your heavenly Father is an affectionate Person. He wants to pour out His affection on you. Once you have learned to receive it from Him, you will be encouraged to discover how much easier it is for you to give it to others, who have needed your affection for so long.