Spiritual Practice

Imagine That: Using Guided Imagery with Scripture

Brian Hardesty

Have you ever prayed scripture with your imagination? Imagine you’re traveling down the road and you glimpse someone with torn clothes and messed up hair, sprawled in a ditch. It appears this person is hurt, though the danger seems to have passed now. Notice your pulse. What are you feeling? In your mind’s eye, go ahead and react naturally . . .

devozine Praying Teen Guy TS 117402350Guided imagery is one of several ways to pray. When we open our imaginations, we can enter into a story from the Bible and experience it through our imagination, feelings, actions, thoughts, and insights.

Guided imagery as a form of prayer and Bible reading can open us to new insights about certain life events, our  feelings or behaviors, even our deepest selves. Guided imagery meditation is a way to integrate the God stuff with our everyday existence, as well as with those once-in-a-lifetime occurrences.

How Does It Work?

  • Find a place with few distractions and get comfortable. You might want to play soft instrumental music or a nature tape in the background.
  • Read a passage of scripture, and picture the scene in your mind. Notice the sights, sounds, scents, touches, and tastes. The guided meditation below offers suggestions to help you imagine Matthew 5:14–16. To move through the guided meditation, you may:
    a) read a few lines, close your eyes and imagine this scene, then move on to read another section; or
    b) read through the meditation several times until you can tell it to yourself as you imagine; or
    c) record yourself reading the exercise using a tape recorder or a video recorder; or
    d) have a friend read aloud the guided meditation.
  • Let your mind relax and roam. It’s OK to let images come and go.
  • If you get stuck or uncomfortable, imagine a friend or a wise person coming onto the scene to help you.
  • Stop anytime you need to. When you have finished, discuss your experience with a trusted friend, pastor, or teacher.

Are You Ready?

Take some deep, relaxing breaths. Read Matthew 5:14–16 and focus on the image of light, often used as a symbol of the divine presence.

Become very quiet. Take a few deep, slow breaths. And let your imagination go . . .

Picture yourself in a grassy area. . . . The sun is shining, penetrating your skin. . . . You begin to walk, aware of the colors, fragrances, and sights around you. . . .

You come to a dwelling of some kind. . . . Observe the details of this structure from the outside. . . . What is the door like? What is it made of? What color and texture is it?. . . . Walk up to the front door, open it, and slowly walk inside. . . .

You notice a lamp; light it. . . . Sense the light moving throughout the room, illuminating the whole structure. . . . You become aware that you too are radiating your presence throughout this place. . . . Identify with the quality of the light. . . .

Look for a place to put the lamp so that it might shine more brightly. . . . Observe the new intensity of the light. . . . Is there a place where you could be brighter? Move there, even if it is outside this dwelling. if you need any assistance, ask for help. . . . Look around you now, and see how your bright light affects your surroundings. . . .

Keep in touch with the quality of light that you are radiating. . . . Remember what has occurred. . . . When you feel ready, open your eyes.

Well, How Was It?

devozine Journaling TS 78395952To reflect on this experience, try one of the following:

  • Write your thoughts and insights in a journal.
  • Draw some part of the meditation.
  • Ask yourself how this experience relates to your current life situation.
  • Share your reflections with a friend.

Finally, decide whether you want to continue to work on something that emerged and how you will do that.



Guided imagery meditation can be done in groups, as well as individually. It’s a great devotional tool to use on retreats. Talk with your youth director or pastor and volunteer to lead a guided meditation for your youth group or in worship. You might even pick an appropriate scripture and write a guided meditation for the occasion.


Brian Hardesty has a great imagination and often uses guided meditation in his ministry with youth and their families. He is indebted to Carolyn Stahl Bohler and her book Opening to God: Guided Imagery Meditations on Scripture (Upper Room Books, 1996) for the meditation and for some of the ideas in this article.

—from devozine (July/August 1997). Copyright © 1997 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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