Thursday, June 16, 2011

Open the Eyes of My Heart

by Dina Sleiman

In my recent faith posts, With Unveiled Faces and Lectio Divina, I’ve been sharing ways I’ve discovered to better tap into our spiritual senses and interact with the kingdom of God that dwells within every believer. First I proposed that we have spiritual senses, but they are generally crowded out by our more powerful physical senses. Then I offered a way to read the Bible in which we savor each word and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us about it throughout the day.

This week I would like to talk about a style of relating to God that has revolutionized my personal life more than any other. It is the simple practice of engaging the imagination, otherwise known as the eyes of our hearts, in encountering God.

For much of my life I had a hard time praying, meditating on God, and hearing from God. What would happen was basically this, I would try to talk to God in words. Meanwhile, my mind would be flooded with images, daydreams, feelings, and distractions. It was like I was trying to talk at God through a radio script while the television was blasting right in front of my face. And I didn’t know how to turn the dumb thing off. As far as listening to God in such a state, well…just forget it.

Then I finally learned the secret. While you can’t turn off that inner television set, you can change the channel. You can use that inner imaging system to focus on God. You can picture meeting with him. Looking into his face. You can tune your thoughts to a favorite image of God from the Bible. The shepherd. The king on his throne. The loving father. Jesus the carpenter. The dove. Or something in nature that speaks to you of God’s divinity. The ocean. The mountains. A sunset. A campfire. You name it. Perhaps you can even meet with God on that mountaintop or beach and have a conversation, or hug, right there.

Somehow I had never thought of that. It seemed too simple. Almost like make-believe. But it is the way to engage all of ourselves in the process of prayer. To focus our whole minds on God’s presence. And here I thought a vision would have to be all super-natural and block out my normal eyesight. Not that it couldn’t happen, I suppose. But don’t you find that God often moves in much gentler, simpler, harder to pin down ways that require a bit of faith.

The ancient Hebrews knew about this. They understood dreams and visions. They understood that we had spiritual eyes that needed to look into the face of God. Imagine is one definition for the Hebrew word for meditate. The medieval Christians understood this as well. They called it Visio Divina. Who knows, maybe every Christian in the world besides me somehow understood this. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow vaguely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” Seems like this idea has been around for a long time. Maybe I just missed it. But since I did, I want to make sure no one else misses it like me.

In fact, while reading the Bible you can use this same inner imaging system. You can picture yourself living Bible stories. Imagine what it would have been like to walk with Paul, to listen to Jesus on the Mount of Olives, to go to battle beside King David. More importantly, you can engage your faith by picturing what it would look like if scripture were truer than your circumstances. How that would change your life.

I first stumbled upon this concept when my kids were small. I would worry when I left them with the babysitter. Picturing all sorts of horrible things happening to them. Prayer didn’t seem to help. Quoting scriptures just felt like some fear-ridden attempt at Christian magic spells. Finally it hit me. I could pray, maybe quote those scriptures, then I would picture the kids safe at home playing happily with their babysitter and surrounded by the angels. What a difference that made. My fear would melt away, and I could enjoy my outing.

As I’ve mentioned before. Maybe this isn’t the thing for you. Or maybe you aren’t as dense as I am, and you figured this out long ago. But for others of you, this simple technique might hold the key to deepening your awareness of the spiritual kingdom, relating to God, and hearing his voice. I hope for someone today, this is just the thing you’ve been searching for.

How do you picture God? Where is your favorite place to meet with him? If you could take a three day vacation, just you and God, where would you like to spend it?

 Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion, will release with Whitefire Publishing in 2011. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at


  1. Great post, Dina. At my house, we call this using our "holy imaginations." God-given imagination has been such a helpful prayer tool for me and my husband. We each have our own way to picture handing our burdens over to Jesus, or expressing requests through pictures rather than words, like you described with the babysitter.

    I also needed the reminder today. Thanks!

  2. This is beautiful, Dina. I don't think you were dense at all. We can hear the words of that lovely song all our lives, and long to embrace it, but then really be at a loss for how to really look full in his wonderful face. So I think the way you've presented it here will either give new tools to those of us who struggle with this, or serve as a reminder or new motivation for those who might be lax with this.

    Like Susie D, I needed this today, too.

    Three days with God, face-to-face? I'm thinking an island in the South Pacific with sunshine, salty air, dolphins and whales swimming by, palm trees, coconut, pineapple, iced-tea from Starbucks, and angels playing the harp in the background. I think God and I could have some great conversations, and he'd help me figure out so many things.

    Of course seriously, I'd take three days face-to-face with God anywhere of his choosing and be happy with it.

    Dina, this is a great post!

  3. Thanks for sharing, Susanne. Glad to know I'm not crazy :)

  4. Suzie, use that image the next time you pray. I'd be willing to bet that God will speak to you as you hangout with him on the beach.

  5. Thanks Dina. I intend to do this and you've given good ideas that will be very helpful!

  6. Dina--

    At first this seemed a little foreign to me, and then I recalled the old chorus, "Take your burden to the cross and leave it there." And how many times I'd visualized leaving things at his feet.

  7. Deb, it's kind of like the picture of your healthy baby grand daughter. We'll all be holding onto that one :)

  8. It's funny, Barb, I think this is very foreign to some denominations and very common to others. It was foreign to the denomination I grew up in where everything was logical and "word" oriented. But when you think of the Psalms and many old hymns it begins to make sense.

  9. Dina, you wrote this so well. It's beautiful.

    I love the idea of changing the channel.

    Where do I meet God? Everywhere.

    Where would I go to be alone with Him if I could go anywhere? In a treehouse.

  10. Ohh, I love tree houses, Anita. That's a great idea. I meet with him often on my shaded swing in the back yard, at the beach, and while walking the neighborhood. Some of my upcoming installments will be "A Place to Pray" and "A Time to Pray."

  11. Anita, I totally love the idea of you meeting with God in a treehouse. :-)

    Dina, I'll look forward to your upcoming posts.


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