A personal encounter with Jesus (DO try this at home!) – Jenn Krishnan
In the teaching from this past weekend’s service we discovered that we are each invited to personally encounter Jesus, to experience God’s glory firsthand (catch it here if you missed it). This can sound like a lofty, ethereal and very abstract idea. But the good news is, we can learn a very simple and consistent way to do this; to give God opportunities to meet us, through the practice of engaging our imagination in prayer, using scripture. The following are a series of prayer exercises which teach us how to do that.
These exercises are a way to engage with God using Scripture and your imagination. Using your imagination, grounded in God’s word, can pave the way for us to hear his voice and experience him at a heart level rather than just an intellectual one.
You can do them alone or with a spouse, a friend or a group by having someone read it out loud.
Before you start any of the exercises just pray and invite the Holy Spirit into your space and ask Him to drive out any distractions from your mind.
Read the exercise slowly and really take your time. Pause after each paragraph to try what has been suggested. If you find your mind wandering at any time, return to the “breath prayer” at the start – inhaling and exhaling the words suggested.
If this is new for you, don’t judge yourself for how it goes. Everyone hears from God in different ways and this is just one avenue to try if you are interested in going deeper. It’s not a silver bullet and it’s not the only pathway to God’s voice for everyone. It’s also difficult to focus our attentions for long periods of time (unless we have had lots of practise) so don’t beat yourself up if you have to return to breath prayers often. I find sometimes it is easier to focus if I do it with others. But I’m an extrovert. It may be easier for some to do it on their own.
Lastly, if you have questions or if you find that there is a lot of interference when you try it, please feel free to reach out to a staff member to chat.
Day 1: God’s Love
Intro: Over the last few years I have been practising being quiet and listening to Jesus. I have found that He often repeats Himself. He will say the same thing – maybe in a different way – many times when I come to Him. I noticed He does that in the Bible too – like how he repeated the promise to Abraham many times over many years before it came to pass. But one thing that I noticed that He seems to repeat most often is the words “I love you”. It seems like almost every time I come to him with no agenda and just ask “what do you say to me today?” He says “I love you Jenn.” He knows that it is crucial that I understand His love more than anything else He would tell me. And it is only when we are filled with His love that it can spill out onto those around us. That’s why Paul in his letter to the Ephesians prayed for them to have power to understand and be rooted in God’s love. It is not an easy thing, we need prayer and power to understand it and to be filled by it.
This exercise takes time to explore and listen to God express His love for us.
Ephesians 3:17-19 from the New Living Translation:
I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
And may you have the power to understand as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Here is the New International Version:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Lord Jesus, we ask that you would give us power and strength to understand your love. Show us the full extent of your love in our lives so that we may be filled to overflowing with it.
Slow your breathing down. Take some deep breaths. Breathe in “Jesus”, breathe out “ground me in your love”.
Picture yourself outside in front of a large tree. The tree is too large for you to wrap your arms around and too high for you to see the top of it. The roots are also large and poke out through the ground in places so that you have to step up onto them to get by. Notice Jesus’ presence there with you looking at the tree.
As you stand in the shade of this beautiful tree ask Jesus to tell you about His love for you.
First ask him to tell you or give you a picture of how wide his love is for you. In other words who else included in his wide embrace along with you? Or how wide have His arms reached out for you at times where you have strayed from his presence? Or how has He outstretched his arms to help you, to do a miracle for you or to include you in His family?
Next ask him to show you how long is His love for you. Think back over your past and ask him to show you all the ways he as loved you through it. Also ask him to affirm his faithful love to you in the future.
Now ask: How high is His love? What are the high points in your life that He has experienced with you? What is He proud of that you have accomplished or achieved or overcome?
Lastly, ask Jesus to describe the depths of his love for you. This could either mean the low points in your life or the deep things you keep hidden and close to your heart. Ask Him to show you His love and grace to you in those places.
Now just thank him for what He has shown you.
Day 2: Jesus at the door
First: pray and invite the Holy Spirit to fill the place, and drive out anything that would distract or hinder us hearing and experiencing him today.
Revelation 3:20: I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
Take some deep breaths. As you breathe in say: “Jesus”. As you breathe out say: “teach me your voice”.
Close your eyes and imagine you are sitting in a house. You are in the kitchen and the table is set for two. There is a knock at the door. Then you hear a voice behind the door, calling your name. It’s Jesus calling your name as he knocks gently on the door.
What does it sound like when he calls your name? Does he use your full name or a nickname?
What does it make you feel to hear him call your name? Is there emotion in his voice? What emotion?
If at any time you start to lose focus just go back to breathing. Jesus, teach me your voice.
Picture yourself walking to the door and opening it. How do you greet Jesus? Do you say hello? Do you shake hands or hug?
What is his facial expression when you open the door? Does he have anything with him?
Invite him in to eat with you. As you sit at the table notice where Jesus sits and what he is doing. Notice the food you are eating, and what you are drinking.
How does the space feel? Is it awkward or comfortable? Do you feel at peace or rushed?
If you feel uncomfortable in any way tell Jesus how you feel and ask him why.
Now ask Jesus what he wants to talk about today. Listen for the first thing that comes to mind.
Respond to whatever Jesus said and have a conversation with him.
If you hear a voice that is not from God (fear, judgement, accusations, lies) then just tell it to be quiet in the name of Jesus.
Now thank him for what he has said and what he has taught you about his voice and presence with you.
Day 3: Jesus, light my path
John 8:12 – “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
Take some deep breaths, Inhale “Jesus…”. Exhale, “Light my path.”
Imagine Jesus with you, holding a flashlight, walking down a trail in the forest.
Though it feels dark all around you, as you walk closely with Jesus, he is clearly lighting the path before you.
Now as you are walking with Jesus on this path together, take a moment to thank him. Whether your week has felt ‘well-lit’ and aligned with Him, or whether your week has felt like you’re walking a forest trail, groping in the dark – take a moment to thank him that He has never left your side. He has been with you at each moment. You were never, not for a single moment, alone this past week. Thank him.
Remember, if you get distracted or lose focus, return to inhaling “Jesus” and exhaling “light my path.”
Pray: “Jesus, would you bring to mind right now a memory; a time when I felt like I was in a dark place (maybe because of sin, maybe disorientation, maybe discouragement, disappointment) but where your light then seemed to suddenly break through.” So the focus isn’t on the dark place, but the focus is the moment or circumstances when the light of Jesus seemed to penetrate the difficult place you found yourself in. You felt hope stirring; you felt strengthened.
Jesus, would you bring a memory to mind where it felt dark, hopeless, discouraging, disorienting, but where I then experienced a breakthrough.
Jesus – why that memory?
Now hear the words of Jesus in John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you have the light that leads to life.” (Read 2x)
Jesus what encouragement to you have for us in this moment? What is it you want us to know? Why are you bringing this memory to mind?
Jesus, light my path.
Day 4: You know me
First: pray and invite the Holy Spirit to fill the place, and drive out anything that would distract or hinder us hearing and experiencing him today.
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!
Take some deep breaths. As you breathe in say: “Jesus, know my heart” as you breathe out “you know everything about me”.
Just rest in the fact that you are completely known right now. Jesus knows everything about you, your every thought and action, and He completely adores you.
Picture Jesus sitting with you. Imagine you are having coffee or tea together, just the two of you. Ask Him to tell you what He knows about you today. What is it about your heart that He has examined and wants to share with you? Or maybe it’s a thought that He knows about. Is it a longing or a feeling or a desire? Is it a truth about your character or personality? Maybe it is a secret that you have kept hidden from everyone else.
Jesus, what do you know about each of us today?
As you sit with Jesus, sipping your hot drink, notice what his facial expression looks like. Where is He sitting? What is His posture towards you?
Ask Him why He noticed that about you today.
Jesus, why did you notice that today? Is there something you want to say about it? Is there something we need to know about our hearts? Do you have any encouragement or comfort or affirmation for us today?
Now let’s focus on verse 5: “You go before me and follow me.”
Take some more deep breaths. Inhale: Jesus you are ahead of me. Exhale: Jesus you are behind me.
Jesus, where have you been going before us and behind us and we didn’t realize it? How have you prepared the way for us or watched our backs?
Ask Jesus to give you a picture of how or where He has been before and behind you.
What is He doing in the picture? How has He been involved in your life?
Now thank Him for His words to you over coffee. Thank Him for how He has been involved in your life when you didn’t even realize it.
Day 5: Say “no” to myself
John 12:24-26 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
Matthew 16:24-26 Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Jesus is telling us that there are things we have to let go of in order to follow Him. Often even things that we love. This is an unwelcome message to any human ear – especially for us in North America where we avoid suffering at all costs and self-fulfillment is viewed as a human right. It has no relevance in a culture where we are encouraged to pursue our own happiness any way we can. But Jesus laid down the right to self-fulfillment the moment He came to earth. He willingly laid down the glory and comforts of heaven and came to earth to serve and to suffer and to save. And He calls us to follow him in holding self-fulfillment loosely. This means letting go of sins we enjoy, and could also mean letting go of thought patterns that have become habits, even relationships that keep us from following Christ or dreams that are out of line with His will for us.
Before we start to work through this passage, just take some deep breaths.
Inhale: Jesus I want to follow you. Exhale: Where you are, I will be.
Pray: “Jesus, show me what you want me to learn to deny today. What crosses do I need to take up so that I can follow you more closely? What things am I trying to hold onto at the expense of my soul?”
Once you have heard from Jesus imagine that you are holding the thing you are meant to deny. What does it look like?
Imagine that you are carrying that thing, like a burden, on your back on a rocky dirt path. How does it feel? Is it heavy or light? Is it rough and uncomfortable on your back or is it smooth? Does it drag behind you? Is it easy or difficult to carry? Why does it feel like this?
Imagine yourself carrying it up the hill of Golgotha to the cross of Christ. Walk up to the cross, climb up and nail the burden up on the cross. Note where Jesus is and what he is doing as you climb up. Is he with you?
Climb down and consider how you feel now that you are not carrying it. Has anything changed? What do you notice around you?
Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits) says: “Sin is our unwillingness to trust that what God wants for us is our deepest happiness.”
Take a few deep breaths. Inhale: I trust you Father God. Exhale: With my happiness.
The life of Jesus is a demonstration and a promise for us of what will happen when we follow Him, even into discomfort, difficulty and suffering. He rose triumphantly from the grave, conquering death forever! We too will conquer things when we lay them down to follow Jesus. And we will rise triumphantly – not just at the end of our lives on earth but even in our current lives as we learn to rise above everything that separates us from our loving Heavenly Father and His plans for us.
Now that you have nailed your burden to the cross, picture yourself walking out of a tomb on a sunny morning just as Jesus did. Is Jesus there? What does He do or say?
Pray and thank Him for what He has freed you from today and ask Him to help you walk in freedom from now on.