When I was a little girl, I had a very strong sense of Jesus being with me everywhere. His presence seemed very close, whether I was at home or at school or at church.
I don’t recall talking to Jesus directly very often at this young age, but I thought about him a lot and always sensed him near. I knew that I loved him very much.
As I grew into my teen years, though, that awareness and joy faded. In its place were far-off images of what I imagined God the Father to look like: an old gentleman with silvery-white hair, seated on a huge throne, watching over the world he created.
I prayed to this Father God often in my prayer journals. Most of the time, these were prayers of contrition and sadness and desperation. I tried so hard to please this God up in the sky, and I hoped very much to find happiness and peace by serving him the best ways I knew how.
But then in my young adult years, the image of Jesus returned — and with it, a greater practice of talking directly with him.
The first time this happened, I was sitting in a small group and was invited by the group leader to do a prayer meditation exercise.
He invited all of us to close our eyes and imagine ourselves in a safe place. I imagined myself near a walking trail in the mountains where my family used to go camping from time to time. A small creek flowed nearby where I would hunt for fool’s gold with my siblings and cousins, and there was a tree with a bench underneath it right off the trail.
The group leader invited us to imagine Jesus in that scene with us. I could see myself sitting on the bench under the tree and Jesus standing right in front of me.
Next we were invited to talk with Jesus about anything we wanted. At the time, I was struggling through a great deal of anxiety and perfectionism issues in my personal and professional life, so I started to talk with him about those things.
As I poured out my heart to Jesus, he came and sat next to me on the bench. He just listened and took it all in, as though he would sit and listen forever.
That was a deeply transforming prayer experience for me, and it changed forever the way I relate to my God.
I knew him to be a God that listens, that cares, and that offers me his presence. I also learned how to listen and hear him speak to me by practicing prayer in this way over the years.
In this approach to prayer, I have imagined myself talking with Jesus in many different kinds of places. Sometimes we have walked on the beach. Other times we simply sit together in my home on the couch. More recently, we’ve been walking and talking in the woods.
Do you ever practice talking with Jesus this way? If so, where do you talk with Jesus? What are those experiences of prayer like for you?