I have been reading a fascinating book by Tanya Luhrmann entitled “When God talks back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God.” Luhrmann is a professor of anthropology at Stanford. For the past 10 years she has been researching the way evangelical Christians talk with God. Recently she had an article in Christianity Today in which she addressed the question of why women pray more then men. She references a 2008 Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey which found that two-thirds of all women surveyed pray daily, while less than half of all men surveyed do. So she was asking why. Her conclusion “Women pray more because women are more comfortable with their imagination, and in order to pray, you need to use your imagination.”
I can personally identify with her conclusions regarding men. For years I was either confused regarding my imagination or completely disregard this vital part of my personhood. I was even told it was dangerous to my spiritual life. I was afraid that my imagining would lead me astray from the truth of Scripture. I am writing this blog, however, to encourage men to embrace their God given gift of intuition and imagination. While God certainly can’t be a product of our imagination, the truth is that if we are to know God intimately we will need to use our imagination, because as Luhrmann observes, “the imagination is the means humans must use to know the immaterial.” C.S. Lewis who used the imagination to reach many for Christ had a chapter in Mere Christianity entitled “Let’s Pretend.” “Let’s pretend,”Lewis writes, “to turn the pretence into a reality.”
With our imagination we are able to know truth through mental images as well as through rational concepts and intellectual concepts. “We live by a world picture as well as a world view. Spiritual experience consists not only of theological concepts, such as God’s attributes and the commands asserted in the Bible, but also of images like light and darkness….The imagination gives us spiritual knowledge in the form of ‘right seeing.'” (Leland Ryken). Luhrmann by means of a psychological scale for “absorption,” which measures a person’s capacity and interest in being caught up in the imagination, found that women scored more highly then men (Men, do you read romantic novels). This can explain in part why men so often feel less spiritual then women. They can easily beat themselves up for not being a good Christian like their wife. Could it be that part of the problem is the lack of imagination with us guys?
I have become convinced that men simply have a harder time in simply “receiving God’s unconditional love.” This goes back to our lack of imaginative experience. While most men reading this blog know intellectual that God loves them, many have not been able to receive the reality into their hearts. My answer has become – “You have to sit there and simply let yourself be loved.” This implies the use of the imagination. One of my favorite verse in this regard is Ps 27:8, “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.” I tell men that they need to imagine God looking at them in love, and then imagine themselves in the presence of God. Men need to do this with a humble, child-like trust in the love of God. After a time it will begin to sink into their hearts. But let me warn you, the more you think about it the further you will be moved from the realityknow you are loved. You will end up going around and around in your mind. It comes when you imagine yourself being loved by God, using your imagination and intuition. I know this from experience in my life and those of other men. So I encourage you to do some “pretending.”