Kelly Guest suggests reading Biblical novels as a way to enhance your prayer life.
The older I get, the more I lose – my keys, my cell phone, a credit card, the post-it note with my grocery list. ... Some days I even feel as if I am losing my sanity. Usually, it is just a temporary loss (my sanity included). But then, there’s my imagination. As I have gotten older, I have lost some of my imaginative powers. I suppose imagination is something most adults lose as we are thrown into the practical ins and outs of everyday life.
The lack of imagination is a hindrance in life, really. After all, some days, in certain moments, it is quite necessary to be able to imagine oneself on a deserted island sitting on a beautiful beach with nothing but a good book. Am I right?
Imagination, I dare say, is also important in one’s prayer life.
Lectio Divina is a popular and fruitful form of private prayer. This method suggests that after reading a Scripture passage, to reread it and place oneself in the story—either as a bystander or as a person in the narrative. Using your imagination this way can really enhance your prayer life and open you up to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
In all honesty, watching The Chosen has greatly aided my prayer life. Jesus, the Apostles, Our Lady, and Mary Magdalene have taken on more personality and even humanity, becoming more relatable to me. The words in my Bible come alive with attitude and personality.
Another aid to praying and meditating on Scriptures has been one of my new-found favorite genres of books: Biblical novels.
My first experience reading a Biblical novel was The Red Tent, a tale about Dinah, Jacob's only daughter. When I first read it years ago, I did not really like it. I did not agree with author Anita Diamant's version of certain events in the Bible. I could, however, appreciate the research that went into the book. Admittedly, The Red Tent gave me greater insight into the living conditions of the women of Old Testament times. Upon reading it a second time more recently, I better appreciated Ms. Diamant work, though there are still some aspects of the story I do not agree with. And that's okay; my imagination leads me a different place than the author's.
Something to remember when reading Biblical novels is that the authors are filling in back-stories and missing pieces with their own imagination. These books are fiction, yet the research and thought that goes into the telling of the Bible story ignites our own curiosity and sparks our imagination.
One of my favorite authors is Tessa Afshar. She has given me insights into the lives of Ruth, the woman Jesus cured of a hemorrhage, Priscilla and Aquila from Acts of the Apostles, and many more. My favorite novel of hers is about Rahab, the prostitute who helped the Israelites conquer Jericho and became the great-great-grandmother of King David. Pearl in the Sand adds understanding and insights to the events told in Joshua 2-6 that just makes me marvel at God’s tender mercy and patient love when dealing with us. Truly, Rahab’s story proves that “all things work for the good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Angela Hunt writes a beautiful and intriguing tale of Esther. Queen Esther is the epitome of courage, doing what is right despite being afraid. I love Ms. Hunt’s take on this admirable woman and appreciate the historical look into King Xerxes’ court. Reading Esther: Royal Beauty solidifies my belief that God puts us in certain situations for the purpose of furthering His Kingdom. In other words, like Esther, we are made for this moment. With God, there is no coincidence, only a calling.
Diana Wallis Taylor's novel Martha gives us an understanding as to why Jesus' friend may have often been anxious. Ms. Taylor’s novel moves me to contemplate Martha’s life—why was she not married, how she and her family became friends with Jesus, what life was like for them after Jesus raised her brother from the dead, and what became of her after Jesus’ Resurrection. Martha: A Novel triggered in me a greater interest in this friend of Jesus beyond His gentle scolding of her anxious complaint.
My book club just finished reading Love in a Broken Vessel by Mesu Andrews, another one of my favorite authors. This novel about the prophet Hosea and his harlot wife Gomer gives a powerful message about marriage – God is always at work in our marriages to better us individually, as a family, and a society. Needless to say, it was not easy for Hosea to be married to a prostitute; however, it also was not easy for Gomer to be married to a prophet.
Some of the ladies in the book club were more sympathetic to Gomer than others. Yet, we all could admit that all of us are broken in some way. Likewise, we need to believe that God can take our broken pieces and make something beautiful—if we let Him.
Reading Biblical novels has sparked my imagination. It has caused me to think deeper about the people that encountered God in the Old Testament and that Jesus encountered in the New. I wonder about them. Then, I ask the Holy Spirit to guide my imagination to the lesson He has for me through their stories.
When praying with Scripture, picturing oneself there in the scene is an effective way to contemplate what God is trying to teach. Reading Biblical novels can be an aid to our imagination and make these meditations even more fruitful. As summer approaches and some more time for reading may present itself, try one of these quick reads. It just may enhance your prayer life.
Copyright 2022 Kelly Guest
Images: (top) copyright 2022 Kelly Guest, all rights reserved; (bottom) Canva
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About the Author
Kelly Guest was blessed to be a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia for five years. There she received the many graces she draws upon today as a wife and mother of nine children. Wishing to share with other moms encouragement on our quest to become holy through motherhood, she blogs at Nun2Nine.com and CatholicMom.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram @nun2nine. Kelly's book, Saintly Moms: 25 Stories of Holiness, is due out October 1, 2021.