Tune into your prayer life

Share This
Print this Add your Event

Jesus heals a leper in a scene from The Chosen.

Jesus heals a leper in a scene from The Chosen. The author has come to fresh understandings about Jesus from watching and praying about the series. (The Chosen press photos, press.thechosen.tv)

MY INSATIABLE DESIRE to be with Jesus and learn from him draws me to scripture, and praying with the word of God is part of my daily life. The power of the word of God is hard to capture and even more difficult to express. Yet from Da Vinci’s The Last Supper to the musical Godspell, thousands of people continue to share the fruits of their own prayer via artistic expression. Their efforts enrich our own prayer experiences and even lead us back to the Bible for a more profound personal encounter.

This has been my experience of The Chosen, a downloadable TV series created and produced by Dallas Jenkins, the biggest crowd-funded TV project in history. Why do people all over the world continue to fund this endeavor? Perhaps it is because—as the show states—“all biblical and historical context and any artistic imagination are designed to support the truth and intention of the Scriptures. Viewers are encouraged to read the Gospels.”

Perhaps, like me, viewers desire a fresh encounter with Christ that leads them back to the word and teaches them to pray. Of the many good episodes I have watched, I want to highlight one that I found particularly informative and transformative. I’ll break it down bit by bit, similar to how I pray with scripture: by using imaginative prayer or “Ignatian contemplation.” Saint Ignatius developed this type of prayer that encourages vivid imagination of biblical scenes.

Enter the scene

In each episode of The Chosen, we are invited to enter scenes of scripture. “Entering the scene” is at the heart of Ignatian contemplation. It is a way to deepen our relationship with Jesus and our personal identities as children of God. The episode I have in mind is simply titled “Matthew 4:24,” which illustrates this verse from the Gospel of Matthew:

His fame spread to all of Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them.

The scene begins with two of the apostles talking to each other. Matthew asks Philip to teach him more about prayer. Walking alongside Matthew and Philip, we see the long lines of people waiting to be cured. We hear the joyful cries of those who have been healed. We catch glimpses of the apostles setting up camp. They are building tents, gathering food, caring for the crowds, playing games and getting to know one another better. They are exhausted from their travels, excited about the miracles, concerned about people’s motivations, and plagued with uncertainty about the future.

Everything about their situation is irregular. In a time when students choose their own rabbi, the apostles are a motley crew chosen by their teacher, Jesus. Each follower has a unique personality and story. The crowds, constant travels, and unexpected events are elements of a reality they had not anticipated when they agreed to follow Jesus. We arrive at the scene as mere observers and soon become participants.

Engage the senses

As evening settles, we, too, settle more deeply into this moment with the apostles. We join them at camp and imagine the taste of the food shared at a meal and listen to the sounds of locusts, owls, and people in the distance. We imagine the conversations among the followers while Jesus is away with the crowds. Mary and other women are among the apostles, and we can appreciate the group’s honest conversations about religion, identity, loss of a parent, expectations, and the meaning of happiness.

We come to see the life of Jesus through the eyes of those who are following him, through the eyes of those who are being affirmed and challenged by the way he lives. In joining this group of followers around the fire, we, too, come to sense our authentic selves in this conversation. We, too, in following Jesus, are led to think of the deeper reality and questions of life.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church encourages all Christians to “‘learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:8)’ by frequent reading of divine Scriptures. ... Let them remember, however, that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that a dialogue takes place between God and [person].”

Allow emotions and deeper questions to surface

The conversations depicted by Jesus’ followers in this episode reflect what can happen within our souls during prayer. By entering the scene and engaging our senses, we allow our most vulnerable feelings to surface: feelings of doubt, fear, frustration, resentment, confusion, unworthiness, and shame. These strong feelings give way to deeper questions in our hearts: How long will this last? Why hasn’t God healed me? Why haven’t I asked God for healing? What is happening? What am I part of? Does God really need me?

Jonathan Roumie
Jonathan Roumie is a Catholic whose faith informs his role as Jesus.


Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus in The Chosen, told the National Catholic Register about a pivotal moment in his own life: “I was on my knees, and I said to God, ‘I don’t know why you brought me to this place. I don’t know why I’m here. I think I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I think you put this into my heart, to be an artist, to somehow serve you—but I can’t make ends meet. I’m going to need you to step in.”

Later that day, he received money in the mail that would tide him over.

“I said to God, ‘So this is how it’s going to be? Full and complete surrender, huh? Okay. You got it.’ From that moment on, my life turned on a dime—and has never been the same since. I’ve had obstacles like all of us do, stresses—but how I handled them was completely different from that moment on.”

Three months later, he received the role of Jesus in The Chosen.

Sitting with such difficult questions and emotions can seem overwhelming. When I watch The Chosen series, I often meditate on these types of questions afterward. I need time to let them sit in my heart.

As we allow questions to rise to the surface and be expressed in prayer, we may discover conflict within ourselves. In these experiences of desolation, we long for consolation from the One who seems absent. This episode captures this reality when the disciples engage in a heated argument that continues to intensify and escalate. The scene is tense and, as viewers, we wonder how this dispute could ever be resolved.

Encounter Jesus

Just then Jesus arrives on the scene. He walks through the camp completely exhausted from healing those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics. The intensity of the argument, the judgments, and the comparisons all come to a halt. Jesus doesn’t address the emotions, the behaviors, the questions, or the content of conversation. With Jesus’ mere presence, God’s people are led to honest self-reflection. No words are necessary because his presence provides perspective.

“Good night,” he says to his disciples. Silence falls over the camp, and as the camera focuses on the face of each disciple, it is clear this brief encounter with Jesus is affecting something deep within each one. Mary runs to Jesus and begins to wash his hands. “Oh, Eema [Mother], thank you,” he says. Jesus prepares to sleep and prays aloud to God. Then there is silence. This is how the episode ends.

Such an encounter with Jesus—in art, film, TV, life, or scripture—can lead the soul to silence. To a realization. To peace. We experience the humility of God whose presence meets us in the chaotic camps of our hearts.

The strength of the word of God

For me, this episode of The Chosen, based on Matthew 4:24, not only teaches me about the importance of the presence of Jesus; it enters me into prayer with Jesus. It leads me back to scripture, which likewise leads me to prayer.

Pope Francis, in his audience on January 27, 2021, speaks of the transforming power of praying with God’s word:

We read the Scriptures because they “read us.” And it is a grace to be able to recognize oneself in this passage or that character, in this or that situation. The Bible was not written for a generic humanity, but for us, for me, for you, for men and women in flesh and blood, men and women who have a name and a surname, like me, like you. And the Word of God, infused with the Holy Spirit, when it is received with an open heart, does not leave things as they were before: never. Something changes. And this is the grace and the strength of the Word of God.

Matthew 4:24 is one simple line of scripture that points to the great works Jesus was doing. Yet, in this episode of The Chosen, Jesus does not announce statistics of people he has healed. He does not brag about power or share stories of conversions. Jesus is different. His motivations are different. His movements are different. His mission is different. And he invites us to be different, to be more like him.

The Chosen has many wonderful episodes that encourage me to open my Bible and to connect more deeply with Jesus. The episode I’ve described teaches at least two foundational truths about our faith. Jesus’ presence transforms everything, and we are invited to encounter Jesus in the stories of his life. May you encounter Jesus in prayer, in scripture, in TV and film, and in your daily life! 

Related articles: VocationNetwork.org, “Religious life captured on film” and “Family movie night.”

Sister Angela Gertsema, A.S.C.J.
Sister Angela Gertsema, A.S.C.J. is a directress and a provincial councilor for her religious community.




Follow Us


Click on a date below to see the vocation events happening that day!