photo: The John Lennon Wall in Prague by Paul Bowman


“Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try…”


Imagine is John Lennon’s finest moment. It is his Yesterday. His Something. A year after The Beatles, in his big house in Surrey, Lennon wrote this hymn to change the world. It is utterly beautiful from the piano playing, to the melody, to the lyrics, to the brother and sisterhood of humanity sentiment. Klaus Voorman is right when he says that they should have released just the piano version.

If the whole song is Lennon’s attempt at his own Sermon On The Mount then that opening line is most iconic of all. Many conclude that this is an atheist hymn, a humanist hymn. Some whacky Americans who think that any kind of interest in helping of the poor is Soviet styled Communism might even find reason to refuse a man a Green Card because of such a song. 

Now I need to not be naive. John Lennon ran on a lot of momentary surges of adrenaline. As his son Sean said, while hosting a radio documentary to mark his dad’s 40th Birthday, Lennon changed his opinions every couple of years. 

Imagine was written at a time of political interest that was very absent from his final Double Fantasy record. From 1969 to 1972 John Lennon was all about revolution and Imagine was perhaps the most beautifully crafted protest song ever written. As he said himself it was Working Class Hero with a big dollop of sugar on top! 

When you imagine something you are thinking beyond the reality before you. Imagining no heaven kind of suggests that there is a heaven and you need to somehow imagine it away.

This is not creedal or theological. It is poetry. Lennon is making a point, not about the existence of heaven but about doing something about the state of the world now. It might even be a dig at the church for lying back and waiting for the sweet by and by rather than bringing God’s Kingdom here… now.

I have grown to see Imagine as some kind of prayer. Interestingly Lennon cited about prayer “in the Christian idiom” given to him by African American comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory as an influence on the song. In his book The Gospel According To The Beatles, Steve Turner tells us that Gregory didn’t remember what the book was but it was about positivity. 

The Imagine idea came from Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono; many of his ideas did. She had a book called Grapefruit in which she imagined weird things in keeping with her avant garde art approach:


Imagine the clouds dripping.

Dig a hole in your garden to

put them in 


Lennon took Yoko’s crazier idea and earthed it.

Yet, for me imagining is what prayer is. You have to imagine what you are asking God for. If that is a change in my own life, I need to imagine it. If that is a change in someone’s life around me I need to imagine it. If that is transformation across my neighbourhood, city, nation or world then I need to imagine it. Peace needs imagined. Justice needs imagined. Hope needs imagined. Love needs imagined.

Yoko Ono still believes that the imagination is the power in itself. I don’t. I believe that the imaging leads to prayer and from prayer to action. When I recite “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” it fires some serious imaginings. I then have to open my eyes, get off my knees and offer myself to God as an answer. Just imagining ain’t cutting it with me… or the world!

Which brings me back to that opening line. I have often said that imagining no heaven is easy. What if… what if John… what if we believed that there was a heaven and then imagined what it was like and imagined what it would look like right here on earth… now. That John would be in keeping with the spirit of your amazing song for the human race but it would now come with the creativity of God the Father, the revolutionary teaching and work of Jesus the son and the continued out working power of the Holy Spirit to make it happen. Imagine that!


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