Alive and Well Blog

“Hope for wholeness” – Jim

by Jessie Handy for Immanuel Stories

Jim shares his Immanuel Story powerfully in the video at the bottom of our home page ( and in a 2014 blog post. Now, three years later, he adds an update of how that Immanuel session, and other involvement with Immanuel-related classes before and after that session, have impacted his life and marriage.

My counselor recommended Immanuel Prayer to me because of the abuse and trauma I experienced as a child. As I prepared to receive my first Immanuel Prayer ministry session, I was so full of fear and shame messages (lies I believed about myself) that I brought a friend with me for security. During the prayer session, the Lord very gently showed me that deep down, I had been believing lies – that I was broken beyond repair, that I was unwanted and unworthy of love – more than the truth. The truth is that I am His, that He loves and delights in me. I had been living out of fear. Fear of being found out, fear of rejection. The facilitator had me hold both the lies and the truth in my open hands, and he invited the Lord to speak to me. The scales began to shift until the truth became more real than the lies. My heart flooded with joy and my eyes with tears. I was connecting with how He felt about me – not just knowing it in my head, but really experiencing it!

I received several more prayer ministry sessions, including the one with the amazing experience of Jesus baptizing me that I shared on video in 2014. (And I stopped needing to bring my friend with me.) My wife, Ann, and I also attended the Restarting class. We felt like we couldn’t get enough of “the Immanuel stuff,” so next we signed up for Forming and for Alive and Well’s Immanuel Lifestyle class at the same time!

But life was still a very bumpy ride. I was triggered often, including in my marriage. In looking back, I think the greatest effect the Immanuel process has had on our marriage is in growing our capacity for joy as we interact with the Lord as He truly is. Along with that greater joy capacity has come a greater capacity for dealing with conflict and doing hard things. Ann and I realized very early on, while reading Living From the Heart Jesus Gave You that we didn’t have love bonds. Rather, we were bonded by fear. We understood we needed to strengthen our love bonds with Jesus first, and grow our capacity for joy, and then we could work on replacing our fear bonds with love bonds.

Around that time we actually tried doing some of the bonding exercises that are in Chris and Jen Coursey’s book 30 Days of Joy: For Busy Married Couples. Some of these exercises are also taught at Thrive training. But we couldn’t do it. Our fear bonds were too strong then, and it just didn’t feel safe, so that book went back on the shelf. When we finally went to Thrive last summer (2016), a lot had changed. We were ready to go deeper. We had a willingness to be vulnerable and go to new levels of intimacy. We were discovering the freedom to live out of our true hearts. We were discovering new things about each other. I saw a playfulness in my wife I hadn’t really seen before. They had us do an exercise where we prayed for each other, and it really touched us. The whole week was very meaningful, as if God was giving us a glimpse of how life could be. We understand we aren’t there yet, that there are more hills to climb and more traumas to be healed. But it gave us so much hope! Hope for continued healing, for wholeness, and for freedom to act like ourselves and live out of the hearts that Jesus gave us!

Besides being active grandparents who build joy with their kids and grandkids, Jim and Ann are now both trained Immanuel Prayer Ministers serving the Chicago area community. They also co-lead Immanuel Lifestyle classes at their church.


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Dying WITH Jesus

by Jessie Handy for Jessie's Reflections on Scripture

Sungshim and John Loppnow


My last post, He was heard,  was an invitation to die – that is, to face into things that are actually life-giving but feel like they will kill us.

I don’t want to leave the message there, though. There’s a second and very important part of this process of dying in order to discover life: we don’t have do it alone. In fact, we can’t do it alone.

Last week I attended an Immanuel Journaling workshop led by John and Sungshim Loppnow (pictured above), co-authors of the Joyful Journey, the book on Immanuel Journaling. They made a very important point. Immanuel Prayer, they reminded us, is not about doing things FOR GOD but about doing everything WITH GOD. That is especially true when we are learning to face the things that feel like they will kill us. We need help!

The help Jesus gives is not help from afar, directions shouted down from the clouds in the general direction of earth. It is help given from right here besides us, right here inside us. It is help from someone who knows every detail of our history, our fears, our dreams, and our struggles. It is help from someone who has himself suffered and died. He sees us, he hears us, he understands how painful and scary this is for us, he is glad to be with us right in the middle of our dying – and right in the middle of our fears and hesitations about dying. 

When my my toes start tapping with anxiety, my stomach knots with fear, and my mind is racing with the urge to run away, I am not alone. Jesus empathizes with my anxiety. He knows what it feels like to have adrenaline pulsing through his body and triggering his amygdala to scream “BAD! SCARY!! RUN AWAY!!!”

The author of Hebrews actually emphasizes this reality in 4:15-16, which comes just before the passage I reflected on in my last post. We read:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are.

Not only was he tempted in every way as we are, but we read in the last post that he also suffered as we suffer. Thankfully that is not the end of the verse! It concludes with a declaration of hope:

—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jesus fully identifies with our temptations and suffering, AND he has the power to do something about it! Jesus does not merely empathize. He helps us. He empowers us. He offers us his very self – his Spirit inside us – as a source of joy, love, security, energy, and strength to do what seems impossible. Grace, says Mike Bickle, is not permission to do whatever we want. Rather, it is the power to live righteously, to do the things God is calling us to do. Jesus’ presence imparts grace for us to face into death, and through death, to live more fully.

Jesus understands the panic I feel about dying, and like a good parent, he helps me tenderly in my moments of weakness. He crouches down beside me and whispers gentle words in my ear, helping me look at the thing I fear. And when I am ready, he helps me take one step toward it and then another. He stays always within reach, encouraging and guiding me forward. I am never alone.

Immanuel Prayer and Immanuel Journaling help us experience Jesus in this way. These simple practices can help us cultivate an awareness of God with us, of Jesus drawing near to us in each moment of life. They can open us to receiving his care and help in times of need.

So if God is calling you to die in some way, as he is calling me to do, let’s NOT try really hard in our own effort to die FOR GOD. Rather, let’s die WITH GOD, accompanied, understood, and empowered by the presence of Immanuel.



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“He was heard” (Hebrews 5:7)

by Jessie Handy for Jessie's Reflections on Scripture

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“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…” (Heb 5:7-9).

I stumbled over these verses as I was reading them yesterday. I was tracking with them through the first bit. While he was on earth, Jesus prayed with loud cries and tears to be delivered from death. Got it. That’s a pretty familiar scene from Gethsemane. It was the next bit that tripped me up: “…and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” “But!” I exclaimed, “But! But what does it mean ‘he was heard’? He wasn’t delivered from death!”

After some reflection and prayer, I realized there are two ways to look at these verses. The first way is to simply explain that God heard Jesus but answered “No, I won’t deliver you from death.” We are often taught (and I’ve taught it myself) that God always hears, but for his own perfect reasons that we don’t always understand, sometimes his answer is “no” or “wait.” I think this is true for Jesus in Gethsemane. Clearly God had a much bigger salvation in mind than delivering Jesus from physical death, so his answer was “No.”

But a second perspective adds a layer of depth without negating the first perspective. What if God not only heard Jesus, but “heard” actually does mean “agreed”? What if God’s answer initially seemed like a “No” but was actually a whole-hearted “Yes!” God did, indeed, deliver Jesus from death – just not until after Jesus had suffered through it. This way of understanding the answer as a “Yes!” makes more sense of the rest of the verse: “he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Why would reverent submission be set forth as the motivating cause for a “No” from God? It’s bad logic. I can’t see how the writer could have intended us to read it that way. Rather, Jesus’ reverent submission was a key reason for God’s glorious “Yes!” in raising him from the dead.

This second perspective also makes sense of the next verse: “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” Jesus was sinless. He didn’t have to learn obedience in the sense that he was sinful and had to learn not to sin. Learning obedience, therefore, must involve more than learning to follow God’s law. Is it possible Jesus’ learning obedience involved growing in the practice of obedience under more and more difficult circumstances, and in response to more and more extreme requests? Perhaps learning obedience involves growing one’s capacity for obedience in even the most difficult situations. If this is true, then Jesus’ willingness to die, his “reverent submission” even in the face of death, was the final lesson in learning obedience. His willingness proved him perfectly obedient, regardless of God’s response to his prayers. And that submission was an essential element that motivated God’s joyous “Yes!” in the resurrection.

So what does this mean for us? From The Life Model, we learn that true maturity involves something like what Hebrews seems to mean by “learning obedience.” It involves the capacity to handle more and more difficult life circumstances while continuing to live from our true hearts – the new hearts that God gives us when he redeems us, hearts that value what he values and act as he acts. In other words, as we mature, we learn to obey in the same way Jesus did, by practice. And we learn it in order to suffer well, but we also learn it by suffering well.

In his book Living With Men, Life Model guru Jim Wilder concludes that perhaps the most important skill for children to learn is to recognize what true satisfaction feels like, and to identify what satisfies. This skill allows children to do hard things and grow into adult maturity, where they can take into account the needs and desires of others rather than just their own needs and desires. For adults to then become parents, they need to learn to give without receiving anything in return. How do we gain these skills? By practicing. By facing into the things that feel like they will kill us. (Thankfully, most of the time what we fear won’t actually kill us!)

It’s amazing how many life-giving things feel like they are killing us somewhere deep inside. For a middle schooler, perhaps it involves mowing the lawn instead of going to the movies with his friends. For a high schooler, it could be admitting to a teacher that she cheated on her exam. For college student, it might be choosing not to go all the way with his girlfriend. For a young professional, perhaps it’s losing a job opportunity because she won’t make false promises. Each of these things involves a short-term “No” which in the long run is actually a “Yes!” to discovering one’s true heart, to loving others, to sharing in the true resurrection life that is a source of life to all. Each of these things involves the same kind of willingness Jesus had – the willingness to obey in suffering, the willingness to die that evokes in God a vibrant, glorious “Yes!” that brings resurrection.

In giving up short-term, temporal, physical salvation, Jesus “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” just as he obeyed God. Another way to describe this “eternal salvation for all who obey him” is to say that the never-failing, abundant life pouring down from its source in heaven flows into and through us. God is amazingly generous, giving life at times even when we aren’t obedient – that’s what grace means, after all! But the verse says, “for all who obey him,” meaning our obedience does add to the flow of life.

Do you want that kind of life? Then a good question to ask is, “What obedience is Jesus asking of me right now in order to pour out more of the life of heaven?” Or more directly and forcefully, “What is the thing Jesus is inviting me to do (or not do) that feels like it will kill me?” Let’s be honest: it might seem like a silly little thing. For me, it is staying in conversations longer than I am comfortable – past the point where I can feel my anxiety rising, my toes starting to tap, and my mind brainstorming excuses to leave. The anxiety is rooted deep in a gut-level fear of being overwhelmed, of losing control and losing my self, which is a kind of death. But for me this feeling of death is Jesus’ invitation into obedience, and through obedience into resurrection – a new life in healthier and more loving relationships that I can’t experience without dying first. Thankfully, God’s promise is that this new life is part of his “eternal salvation” through Christ, a life overflowing with the vitality of heaven and ruled by a King who because of his obedient death is alive forever and ever.


My next post, Dying WITH Jesus, is an important follow-up to this post. Read it now


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The Gratitude Paradox, Part 2 (James 1:17)

by Jessie Handy for Jessie's Reflections on Scripture

image from etsy –


“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

In “The Paradox of Practicing Gratitude, Part 1” I described how the Lord had been inviting me to be thankful for His presence and character, not just for the good gifts He gives. Most experienced Christians know this to be an important truth, though most of us don’t practice it as consistently as we might want to.

But here’s the paradox: sometimes it’s just as important to value the gifts God gives as to value Him directly.

“What?” you’re probably saying, “You just said to value God more than his gifts!”

“Besides,” some of you are adding, “how could it be true that the Creator of the Universe is less valuable than gifts, which are mere created things?”

To quote the apostle John, “This calls for wisdom.” As with every paradox, there is a particular set of circumstances that make it true.

Before I go further, let me clarify: I am not saying that the Creator of the Universe is less valuable than His gifts, which are created. He is more valuable by far! I am saying that at particular moments in our lives our choice to value God’s gifts actually carries more weight than a choice to value God – not because God is less valuable, but because, for one reason or another, we aren’t able to value Him rightly. In those instances, valuing His gifts can be a step down the path toward learning to value Him rightly. And in very specific instances, trying to value Him rather than His gifts can actually turn people away from Him.

Let’s use the example of a woman we’ll call Shirley. Shirley grew up being physically and verbally abused by her father. In her late twenties, she finally works up the courage to share her story with someone at church and agrees to receive Immanuel Prayer ministry. Philip, the prayer minister, begins the session by asking her to remember a time of gratitude. She recalls a weekend spent at her grandmother’s house, away from her unsafe home. She feels the wash of relief and rest as she remembers her grandmother sitting on the edge of her bed, singing her to sleep. Her head tips slightly as if she is listening. A slight smile turns up one corner of her mouth. She sighs, uncrosses her legs, and leans back in the chair. A tear gently slides down her cheek.

At this moment, Shirley is feeling deep gratitude. It is tangible to her emotionally and physically. The gratitude is for her grandmother, for a safe place, for a break from the abuse. Philip has been trained to guide her to thank God for His character and not just for His gifts. He invites Shirley to tell God what she appreciates about Him from this memory. Immediately she sits up straight, her mouth turns back down, and her foot starts tapping. Inside, she feels anger, shame, and despair. She knows she is supposed to thank God for providing her grandmother, and for giving her a break from the abuse. But all she can think is, “He sent me back! After that beautiful glimpse of goodness, I had to go back to my pain!”

In a situation like this, when the recipient does not experience God as safe or good, a prayer minister must start with gratitude for the things the recipient actually feels grateful for. It is pointless to try to force gratitude towards God. The end goal is still to help the recipient experience God as good, safe, and present even in her pain. But in Immanuel Prayer, we are committed to always beginning by laying a foundation of real, tangible, felt connection and gratitude in order to build capacity and keep relational circuits on. This foundation – rooted in the emotions and body as well as the mind – provides a solid platform for building positive, tangible encounters with God later on. Only after we lay the foundation of felt gratitude can we move on to addressing the building structure of beliefs and emotions about God Himself. This may happen in a single session, or it may take a lot longer to build up the capacity to face the pain of God’s seeming betrayal.

So Philip, willing to let the process unfold in God’s timing and Shirley’s pace, re-focuses on the gratitude for God’s gifts rather than God Himself. He reflects back the good things Shirley has described: love and care from her grandmother, and a brief respite from abuse. As Shirley turns back to the sound of her grandmother’s voice singing over her, she lets her body relax and her emotions become peaceful again.

Thankfully, Philip has been staying connected to God while he has been facilitating, and he senses Jesus waiting patiently for Shirley. He knows that God uses every experience to draw us to His love, and that He invites us to value every good gift, not only the most important good gifts, and not only the good gifts that are clearly God-related (James 1:17). So, while he offers Shirley time to soak in the feeling of peace, Philip silently asks God to use this gratitude memory to draw Shirley to His safe love. He prays, “Father, help Shirley come to hear Your voice singing over her too” (Zeph 3:17).



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The Gratitude Paradox, Part 1 (1 Chronicles 16:34)

by Jessie Handy for Jessie's Reflections on Scripture

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“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chr 16:34; 2 Chr 5:13; Ps. 106:1; Ps 107:1; Ps 118:1, 29; Ps 136:1)

I must confess that although I’ve been putting the Immanuel Lifestyle into practice for many years now, it’s only been in the last twelve months that I’ve made it a habit to begin my morning prayers with gratitude. This practice has had two very obvious benefits for me. It helps me approach prayer with a greater sense of hopefulness, joy, and appreciation rather than as a task to “get through.” It also helps me become aware of my attitude as I’m starting the day – whether I’m approaching the day appreciative or critical, with my relational circuits on or off. When I can’t think of anything to be grateful for (in spite of how easy and good my life is), it’s a very obvious reminder to get my RCs on before moving forward.

A few months into this practice, I was unsurprised to find my gratitude becoming repetitive. I was consistently grateful for sunshine, the beauty of nature, times of connection with others, my dog’s snuggles, and moments of sensing God’s presence. Because I was truly, deeply grateful for these things, the repetition was not boring. But I also sensed God’s invitation to something more.

More an impression than words, the content God communicated was nevertheless quite clear. “I enjoy your gratitude very much,” He seemed to be saying, “but it’s so circumstantial. What if your circumstances change? What if you don’t have sunshine, or good relationships, or your dog? Then what?” The clear implication was that I needed to find my deepest gratitude in something unchanging – in God himself. It was not a new thought. God’s word invites us to give thanks not only because he has done good things for us, but also “because he is good” (1 Chr 16:34 and other places). It’s a well-tested truth preached and sung and written about often through the millennia. And most likely it is not a new idea to you, reader.

But are you doing it? When you express your gratitude in morning prayer, in Immanuel Journaling, in a live Immanuel Prayer session, or whenever and however you share your thanks with God, do you lift your eyes beyond your own circumstances? Do you find yourself grateful for Him and for who He is? Do you tell him so?

It’s not a difficult shift. I have started doing it, so here’s an example of what it looks like: I begin by remembering a beautiful evening walk on streets lined with purple flowering trees. The large yellow moon hangs just below the power lines, turning the flock of chattering birds there to silhouettes. The mountains up the street create a feeling of being closed-in and protected. I can smell jasmine. The breeze lifts my hair lightly, and I sigh as my body relaxes in the warm, scented air.

Then I intentionally consider what this moment of gratitude reveals about God. I let my circumstances lead me to something beyond circumstance. For one thing, He’s generous, providing beauty and variety in nature, and leading me to live in this physical place that I love. “Thank you, Lord,” I whisper, beginning to talk directly to Him. “Thank you for this beauty, for this place. I have come here because of your call, your faithfulness to continue the work you have begun in me. Thank you for being so trustworthy and so good, to me and to people throughout the ages.”

I let my imagination follow the path of my words. I am walking with Noah as he steps out of the boat onto dry land, standing with Abraham awed by the vastness of the starry sky, lying on my face with Samuel before the ark of the covenant, kneeling with Mary as she washes his feet with her tears. I remember my friend Amelie’s story about God providing a playhouse for her grandkids. I remember my friend Mike’s reverence as he shared about his encounter with Jesus. There is something about God much more vast and permanent than any of our individual stories. I begin to feel my insides expanding to embrace the fullness of God’s goodness. Filled to the brim, my inner self overflows out toward the One who has reached down into this world to show His care.

My circumstantial gratitude has turned into worship, and worship soon becomes relational interaction. I can feel His pure delight in giving good gifts, in moving each life and all of history toward a good purpose. I can also glimpse the fresh sparkle of joy in His eyes when my gaze shifts from His gifts to Him. He is so delighted in me, in my sheer existence but also especially in my attention to Him. Without words, he gladly receives and returns the warmth of my gratitude and love.

And I expect that someday when my circumstances don’t seem to line up with the reality of God’s goodness, this memory of an evening walk and of his sparkling eyes might be a vital anchor of truth, hope, and joy.

(If you are wondering, “Where’s the paradox in that?” please read on to “The Gratitude Paradox, Part 2,” where you will find the answer.)



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The Golf Ball – Jack

by Jessie Handy for Immanuel Stories

“He will give His angels charge over you, to guard you in all your ways.” (Ps 91:11)

As I began my Immanuel Prayer session, I was reminded of an incident many years ago when I felt God’s hand of protection over me and our family, nearly two decades before I surrendered control of my life to Him. As I shared the details of it, the sunny Colorado morning seemed to come alive again. I was driving my wife and children down a street beside a lovely golf course. The fragrant breeze coursed through the wide open car windows, and life felt good.

Unexpectedly, “WHAM!” Something impacted the car. I slammed on the brakes, we screeched to a halt, and a golf ball bounced away from us back in the direction of the golf course. Inspecting for damage to the vehicle, I found a dent in the corner of the door post on the driver’s side window at forehead level. Had I been a fraction of a second earlier, the golf ball would have struck me in the forehead or temple. The car would have crashed and likely injured or killed us all.

I was humbled and baffled about why I had NOT been struck in the head by that golf ball. I had turned far from God at that time in my life. I probably deserved to be smacked. But my family didn’t. And then I realized at least two other scenarios had been adverted, also by a matter of fractions of seconds or inches traveled. The golf ball could have come through the windshield and hit my wife or the open driver-side window and hit one of my children. How frightening those possibilities were! I felt overwhelmed when I thought of the possible devastation God had protected us from.

As I re-experienced the tangible reality of his protection, I became aware also of his great love, even to those of us who are living in foolish, careless ways. His plans and purposes for all of our lives will not be thwarted. His power and grace is too great for me to comprehend. I’m so grateful God is in control, even in the midst of our poor choices.
[A graduate of Alive and Well’s Immanuel Lifestyle Class, Immanuel Prayer Minister Training, and Advanced Prayer Minister Training]


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A source of help in panic and conflict – Trish

by Jessie Handy for Immanuel Stories

image from

I have been in a very intense state which might be described as being in the fire of refinement! During this time, my colleague R. and I have been watching the Immanuel Lifestyle Class videos and doing the exercises. I have been trying to get him and others interested in the Immanuel Approach ever since I learned about it three years ago. Finally, they are getting involved thanks to this video series.

During my challenging time where my relational circuits were really off, I was able to use the exercises you taught and get back to joy. I was losing it one day–I was in the depths of despair. I was practically going into a panic attack (which is REALLY unusual for me). R. said in a loud voice, “Do your exercises!” And I did. I immediately calmed down. We have also done the exercises when we have been in conflict, and they helped.

These teachings have been a life line for me. As we work through this class, my commitment to learning and sharing the Immanuel Approach has deepened. These teachings are going to be something we share with our work exchange partners and potential community members which can enrich all of our lives and help us to be closer to each other and to God.

-Trish Mikkelson

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What do I do if a recipient is afraid their IP experience is just in their imagination?

by Jessie Handy for Immanuel FAQ

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This is an excellent question, and an issue that does arise occasionally. I encourage the recipients in one or more of the following ways:

1. Explain what “imagination” means. Most people think “imagination” implies that something is false. Sometimes people use it that way. But actually the word has a much broader scope. It is related to “image” and references our ability to use images in our thoughts and communication. We do this all the time, from watching television to recognizing symbolic language in literature (and scripture) to using idioms like “my mind is exploding!” The fact that we use images to communicate does not mean that communication is false. Rather, we should explore our mental imagery to test whether it accurately represents the truth and goodness of God. We can test our imaginations in the same way we can test any other thoughts or beliefs we have, but only if we take the time to pay attention to what our imaginations are communicating! Katherine Ruch’s article “The Sacredness of Your Child’s Imagination: Part 1” provides a good example of paying attention, and bringing correction, to our imaginations.

2. Share some good teaching about the imagination and its role in Christian faith throughout history. For example, the Hebrew understanding of the word “heart” as used in the Old Testament encompasses both mind and emotions, including imagination as well as reason. Joseph’s dreams, Daniel’s visions, the imagery of the Psalms, and Jesus’ parables certainly all require some degree of imagination. The Jesuits have shared their Ignatian spiritual exercises with the wider church for centuries and are accepted as orthodox. More contemporary Christian thinkers such as C.S. Lewis provide strong arguments for imagination as well. (If C.S. Lewis’ imaginary world of Narnia communicates powerful truth, then imagination can’t be all bad!) I include links to a couple other resources in a short blog I wrote in 2014 about imagination in Immanuel Prayer.

3. If the recipient is willing, take time to just explore what IS arising in his imagination as you invite the Lord. Once you’ve noticed what is there, then you can work together to test it against scripture’s truth and to see what kind of fruit it bears in his life over time. Often a recipient will feel more comfortable with this after a simple prayer along these lines: “Lord Jesus, we invite you to help (Name) become aware of your presence and whatever you have for him here today. Please silence any communication that is not from you, unless you specifically want him to notice negative or false thoughts and images so we can bring them to you for your truth.” I often – not always – find that once a recipient begins to pay attention, the images flow freely and it becomes quite clear that the Lord is at work.

4. Finally, specific examples can be quite helpful. Feel free to offer your own, find some in the Bible or other literature, or use the ones I offer below.

An example of helpful, fruitful, true, and good imagination: As I was receiving Immanuel Prayer one time, I saw in my mind’s eye (a.k.a., my imagination) a picture of Jesus standing in a white robe a couple feet away from me. He promptly turned into a butterfly and fluttered around in what was clearly a very excited and happy way, almost as if he were dancing. Then he morphed into a lion and roared so loud it shook the ground. Jesus as a lion is clearly biblical, and the butterfly is a traditional Christian image of the resurrection. But I needed to consider what the images communicated to me. And in this case, I very clearly understood that Jesus was showing me he was both gentle and powerful. I was struggling with a feeling of depression that seemed way too big for me to handle myself, and I felt shame for not being able to get myself out of the pit I was in. But what I sensed Jesus communicating in this imagery was, “I am gentle. I am not shaming you. But I am also powerful, and I can solve this problem for you. You don’t have to fix it yourself.” (He didn’t mean I didn’t have a role in responding to the depression – just that He was the one with the real power.) All of this lined up with the truth of scripture. It also produced good fruit in me, taking away my sense of overwhelm and shame, and providing in its place peace, trust, and hope.

An example of imagination that needs correction or healing from the Lord: One woman receiving prayer saw herself as a little girl and Jesus coming toward her angry and ready to hit her as punishment for something. She was scared and ashamed, hanging her head and hunching her shoulders in a self-protective way. The combination of Jesus’ attitude and actions and her own response indicated very clearly that this image of Jesus did not match the Jesus revealed in the scriptures. The Bible portrays Jesus as slow to anger and merciful, honoring not shaming people, evoking love rather than fear. Even when he was verbally and physically abused, he did not fight back. When he does correct, he does so gently, with conviction not condemnation, giving a sense of hope rather than despair. This woman’s imagination had clearly been shaped by something other than the truth. An Immanuel Prayer facilitator’s job includes recognizing when there is a difference between the recipient’s images of Jesus and the truth. Then, instead of opening up to the false image of Jesus for his input, the facilitator can guide the recipient into a true connection and invite the real Jesus to respond to the false image.

Jesus often brings true words to correct the false beliefs we state in the form of words, and he often brings true images to correct the false beliefs we see in the form of images. Indeed, he often corrects our false beliefs only after we’ve taken the time to recognize what’s really in our imaginations and allow them to be re-shaped by his presence and truth. The imagination immersed in and shaped by God’s truth is what we call “the sanctified imagination.” For an excellent teaching on the sanctified imagination, with more helpful examples, listen to Val McIntyre here.

May the Lord fill your imagination with the joy of his love and the peace of his mercy!


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