Excerpted from Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke by Bill Gaultiere.
Have you ever seen something that brought you distress or even traumatized you? Do you have any harmful images you’ve internalized that periodically come back to upset you?
Many people that I talk with have painful memories from childhood or later in life that continue to trouble them many years later. Abuse. Abandonment. Being distressed or in need, yet feeling that no one understands how you feel. Hurtful things said or done under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Frightening scenes from a movie. Pornographic images. Regret for bad choices. Angry explosions. The list goes on.
What do you do with these harmful memories and images? Maybe we try to forget about them. We try not to feel. But this means becoming more emotionally detached, less alive, and less able to empathize well with others.
Images are powerful for good or bad. They carry emotion. They facilitate an enduring attachment. When we’ve absorbed a harmful visual scene it can wreck havoc in our mind and body. We need to experience the “washing of the word” that God offers (Ephesians 5:26). We need positive, Biblical images and symbols to fill our thoughts and our emotions and to strengthen us to share God’s peace and wisdom with others. (Philippians 4:8).
I Kept Seeing a Horrifying Scene
Recently Kristi and I were driving in Mexico to minister to pastors there and we got stuck in a traffic jam. Two hours later we came to the police cars and the scene of an accident. I looked onto the road and saw the bloody and dismembered remains of a man next to his motorcycle. My stomach felt sick and immediately I began to pray that he had trusted Christ and was in heaven and to pray for his family and friends.
But I couldn’t get the image of what I saw out of my mind — and the feeling of wanting to vomit or crawl out of my skin! Even a week later and after sharing my emotions with Kristi and asking God to free me I was still experiencing intrusive and upsetting recollections. I kept praying for the man and his loved ones, but now I needed special prayer!
The Ghastly Image Became Glorious!
The Lord provided a meditative prayer exercise that worked on freeing me from this distress and redeeming the traumatic image. I found the exercise in a book that Kristi recommended to me: Experiencing Healing Prayer by Rick Richardson.
There are seven steps in the prayer exercise and as I went through this process the Spirit of Jesus went with me to the scene of the accident and I saw the dead body but immediately it was changed: It became white and filled with glorious light and it rose up to heaven! This was my prayer for this man and the people who are grieving his death!
The new and God-blessed image has stuck in me. When the tragic and awful scene comes back to me I see God’s redemption of it. Instead of being distressed I feel at peace. Instead of being frustrated by an intrusive image I’m thankful to offer another prayer for the man’s loved ones.
A Visualization Prayer Exercise to Free You From Harmful Images
I’d like to share with you the healing prayer process that God used to cleanse my mind and help me release this man to the Lord. You can follow these steps of prayer not only for intrusive images, but also for painful memories or patterns of emotional stuckness. (These steps are adapted from Richardson, pp. 95-96.)
Seven steps to receive healing prayer from God for painful or destructive images:
- Set aside about 30 minutes for prayer. Find a beautiful, secluded spot in nature or a quiet chair in your home where you can pray and open your heart to the Lord.
- Give thanks and praise to the Lord Jesus. Using a favorite Scripture helps.
- Consecrate your imagination to God. Ask the Lord to set you free from harmful images and memories. Ask him to fill your mind and your whole being with pictures that are true and lovely and encouraging.
- Ask God to show you an image or memory that needs healing. It might be a hurtful scene from your childhood, an angry or violent episode (even one that you saw in a movie), a lustful image, something frightening you experienced, or a memory of emotional wounding.
- Imagine Jesus. You might see him on the cross or risen from the dead and shining in glory. You might see him with his hands or arms open to you. You might recall a Gospel scene and see Jesus ministering to you in that way.
- Ask the Lord to help you “pull out” the harmful image(s) from your mind. Use your hand to symbolically due this for each polluting picture that you recall.
- Look at Christ Jesus and listen. What did he do with the painful image(s)? How is he showing you God’s love? Open your mind to the Holy Spirit to receive a new and redemptive image. You might see Jesus get rid of the bad image in some way. Or you might see the Lord minister to you in a personal way.
Usually Additional Help is Needed
You may find it helpful or necessary to engage in a number of healing prayer sessions like this. Or may find that private prayer is not enough to help you experience greater personal freedom and healing from the effects of trauma, wounding, or intrusive images. That’s often the case. There are other ways that God brings emotional healing and deliverance.
God has made us as relational beings and just as our wounds usually come from people so also we need to participate in “love one another” relationships in the Body of Christ to overcome our hurts and dysfunctions. This is why it’s often the case that for healing prayer to be effective it must be mediated by a compassionate person who is trained. Other times God delivers us without explicit prayer ministry, but through receiving empathy and care as we share with a counselor or soul friend or learn to make changes.