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It happened recently. A man came to me in distress about a traumatic memory that has surfaced, one he has run from his whole life. We prayed together and asked Jesus to come into that memory. What happened next was astonishing. It was a breakthrough he could have never imagined possible. This is inner healing prayer, a part of the spiritual direction work I do with men. Sometimes what happens is gentle and quiet. At other times it is dramatic.
Here are five points to help understand what inner healing prayer can do:
- When a man imagines Jesus in any kind of memory, joyful or traumatic, he is not making something up, but coming to grips with a reality he has missed. For Jesus is now present everywhere, at all times. It’s one of the great gifts bestowed on us through His Spirit.
- This prayer is all about trusting the Lord to do the work that is needed. Usually what happens is a surprise, one of the trademarks of His handiwork. It’s not what we expect, but it’s exactly what is needed.
- Inner healing prayer is not a once-for-all fix to trauma or sadness, but it can provide a breakthrough or a shift that promotes forward motion. The daily work of prayer, Scripture, and obedience is still necessary to keep alive what has happened with inner healing.
- The healing that comes does not change our painful memories, but can radically change the way we feel about them. They no longer have to hinder us, much like a runner with a strained hamstring suddenly finds he can run again.
- What happens in this prayer is a part of a much larger motion for all believers in Jesus, practicing His presence. We grow principally not by our best efforts but by the realization of His presence in all of life — from answering emails to cleaning the kitchen to dealing with a difficult relationship. Inner healing prayer just takes this work back in time through our memories.
Perhaps the best way to understand inner healing prayer is with a story of how this has worked in my life. This passage is taken from Heroic:
“One morning as I was sitting in the silence in prayer, He brought it to mind. I was around thirteen and waking up to painful realities as a young man. I was in my father’s bathroom alone staring at myself in the mirror. As I mulled over my standing with my peers at school, I was stung by shame. I hated myself and longed to be someone else more popular, more confident, more athletic. Yet that longing ricocheted back as despair. I could never be anyone else. I would always be stuck as me. I then walked out of my father’s bathroom, using the right-hand door to my parents’ bedroom. Hopelessness gripped me. This one memory was the core wound that had driven so much of my life. I could never feel at home inside of myself as a man. I was always grasping to be another man, despairing over myself.
But as the memory surfaced, something unexpected happened.
As I imagined myself before the mirror again, Jesus was there in the bathroom. He didn’t say anything or do anything. He just stood there looking at the reflection of me in the mirror. Then He opened the other door out of the bathroom, the left-hand door that went into my brother’s room. But when he opened the door, I saw no bedroom, but a sweeping landscape of forest below me out of which mountain peaks arose in the distance. I knew there would be a descent to the forest floor and then mountains to climb.
Jesus was telling me through these images that I would no longer be the man who always wanted to be someone else. I would come into my true self by following Him down into the forest and ascending the outlying peaks. It would be an arduous journey, but He would lead the way. All of this I knew with hearing a word from Him. In that moment, I knew that He knew my core wound. I knew He was going to heal me” (pp. 146-7).
All I can say is that I have never been the same since that moment. Something happened there that I could have never imagined. One of the great joys I now have is to pay it forward — to be a part of this same work in others that Jesus has done in me. He can truly make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found.
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