Where can I find Immanuel Prayer in the Bible?
This is an excellent question, and one we are asked often. We appreciate being asked this question because it’s important to evaluate everything we do in light of God’s Word. When we do, we are putting ourselves under God’s authority and aligning ourselves with the truth.
In fact, this is such a big and important topic that Jessie has written an 11-page article called "
Immanuel Prayer in the Bible."
We’ll summarize it here and let you read the article for the details.
There is no full and exact Immanuel Prayer ministry session in the Bible. There are, however, specific examples of God and Jesus modeling various elements of the Immanuel Prayer process. One key element of Immanuel Prayer is that we seek and come to see God’s perspective on our own lives and our personal history. Joseph experienced this in a way that allowed him to forgive his brothers and provide for them when they came to Egypt begging for food. Another element of Immanuel Prayer is that we have a two-fold focus: on a memory when we sensed God with us in a caring way, and on a memory when we had a hurtful experience that caused us pain. Peter experienced this two-fold focus in John 20.
Even though it is not in the Bible exactly in the form Dr. Lehman has created, scripture is full of verses and general principles that support the use of Immanuel Prayer, including:
God is always with us
God offers us a safe, loving, personal relationship with him.
God brings redemption to every aspect of our lives, including the physical, emotional, and social/relational as well as the spiritual.
God listens to us and communicates with us in ways we can understand.
God calls us to remember and share what he has done, and to give him thanks.
God’s work always produces “good fruit.” Each of these principles is derived from God’s self-revelation in his Word.
Immanuel Prayer produces the good fruit of Galatians 5:22, as well as other fruit such as humility, truth, forgiveness, generosity, and trust. There are also stories of people deciding to become followers of Jesus as a result of Immanuel sessions. You can
watch some of testimonies from people who received Immanuel Prayer.
What’s unique about Alive &Well’s Immanuel training program?
There are many trainers out there and we love learning from them as well as sharing our unique gifts and experiences. Based on our own experience, as well as feedback from others, Alive and Well’s greatest strengths are:
BREADTH: While some trainers focus on visual imagery, we encourage recipients to be aware of and to value a wide range of sensory and non-sensory indications of God's presence. That could mean a visual of Father or Spirit as well as Jesus. It could also mean an impression, physical sensation, intuition, smell or sound even if there's no visual image. The advantages of our approach mean a wider range of people start to trust that they can experience God in a wider range of ways, and it also allows more pre-verbal memories/experiences to be processed (since infants don't develop eyesight until after they're already picking up intuitive signals, tone of voice, touch, etc).
DEPTH: Instead of focusing on just 2-3 simple questions, we train facilitators to ask deepening questions that incorporate all the brain levels of the right hemisphere as well as the left "know" questions. We also train facilitators to ask more specific, targeted (yet still open-ended) questions to guide the session more intentionally/strategically toward deepening the connection with the Lord and opening up the emotional and body awareness for a more fully experiential ministry session. This is where I think our greatest strength lies, and an area that other trainers haven't really picked up on yet as far as we can tell.
EASE & FLEXIBILITY: You can take our training without traveling or paying for a trainer to come to you. Our video trainings are available for groups as small as 3 people, and you can learn right in your own home or church. You can set it up as a weekend intensive, or you can spread it out over eight weeks or even eight months.
CROSS-TRAINING: We teach very practical daily life exercises to develop interactive connection with God as a lifestyle beyond the Immanuel Prayer session itself. This is a result of our integration of Immanuel Prayer Ministry with The Life Model.
Does Jesus ALWAYS show up?
In this 5-minute video, Immanuel students, mentors, and trainers share some of their thoughts and experiences about when people have a hard time connecting with Jesus in the way we are used to expecting in Immanuel Prayer.
Can I use Immanuel with children?
11-minute video of Immanuel trainers, mentors, and students sharing ways to use Immanuel Prayer and Immanuel Lifestyle principles with children and teens.
You may also like our free Joyful Mom (link to item in shop) teaching video and handouts, and our Parenting With Joy (link to item in shop) workshop.
Last but not least, Barbara Moon has used Immanuel Prayer and Lifestyle elements with youth and families, and her
books may have some helpful ideas as well.
Isn’t Immanuel Prayer more psychological than biblical?
The short answer is:
No, Immanuel Prayer is not more psychological than biblical.
Immanuel Prayer includes psychological insights, but it is deeply grounded in the biblical worldview and the character of God as he reveals himself in his written word. If you are interested in the biblical foundations of Immanuel Prayer, you can download our free article, “Where Can I Find Immanuel Prayer in the Bible?” (use title as link to this document)
But then why do we teach about psychology so much in our classes?
At Alive and Well, we want God’s self-revelation in the bible to provide the foundation for all that we do. But because we created our materials for a group of people already well-grounded in scripture and church life, we did not spend a lot of time focused on what they had learned elsewhere. Instead, we focused on teaching only things that were new to them – in this case, the ways psychological discoveries reveal parts of God’s design for our social and emotional life. We trusted that people trained in the church would filter all of our teaching through the lens of God’s word.
We also trust that if the same God who inspired the bible also created the heavens and earth, then what we discover through scientific study will line up with what is revealed in the scriptures. The Reformed tradition within Christianity says, “All truth is God’s truth.” That is, anything we discover that is true comes from God. For example, Copernicus discovered that the earth orbited around the sun, rather than the sun around the earth. Although the church at the time initially rejected this, eventually they realized it was true. The bible doesn’t tell us this, but we have enough evidence to trust it. Thus we believe that God designed galaxies this way. In the same way, discoveries in psychology may bring helpful supplements to what scripture tells us directly. And, if they are well-tested and line up with God’s written word, we are welcome to use them to further our spiritual growth and to glorify God.
Given that one of our main goals is spiritual growth, we want to address one final question you may be asking: How can psychology, which is often the product of secular human thinking, help our spiritual growth?
Kay and Milan Yerkovich address the role of psychology in spiritual growth in their article,
“Psychological or Biblical.” They ask, “Is psychology unbiblical? How can psychology be helpful if it is humanistic and man centered?” Then they proceed to explain how they integrate psychology into their beliefs as Christians. This article reflects our thinking at Alive and Well, too, and we encourage you to read it!
Why do different people teach Immanuel Prayer differently?
Great question! It can be confusing sometimes to talk about Immanuel Prayer with other people and realize that we use different words to talk about similar ideas, and we have different styles of leading a prayer ministry session. Much of this goes back to the fact that there are multiple Immanuel trainers, and we each teach a bit differently.
Let us say, first of all, that we're all on the same team! For all of us Immanuel trainers, our desire is to help the greatest possible number of people experience safe, loving, interactive relationship with Jesus, and to help them grow in wholeness and joy through that relationship. Immanuel is a PERSON, and we want to help people encounter HIM. In order to do that, we need lots of people out there training others. And we need a variety of trainers who can reach people in a variety of contexts and cultures.
Each of us teaches in a way that is shaped by our own experiences, gifts, and contexts – and each person’s contributions are important! For example, we see the main difference between Immanuel Prayer creators Dr. Wilder and Dr. Lehman this way: Wilder almost exclusively leads Immanuel experiences in large groups because of the type of ministry he does - traveling and working with whole communities that have been traumatized by things like civil war, natural disasters, persecution, and refugeeism. So Wilder keeps a very basic framework that's as simple as possible for new people to understand, and which translates easily into other languages and cultures.
Lehman, on the other hand, primarily trains professional therapists in the U.S. - though he has started to do the occasional training for missionaries and lay people. So he does a lot more detailed training that addresses things like dissociation and parts, and he uses some more technical terms like "pernicious blockage," which basically means the catch-22 of needing God to bring healing (e.g., for fear) but being afraid of God at the same time so you find it extremely difficult to go to him to get healing for your fear.
Another trainer, Pastor Patti Velotta, has taken Karl Lehman's material and adapted it for church trainings, simplifying the process and language. We've done the same thing. As a pastor, she’s good at laying the biblical foundations from the start. She also focuses on visual impressions of Jesus’ presence in the room where the session is happening as well as in the memory. With Margaret’s psychological training, we are good at incorporating Life Model principles about joy and attachment, and we focus on a wider range of ways to experience the presence of the Triune God, and to simply be with Him as well as gain truth and understanding from Him. We think both trainings are helpful, and they complement each other well. Many people like to get trained in both styles, as it expands their repertoire of tools and understanding. There are also other trainers with their own strengths, such as Dave Bamford in Canada and Darrell Brazell in Kansas City.
Dr. Lehman uses dogs as analogy for these differences. He explains that you can look at a Chihuahua and a Great Dane and not guess they're both in the same species. But when you look through an X-ray and see their skeletons side by side, you see that they're the same on the inside even though the outside looks different. Dr. Lehman says that
anything with the basic “Immanuel” skeleton is Immanuel Prayer, no matter what the external differences in vocabulary or style.
In our own way of condensing it, here are the two main elements that all styles of Immanuel Prayer have in common:
The basic starting and ending place - and ideally present throughout the session - is an experiential sense of connection and interaction with God (or appreciation.) Starting with connection and maintaining it throughout the session does three things. First, it builds capacity for people to deal with the pain that comes up in healing work. Second, it creates an easy way for us to get the Lord's guidance throughout the whole process. As we go, we keep turning to Jesus for each thing that comes up in the session. And third, focusing on connection helps us develop healthy attachment/bonding, not just correct false beliefs. Who we love changes our actions more than what we believe, so while we want to have Jesus correct our beliefs, we also want to build a deep, healthy, loving, joyful emotional bonds with him. Our bodies and emotions can override our beliefs even when our beliefs are rooted in truth. But our bodies and emotions are far less likely to override our attachments, so the connection/bonding platform fosters more permanent change than the truth/beliefs platform does all by itself.
The focus is for the person receiving ministry to experience God for themselves not just through the visions or words of someone else. This can help avoid the wrong kind of dependence on someone else's ability to encounter God, helping people grow in their own walk with God rather than always looking to the supposedly "more spiritual" person to hear God for them.
If love is the most important thing, why does Immanuel Prayer focus on joy?
That's a really important question, especially because Jesus (Mk 12:30-31; Jn 13:34) and Paul (1 Cor 13) say love is the most important.
In order to answer, we're going to borrow heavily from Life Model Works because the answer Jim Wilder and Ed Khouri gave at the Joy Starts Here conference in 2013 is the best we've heard.
You may have heard grace defined as "unmerited favor." It's a famous definition that we believe traces back to Martin Luther. Because it's such a popular and traditional phrase within the church, many of us use it without really understanding what it means. The authors of the book Joy Starts Here offer contemporary language for this phrase: "being loved without having to work for it." God loves us not because of anything we've done to earn it (merit) but simply because he created us and values us. We are "favored" (his favorites), and he gives us the free gifts of his smile, his compassion, his delight, and the light of his face.
And here's the connection to joy: Joy is the natural response to this kind of freely given love. Joy is what it feels like to be the sparkle in someone's eye. Joy is knowing someone loves me and is glad to be with me even when I'm not my best self. The most certain source of joy is the experience of God's unconditional, unfailing love.
You may find this explanation helpful as you read Living From the Heart Jesus Gave You, Outsmarting Yourself, and other Immanuel/Life Model resources, since the connections between joy and love make various terms and concepts more clear. For example, Living From the Heart describes love bonds and fear bonds. In other places, the Life Model folks talk about joy bonds. Basically, the terms "love bonds" and "joy bonds" are interchangeable with each other and with the term "secure attachment," whereas the term "fear bonds" covers the various forms of insecure attachment.
The last point we find fascinating about love and joy relates to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). As love produces joy, joy in turn produces peace. Wilder and the other Life Model contributors reiterate the theme of shalom throughout their work. As we discover the joy of relational connection with God and others, we also discover rhythms of relational synchronization within ourselves and between ourselves and others. This synchronization - things moving together in the right amount at the right time in the right direction, etc. - is what the Bible calls peace, or the more robust Hebrew term for peace, "shalom."
Given how love, joy, and peace are related, we can't help wondering if there is actually a chain of cause and effect that runs through the spiritual fruit from love to self-control. We know when we have our relational circuits on and are living in peace, we're more likely to be patient, and if we feel patient, it's easier to be kind...but we don't have any brain science to back that up. ;) Maybe someone else will be able to explain that.
Isn't Immanuel Prayer too emotion-focused?
Here's a fantastic teaching on that topic from The Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, IL. In it, Pastor of Pastoral Care and Healing Val McIntyre gives a helpful response about how to appropriately incorporate emotion into our prayers. (It's also just a really beautiful sermon about intimacy with Jesus and his servant heart.)
Praying With Jesus Before The Throne Of Grace
Can I learn Immanuel Prayer on my own at home?
This is a good question, since many people who want to learn Immanuel don’t live near a trainer or training site (though we hope that will continue to change as more and more people learn Immanuel Prayer!)
At Alive and Well, we recommend learning Immanuel in a group, and, if possible, with someone who's been trained before. This is primarily because of the difficulties of learning and doing ministry alone without oversight or feedback from others. Inner healing prayer ministry can be incredibly powerful for healing, but that means we have to be extra careful because it also has great power to hurt people if not used well. To that end, feedback and oversight are vitally important, which is why our classes always include an experiential component where students practice facilitating, receiving and observing in a group led by a trained mentor. All our courses, including the ones you can purchase in our shop and run in your own home or church, are designed and work best for groups of three or more.
All that being said, there are situations when it's just not possible to find co-learners, not to mention experienced mentors who can give oversight and feedback. Perhaps you are the only person in your area who is interested in Immanuel, and you've already tried unsuccessfully to recruit others. In that case, use whatever you can from our materials to learn as well as you can on your own. But if at all possible, we strongly encourage you, at the very least, to find one or two people who will commit to learning with you. We recommend a specific process for this, and you can find it at the bottom of the
“How can I learn IP?” page.
If you are unable to find even one person to learn with you, ask God to provide people and then consider taking one or more of these steps forward:
Receive Immanuel Prayer online from a trained facilitator (link to…?)
Join an online Journey Group where people from around the country (or world!) can help encourage and support you as you continue to seek local co-learners.
Learn Immanuel Journaling, which you can do on your own and share with people by email, phone, or video chat. Use the book
Joyful Journey to learn how.
Search Dr. Lehman's
Immanuel Network Directory to see if there’s anyone in your area you don’t know about yet.
How do I know if it’s really God or just my imagination?
Here are four brief comments first, and then we encourage you to listen to the 12-minute video link listed under #4.
We humans are designed to think in images as well as in words. Otherwise we wouldn’t love novels and movies, be moved by art, or have such colorful and detailed memories! In fact, imagery and imagination are important elements of our reasoning processes and our spiritual growth. Here’s a
short, clear article by apologetics lecturer Dr. Art Lindsley on the importance of imagination for truthful reasoning and holy living.
Our imaginations, like our logical thoughts, can be filled with truth or falsehood. They are neither wholly bad nor wholly good but include images from God, from ourselves, from the world, and from the evil one. Thus we need to learn to pay attention to our images as well as our words, and to discern which ones align with God’s truth, goodness, and beauty. The process of aligning our imagery with God’s character and truth is sometimes called “sanctifying the imagination.” Pastor Val McIntyre offers a
helpful teaching on sanctifying our imaginations.
God can communicate through our imaginations. God spoke to Joseph through the images of dreams (Gen 37) and the apostle John through visions (Rev). The psalms are full of images. Jesus used parables and symbols (Mt 13, Jn 15). Consider how many of us have been positively impacted by the God-honoring imagery of
The Chronicles of Narnia, Tales of the Kingdom, or Hind’s Feet on
High Places. Kevin Miller of
Christianity Today’s sermon, "
Learning to Follow Jesus' Voice", explores both discerning Jesus' voice and recognizing what might get in the way of hearing him.
Immanuel Prayer helps with the process of sanctifying our imaginations in two ways. First, it helps us discover what images are already in our imaginations and offer them to God for his confirmation or correction. Second, it helps us learn to open ourselves to more of God’s presence and communication, including through our imaginations. This
12-minute video, composed of clips from our live classes, offers a more detailed teaching about discerning whether an Immanuel Prayer experience is really from God - and what to do if you're concerned it's not from God!
If I’m an introvert, does that mean my relational circuits are off all the time?
Just to give a bit more context, the full question I was originally asked is, “What if someone is a real introvert, and does not deal well with personal relationships or even being with people? Is it possible they don't have the capacity to handle relational circuits?”
That's a great question, and one I've wrestled through myself, since I'm an introvert. Here are some thoughts:
Having RCs on is not just about enjoying being around other people in an extrovert way. RCs can be on or off for introverts just as they can for extroverts, but there are different things that turn them on or off for introverts than for extroverts. I find that sometimes I'm overwhelmed by people and my RCs shut down, and being alone helps me get them back on. I can tell they're on when I feel content (rather than restless), when I feel centered and connected to myself (as opposed to stressed or numb), and/or when I'm able to settle into a sense that God is near (rather than that I have to work hard or beg to get him to hear and answer). Often this happens as I take a long walk outside or sit down with a good book. Then I can spend time with people again and enjoy it, and be in relational mode. I also know about myself that I'm much more likely to have my RCs on during a one-on-one or small group conversation than at a cocktail party or wedding reception, so I have to prepare myself to pay attention to my RCs more diligently when I'm at a big party.
So I would make a clear distinction between being introverted, on the one hand, and not dealing well with relationships and not having much capacity, on the other. Growing one's capacity and ability to deal with relationships in healthy ways can happen whether one is an introvert or extrovert, and it will look different for introverts and extroverts. For example, when my RCs are off and I don't want to talk with people, I just withdraw emotionally and come off as cold and uncaring, or anti-social. I avoid taking phone calls, I get annoyed when interrupted, etc. When my RCs are on and I don't want to talk with people, I can tell them graciously that I've hit my social limit and just need some alone time. I'll answer the phone and ask the person if we can set up a time to talk later in the day or week, and I'm able to set aside my work for necessary interruptions without grumbling about it - even when I'd rather keep working on a task. It's more about handling the situation relationally than about whether I'm naturally introverted or extroverted.
At the same time, it's quite possible, as you suggest, that a person may seem introverted because the actual issue is low capacity and their RCs shut down often or for long periods of time. Whether the person is truly an introvert or actually an extrovert who comes off as an introvert, they really need some help growing their capacity to be in joyful relationship mode. The best way to work on that is to start connecting with them as much as possible without overwhelming them. You can do this by noticing & telling them things you appreciate about them, attuning with them (listening well), and finding things that turn their RCs back on. These things can help build their capacity to deal with more difficult stuff. For some people this will take days or weeks. For others it will take years and a team of pastors, intercessors, therapists, family & friends. In the process, be careful not to overwhelm them, and be sensitive to the alone time they do want or need.
If you're involved in a relationship where the other person is like you described, I think your main tools are: prayer, keeping your own RCs on, and working on your own frustration and impatience as they arise. You might consider possibly having a frank but gracious talk with this person and offering help. It would also be valuable to find or cultivate a strong and joyful community for yourself that will work with you to love this person. You must also be willing to let the person make their own decisions about how to respond. It’s self-defeating to attempt to force or manipulate or nag someone into getting relational. That’s why prayer and doing your own internal work is such an important part of the process.
(For a downloadable PDF version of this answer, click
Hope that helps!