According to their web site:
The Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide. VOM was founded in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ. His wife, Sabina, was imprisoned for three years.1
The April 2009 Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) publication reports on a “unique project called ‘Restoring Joy.’” 2 The “Restoring Wounded Hearts” article says, “Through ‘Restoring Joy,’ trained Christian leaders facilitate a time of healing prayer with persecution victims to increase the spiritual joy in their lives.” The VOM article describes the core of the process this way:
The prayer process is simple. First, the victim spends time focusing on Jesus’ presence. They recall the moment of trauma. Next, they purposefully invite Christ into that moment. The participant then gives Christ their pain and asks for his direction. Finally, the victim commits to doing what Jesus asks them to do.
This “prayer process” is a form of inner healing prayer, which is wholly without example in the Bible and which involves a combination of occult and psychological techniques that Christians should avoid.
Occultic Inner Healing?
The victim is asked to focus “on Jesus’ presence,” “invite Christ into that moment,” give “Christ their pain,” ask for “his direction,” and finally commit “to doing what Jesus asks them to do.” This activity of picturing and conversing with, asking direction from and “doing what Jesus asks them to do” involves imagery or visualization. The most potentially dangerous practice used by shamans and inner healers is that of imagery. There is a natural imagery that occurs in all our minds. However, the type of imagery often used by many inner healers comes right out of the occult. There are three techniques (practices) used by mental alchemists (occultists) to manipulate reality with the mind. They are:
1. Thinking—positive mental attitude or changing circumstances by thought.
2. Speaking—mantra or positive confession.
3. Visualizing or imaging—picturing in the mind.
The most powerful of these three occult practices is that of imagery or visualization. All of the senses have “images.” The images of touch, sound, smell, and taste can be formed, but they are not as powerful as images created through visualization as shamans well know.
Dave Hunt says in his book Occult Invasion:
Visualization has become an important tool among evangelicals as well—which doesn’t purge it of its occult power. [David] Yonggi Cho has made it the center of his teaching. In fact, he declares that no one can have faith unless he visualizes that for which he is praying. Yet the Bible states that faith is “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Thus visualization, the attempt to “see” the answer to one’s prayer, would work against faith rather than help it!
Of Christ, Peter said, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). In the previous verse he refers to a future “appearing of Jesus Christ.” John likewise speaks of “when he shall appear” (1 John 3:2), and Paul speaks of loving “his [future] appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). Visualizing Jesus would seem to be an unbiblical attempt to have Him appear before the proper time—unless, of course, one insists that it is only imagination. Yet those who are involved attribute results to this process that could scarcely be explained as resulting from fantasy conversations with oneself.
Furthermore, a “Christ” who would take on any color of hair or eyes and any form to suit the visualizer is not the real Lord Jesus of the Bible and history. Then who is this entity that appears in response to this occult technique to deceive Christians?3
Alan Morrison’s book titled The Serpent and the Cross: Religious Corruption in an Evil Age includes a chapter titled “Sorcerous Apprentices: The Mind-Sciences in the Church Today.” A subsection in that chapter is titled “In Your Mind’s Eye: The Occult Art of Visualization” and is a must-read for those who want to learn about the roots and promoters of visualization in the church. The following quotations are from that section:
Fundamental to our study is the fact that the development of the imagination through “visualization” exercises is one of the most ancient and widely used occult techniques for expanding the mind and opening up the psyche to new (and forbidden) areas of consciousness.4
The practice of visualization can be used in a variety of ways, but they all fall into three main types. Firstly, they can be used to provide a doorway into what psychologists call a “non-ordinary state of consciousness.” Secondly, they can be used as a means towards something called “Inner Healing” or “Healing of the Memories.” Thirdly, they can provide an instrument for the manipulation and re-creation of matter and consciousness.5
Most of the people being seduced into the practice of visualization—especially those within the Church— have not the faintest conception of the occultic aim which lies at its root. In spite of the attractions and harmless benefits put forward by its advocates, visualization is a primary gateway for demonic infiltration into human consciousness—a deception currently being worked on a truly grand scale.6
This confusion of an imagined Jesus with the actual Person of Christ is the fatal flaw in the entire psychotherapeutic visualization process, about which we shall say more shortly. How convenient it is to invite the Jesus of your own imaginings into scenes where sins can be forgiven without repentance—not only those of others who have wronged you, but also your own!7
A further question can here be raised: if each of these visualized “christs” is not the objective, risen Christ of Scripture, then who or what are the entities which are conjured up in the imaginations of professing Christians and others who are encouraged to fantasize these images by Christian psychotherapists? The plain truth is that they are little different to those “inner guides” of the secular visualizer.8
What, therefore, should be the response of the Christian to the use of visualizations involving the image of Jesus Christ? Of primary concern should be the fact that this type of activity is specifically forbidden and warned against within the pages of the Bible. It is a solemn fact that every figurative representation of God contradicts His being; and although we do not wish to obscure the fact that Jesus (as God manifested in the flesh) was a real human being, the conjuring up of a visualized image of Christ for the purposes of mental manipulation is surely a gross form of idolatry. The last thing that the Christian should be doing is relying on such images in the imagination for guidance in life or to increase faith.9 (Bold added.)
It is in the use of imagery or visualization that one can decidedly move the normal (natural) use of the imagination to that of an occult practice. It is particularly the conjuring up of an image of Jesus that can make it occult. This is what Shamans do. Shamans seek spirit guides in order to accomplish certain goals. The Shaman often consults his spirit guide and even travels with it on a Shamanic journey. The Jesus of the inner healer is unlikely to be the real Jesus, but more likely an occult spirit guide.
There are ordinary, legitimate uses of the imagination.For instance one may mentally see what is happening while reading a story or listening to a friend describe something. Imagination and visualization are normal activities for creating works of art and for developing architectural designs and even scientific theories. However, imagination by suggestion may be so focused as to move the person into an altered state of consciousness with the images becoming more powerful than reality. Other dangerous uses of imagery in or out of a trance would be attempting to manipulate reality through focused mental power or conjuring up a spirit guide. Some people are led to imagine a quiet, beautiful place and once they are mentally there, the suggestion is made to wait for a special being (person or animal) who will guide them and reveal information important for their lives. That is a form of shamanism, and the conjuring up of an image of Jesus, as in the Restoring Joy Prayer, is suspiciously shamanic.
A grossly unbiblical result of the Restoring Joy process is to treat humans as victims rather than sinners. Granted the women in the article are victims, but focusing on their victimhood and particularly in this way distorts the Gospel through shamanic means. If one would count all the Bible verses about man as victim (sinned against) and man as sinner, they are about 100 to 1 in the direction of man as sinner.
The prayer process involves recalling “the moment of trauma.” The result, according to the article is that “Entrenched barriers, erected by deep pain melt. A floodgate of suppressed emotions often pours out.” The result of the prayer process is that deep emotions are experienced and expressed. Intense emotions are expected, encouraged, and expressed in the Restoring Joy prayer. One origin of this emotional emphasis is the Freudian concept of “abreaction,” which is “the discharge of tensions by reliving in words, feelings, and actions a traumatic experience (the original cause of the tension).”10 The relief from such a dramatic experiencing of emotions leads the person to believe she has been healed. But has she been healed? Is she better off?
The article claims that the prayer process results in “freeing the person to a life of service and an intimate relationship with Jesus.” The article also claims “amazing” recovery with people “feeling mentally freed.” However, no one really knows the long-term mental, emotional, and spiritual effects of this occult seeming prayer process. We can guess from the scientific literature having to do with such traumatic occurrences as 9/11 and the counseling that followed that to “recall the moment of trauma,” as with the Restoring Joy prayer, is not a scientifically supported approach. In fact, it is found that this approach may be especially harmful in certain instances.11
The overwhelming number of participants in experiential and potentially occult activities similar to “Restoring Joy” are women. Many similar activities are also found in New Age practices, and again women are predominant in numbers, as revealed in the book Perspectives on the New Age. One writer says: “I have argued that the New Age appeals to women because it values traits that have been traditionally attributed to women (e.g., intuition, nurturance, etc.).”12 The article on “Restoring Joy reports that “Forty-seven women participated,” but there is no mention of male participants.
We are in an era of experiential theology—a feeling theology. Theology is too often formed out of personal experiences. There is a movement away from a Word orientation to a feeling orientation, away from the Word as the basis for theology to feelings as a basis for theology. Experiential theology rarely equates to biblical theology. In fact, human experience is often the worst enemy of divine revelation. If we give in to experience, such as in the Restoring Joy prayer process, our experiences will create our theology. We will have another Christ (created through mental imagery), another spirit (emotional sensations), and another gospel (salvation from victimhood and sanctification through catharsis).
1 Voice of the Martyrs, www.persecution.com.
2 “Restoring Wounded Hearts,” The Voice of the Martyrs, April 2009.
3 Dave Hunt. Occult Invasion. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998, pp. 180-183.
4 Alan Morrison. The Serpent and the Cross: Religious Corruption in an Evil Age. Birmingham, UK: K & M Books, 1994, p. 426.
5 Ibid., pp. 426, 427.
6 Ibid., p. 432.
7 Ibid., pp. 440, 441.
8 Ibid., p. 443.
9 Ibid., pp. 447, 448.
10 J. P. Chaplin. Dictionary of Psychology, New Revised Edition. New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1968, 1975, p. 2.
11 “AACC Caveat Emptor, Caveat Venditor,” PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, Vol. 12, No. 6, Nov-Dec. 2004, <http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/aacc12_6.html>.
12 James Lewis and J. Gordon Melton. Perspectives on the New Age. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992, p. 188.
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, July-August 2009, Vol. 17, No. 4)