31 Jan 2010

Powerful Prayer through Visualization

A number of years ago, I listened to a tape series about prayer by Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline. One lesson that stood out to me and made a marked difference in my prayer life was his recommendation to visualize prayer. You will experience at least four beneficial shifts when you incorporate prayer visualization into your prayer life.

First, specificity. When you take time to vividly imagine what your prayer would look like answered and lift that image with all its details upto God you tend to be far more specific in what you pray. For example, I had an extremely unruly Sunday School class of Junior High kids once. (Okay, may be more than just once)  I was about to give up on teaching the class. I was at my wits end.

God-incidentally while I was in this struggle I happened to listen to a Richard Foster tape about how to pray by visualizing prayer. I decided to go in early to class one Sunday and take time to pray for each child before they arrived using suggestions Foster had about visualizing the outcome we would love to see happen. I walked around our table and stood behind each empty chair and prayed for the child who would be sitting in it. I visualized them engaged, helping, curious, and enjoying the class.  I prayed for each one of them and then for the class as a whole. I pictured how they interacted.  Imagined the excitement in their voices.

The result — My class was a very different class from that point forward.  I can’t explain how it changed things. I just know it did.  At some level, it changed me and I am sure I brought a completely different spirit to the class. May be that’s all it was. Or, then again may be this specificity and attention to pray opened space for the Holy Spirit to move in ways I didn’t quite understand.

By the way, even when you aren’t visualizing prayers one of the best tips on prayer I can give you is to slow down and be specific in what you pray. This will deepen your prayer life in tremendous ways.

Second, extended prayer. When you slow down to visualize prayer you spend more time praying. A prayer of “God please heal Margie’s broken hip.” becomes several minutes of picturing Margie standing straight and tall, happy, free of pain, and delightfully mobile. I find myself more engaged and actively concerned for the person when I do this.

Third, a growing ability to focus. Between the fast pace of media, constantly interrupting cell phones, and an incessant habit of multi-tasking, many people are finding themselves having a growing difficult focusing in prayer.  If that is you, then you will very likely struggle at first with visualizing your prayers. (Also, keep reading because I have a free resource to help you overcome a messy distracted mind in prayer.) However, with practice your ability to focus will grow. You will even see an increased focus in your prayers that are not marked by visualization.

Fourth, greater efficacy. Why? How? I don’t know, but prayers that I slow down to actively visualize seem to be more obviously answered. May be I’m just watching with greater frequency because I have a picture in my head that I am waiting to see in reality. Or, may be because the intent of my prayer is so much clearer God is more response. I can’t really explain it and you don’t have to take my word for it. Try visualizing your prayers and draw your own conclusion. So far, though greater efficacy seems to go hand-in-hand with visualizing my prayer.

How to Start.

Select something to focus on in prayer. Picture the person or situation you are praying for as it is now as vividly as you can. Start with a mental image and then one by one layer in all of your other senses. Next, picture how things are changing into how you would hope that they would be. Once again, make the picture as complete and concrete as possible.  Hold this image in your mind and lift it up as your prayer to God. It is really that simple and that difficult.

Here is one last thought for you to consider if for some reason you are hesitant to take time to envision your prayers. Many of the revelatory experiences that people have of God in the Bible are dreams and visions. God speaks to people through images that he places in their minds. Doesn’t it just make sense that we might want to communicate back with Him in that same way. God gave us amazing creative minds. Let us use the fullness of our minds to connect with God in prayer.


Get Your FREE Guide Now

Focus is a very real but fortunately correctable problem. You can supercharge your prayer attention with a few simple strategies.

My Prayer Focus Playbook will give you step-by-step instructions to tame your wandering mind. Learn how to:

  • Mentally engage your attention with 3 proven prayer models (ones I’ve personally used)
  • Use 4 tried and true journaling techniques to physically engage your attention
  • Get access to more great prayer resources

Click the button below to get your FREE Prayer Focus Playbook

Get Your FREE Guide Now
Get Your FREE Guide Now


3 Responses

  1. Linux

    I agree with your article. I read some other viewpoints online that oppose visualizing, stating that it’s an occult practice. But I have to wonder just how effective the prayer lives are of those who oppose visualizing. Jesus said that we shouldn’t ramble on like pagans when we pray. Well, as you stated above, how many times can we say the words: “God, please heal Margie’s broken hip?” I wondered about this years ago, how can I pray for something without babbling on and on? It never made sense and my prays always went unanswered.

    Now, I know there have been crazy people in the past – many Catholics and occultists – imagining weird things. Apparently Francis of Assisi imagined talking Jesus off the cross!?! Talking his Saviour off the cross? That’s crazy because you can’t get saved if Jesus didn’t die for you!

    Anyway, for those who read this article, please forget what the crazy people did and give visualizing a try. Learning about this has given me a new hope in my Christian life, that I can finally become the person God wants me to become. I can become that person by seeing myself as the person that He says I am.

  2. Bella

    I’d agree with visualising only to the extent of using the images God has given us in His word, e.g. Abraham’s children being numerous like the sand grains on the beach, or Jesus’ parables, which are all pictures in our minds as we hear them. The Bible is full of imagery.

    I do not agree with forming our own pictures if they don’t fit with God’s word, just as we get nowhere praying outside of His will.

    Advertisers use images because they pack a bigger punch than words, and it’s undoubtedly true that we get absorbed by what we concentrate on, the more so if it’s pictorial.

    A safety rule would be to use what the word teaches for our images, and to test all pictures we receive very carefully. The devil uses imagery too, and we are warned against our own imaginations.

    So to help children at a new school get through a difficult day with visualisations ……hmm. Not visualising that we make good friends and don’t do anything silly. How about that Jesus is with us every step of the way, our shepherd, picking us up when we fall, guarding us etc. And that we’re ok because we’re in His flock.

    New age stuff uses visualisation and seeing, and I noted there was a subtle difference between the two (once upon a time I was interested in that stuff, God forgave me). This is not safe unless it’s in God’s space. His is the spirit realm, ours the revealed, the physical. ( Sorry, can’t remember the scripture for that.) And Satan always has his counterfeit, which seems ok at first, till you find where it leads you.

    I think there is a difference between just saying, oh yes it’s like this…. a simile or metaphor, but to visualise how you will be, having done something, even a good thing, and to then try to live in that space to give you confidence, is dangerous. It’s the stepping into it that feels dangerous, to my mind.

    Shepherding image to share…
    We hear about not being cast down, don’t we? Here’s a nice picture: sheep get ‘cast down’; it’s a shepherding term obeying stuck on their back with their legs in the air, unable to right themselves if heavy with lamb or thick wool. They go into shock and die. The shepherd has to be very gentle in righting them and massaging them back to strength. They can’t be just left to it, not for quite a while. So when Jesus won’t let us be cast down, that is truly a wonderful image. He is setting us right, helping us get going again, but most of all saving our lives!

Leave a Reply