A method for connecting to God
At the end of our Life Model classes we almost always close by doing a simple Immanuel exercise. Immanuel means “God with us” and this approach to prayer is based on the awareness that Jesus is with us. He never leaves for forsakes us. This approach was developed by Dr. Karl Lehman who writes on his website (http://www.immanuelapproach.com/) that “Thousands of professionals and lay people around the world are applying the Immanuel approach to deepen intimacy with God, permanently resolve past pain, and discern God’s ongoing guidance.”
According to Lehman, one of the important distinctions of this approach is that we are not connecting to God to relieve pain; rather we are coming to Him to simply be with Him. The primary objective is to remove barriers between our heart and Him. We are wanting to learn how to have a living, interactive connection with Jesus by focusing on Him and engaging directly with Him at every point in the session.
Many have asked, “Can I do these exercises on my own?” The answer is yes, though many people find them easier to do in a group because in a group you share capacity for joy. So if your joy capacity is low, you will benefit from having others with with higher capacity with you. Having said that, your goal can—and should be—to learn to connect to God alone so you can continually practice His presence. The more you practice these exercises the easier they get, like learning to play the piano or speak Spanish.
The first step is to pray for protection.
Here is a simple prayer: Lord Jesus, we commit ourselves to you, and we ask that you would push back any cosmic or demonic interference today and allow everyone present to experience a clear connection with you without interference or retaliation of any kind. We trust you, our Sovereign God to make it safe here today for us to experience your true presence, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Invite the Holy Spirit to come by saying simply, “Come, Holy Spirit, have your way!”
The next step is to quiet and relax. As you practice these exercises you will learn what helps you quiet and relax, but here are some ideas to get you started.
- Get in a comfortable position.
- Breathe deeply and slowly using your diaphragm, not your chest. It helps to place a hand on your tummy so you can feel it moving slowly in and out.
- Starting at the top of your head, scan your body for tension and relax any place that is tight. Pay close attention to eyes, jaw, shoulders, and stomach or any part of you that feels tense. You can simply relax any tight areas or tighten those muscles, hold them for a second and then relax. I like to roll my eyes, a technique Beth Cuje taught me because our eyes can become locked when stressed. Be sure to relax your jaw and drop your shoulders.
- Yawn. Arching your soft palate, the soft area at the back of the roof of your mouth, may help you yawn.
- Focus on taking your energy level down a notch, then do it again until all the background buzz has subsided.
The third step is to focus on a memory of a time when you sensed a close connection to God. Here again are some ideas to get you started:
- Think of a previous time when you felt a strong connection to Jesus. Recall that time and focus on it. Try to be in the memory and remember how your body and emotions felt. Look for Him; see if you can perceive His presence. Expect Him to be there.
- If you don’t have a memory of a time when you felt close to God, think of something you appreciate, for example, a person, pet, fruit, or flower. I like to focus on natural beauty, such as sunset, snow falling, flowers in spring, the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. As we feel gratitude we connect with the One who gave us those good things. Avoid things you are addicted to as well as any relationship that is a cause for concern. Try to find something for which you can experience pure gratitude to God.
- Rest in His presence for at least three minutes. Jim Wilder a neurotheologian with Life Model Works says we need three minutes of connecting to God for our brains to become elastic and open.
Joy Building Questions
Here are some questions you can ask while connected to God that will encourage joyful interactions:
- Lord, what do You love about me?
- When You formed me in the womb, what were You excited about?
- Would You sing over me?
- Can we do something fun together?
- Is there anything You want me to know?
- Is there something on Your heart that You want to share with me?
- When you think of me what are You happy (or proud) about?
- Would You show me something wonderful?
- Would You show me something beautiful?
Once you have experienced a strong connection for 3-5 minutes you can use this method to process pain. Do not try to process pain if you have not first succeeded in establishing a strong place of connection with God first.
Give your peaceful connection place a name such as Jesus, mangos, water, nature, trees, prayer, the Grand Canyon—whatever you choose. This will help anchor your connection place in your brain and help you return to it if you need to while processing pain.
Spend several minutes connected to God, asking questions that build joy.
When ready, ask Jesus to take you to a place where you do not perceive His presence. Places where we do not perceive His presence are often painful so it helps to go with Him. Pay close attention to your body and emotions. While you are in the place of connection you can ask Him questions, such as:
- What do You want me to know here?
- What am I missing?
- How do You see this situation?
- How do You see this person?
If at any point in processing the painful memory it becomes too overwhelming or painful, return to the place of connection by recalling the name you gave it and enjoy being with Jesus again.
Once you have reestablished a strong connection with Him, you can try to look at the painful place again. Here are two ways that may make it less overwhelming:
Trying looking at the painful place as if viewing it through a port hole
Ask God to show you the big picture–His point of view. You may need to go back and forth several times between the painful memory and your place of joyful connection to God. That’s okay. In fact every time you go from the place of pain to the place of joyful connection with Jesus, you strengthen your brain’s ability to get from pain to joy.
The goal is to process the painful memory until the painful emotion has been resolved and you see the situation from God’s perspective. Sometimes this means that we see that our experience was horribly painful, but we also see that it is behind us and did not last long in the light of eternity.
Remember the goal is to be with our Lord Jesus and remove anything that hinders our intimacy with Him, not through performance but by being in His presence. Do not be in a hurry; there is nothing more important than spending time with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Invite Him to reveal barriers to intimacy. Invited Him to show you where you are stuck. Be honest and real with Him about how your truly feel, not how you think you ought to feel.
Lehman writes: Our goal is to “get to the place where we perceive the Lord’s presence, and abide in an interactive connection with Jesus, as our usual, normal, baseline condition as we walk through life each day.”
The top priority is intimacy with God.
Anything you hear from the Lord should be consistent with what we read in scripture. It is good to share what you are hearing with a spiritually mature friend. Doing Immanuel is not a substitute for Bible study, quiet time with God, prayer or fellowship with other believers. We need to be in community with other saints who can speak into our lives.
Problems connecting with God usually have to do with what we believe. Since God is always with us and wants to connect with us, the problems are all on our end. But that does not mean he has left us alone and is waiting for us to figure it out. He is right here with us ready to help. In his book, Forming: A Work of Grace, David Takle writes, “When we can discern that there is a barrier between us and God, the best thing to do, paradoxically, is ask God what we need to know about that barrier. Surprisingly, very often when we cannot hear what God has to say about a passage of Scripture, we can hear what we need to know about what is blocking the connection”
If you have trouble connecting, pay attention to your feelings and thoughts. Also pay attention to spontaneous words, thoughts, images, and impressions.
Here are some common lies:
- He won’t speak to me, I am not important.
- He doesn’t love me. He never speaks to me.
- God is disappointed with me and therefore won’t speak to me.
- I’m too ___________ for God to want to interact with me.
- God talks to other people, but not me.
Ask yourself, do I believe that God wants to connect with me and is always with me?
When I think about connecting with Him, what feelings and beliefs stir up?
Am I afraid of Him?
Am I angry with Him?
When we are angry we don’t want to draw near to God because we believe He is to blame for our pain. If we are afraid we might want to ask Him to help us feel safe or even ask Him directly, Lord are You safe? Is there anything You want to tell me here?
With any painful emotion it often helps to tell God out loud how you feel. Pour out your heart to Him. Be completely honest about what you feel, even if you think it is “not right.” He knows and understands. Then be still and listen. Pay close attention to His response. Let Him acknowledge what you feel, then ask Him to give you His perspective.
If you are sad, remember that He bears our sin and our sorrow. We can always give God our sorrows. Simply tell Him what is making you sad, and then ask Him to lift the sorrow off of you. Surrender whatever you are willing to give Him. Then let Him give you something in exchange.
If you are afraid, spending time with Him can take away the fear.
We are his children. He wants to be with us. The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).
If you remain stuck, consider making an appointment for prayer with trained prayer ministers. The Falls Church offers healing prayer. Information is on their website. Apostles offer Theophostic Prayer Ministry sessions at our Healing Center. Appointments can be made at our website: GodHealsToday.org.