In Immanuel Prayer, we pay attention to a number of things: not just our thoughts and God’s thoughts, but also our emotions and body. Then we share our stories with others, incorporating the community.
As you also know, the name “Immanuel,” given to Jesus, means “God With Us.” Jesus is the image of invisible God (Col 1:15). I love how John opens his first letter, describing the physical reality of God in flesh:
“We declare to you what we have heard, seen with our eyes, looked at, and which our hands have touched. The eternal life, which was with the Father, has appeared to us.”
Jesus was in his physical presence – and is now by the Spirit – manifest in a way that touches every aspect of human life: spirit, thoughts, emotions, body, and relationships.
We see Jesus’ impact on each of these aspects of human life very clearly in Mark 2:1-12. It’s the famous story of the paralyzed man whose friends cut open the roof to bring him to Jesus:
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
How Jesus Engages with Thoughts, Spirit, and Emotions
This story shows Jesus interacting with every aspect of human life. First, he addresses thoughts. Jesus perceives the inner thoughts of the scribes – their beliefs and assumptions, their (true) claim that only God has the authority to forgive sins. He does not ignore their question but addresses it. I’ll come back to this in a minute.
Second, Jesus interacts with the human spirit. Notice it says the scribes were questioning. There is no suggestion here that the paralyzed man was questioning whether Jesus had authority. I don’t think he had any doubts. When God speaks, something happens.
Have you ever experienced that – when you knew that you knew that you knew that what you heard was God and that it was true? It’s an amazing experience I’ve had, and seen others have, through Immanuel Prayer. Or do you remember what it was like when you first understood that you were forgiven, that all your sins were washed away? It’s hard to ignore that kind of experience. So when Jesus says the man is forgiven, I believe the man must have experienced that forgiveness in such a way that he knew it was true, knew he was free. Something in his spirit was clean and fresh and new. If he wasn’t sure of that immediately, I bet he became sure pretty quickly when his body was healed, too!
Not only does Jesus address the thoughts of the Pharisees and the spirit of the man, but the man’s emotions must have been affected. Beyond the forgiveness itself, and the freedom and awe that brings, is the fact that Jesus sees the man – not just his physical body, but his inner self. And he addresses the inner self first.
How often do you think people saw beyond this man’s body? Most would look and see only his physical disability and dependence. But Jesus looked and saw the disability of his soul, the need of his heart. Do you know what it feels like to be seen in this way, by a safe, kind person – by a safe, kind God? Vulnerable? Yes. Naked? Yes. Terrifying? Often. But along with those things is the sheer relief of being seen for one’s real self, of being known and loved right in the midst of all the disability, dependence and sin of the soul.
How Jesus Interacts with Bodies
Now that we have looked at Jesus engaging with thoughts, spirit, and emotions, let’s go back to the scribes for a moment to see how Jesus engages with the physical body. Jesus doesn’t dismiss their thoughts, their demand for proof, as unnecessary or petty. Rather, as with doubting Thomas, he stoops down to their level and responds on their terms. He says, in effect, “You want proof that I have authority in the spiritual realm to forgive sins, to restore a broken soul to wholeness? Okay. I’ll show you what that looks like in the physical realm. I’ll restore a broken body to wholeness.”
In John 3 he tells Nicodemus, “If you don’t understand the earthly things, how will you believe when I tell you about heavenly things?” He uses the natural to demonstrate the spiritual there with a Pharisee just as he does here with the scribes. The restoration of the man’s body is not just for a symbol of spiritual reality. The body has value in and of itself. Jesus lived in a body, died in a body, and rose in a body – and we will too. He came to redeem our bodies as, well as our souls. The man now has use of his body for work and play, for its own sake.
Through the restoration of his body, the man is restored to the physical and social life of the community. Clearly he has friends who have loved him and included him in the community even when he was paralyzed. But now he can walk to synagogue on the Sabbath, climb into the boats and fish with the men, play with the children, and travel the crowded, dusty road to Jerusalem to participate in the great feasts. The community is also touched by him, seeing his wholeness, receiving a taste of God’s heart, and glimpse of His vision for the restoration of all things.
So this is our hope in Immanuel Prayer: that we encounter Jesus in a way that allows our whole self to be touched by his whole self – thoughts, spirit, emotions, and body – in a way that also touches our community with God’s heart and power.