I have Christian friends who have recently attended SOZO healing sessions. Could you tell me if this practice is in any way Biblical?
Let us first start with a clear understanding of what Sozo is, including where and how it originated. Sozo is a greek word meaning to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction (from injury or peril). It denotes the act of delivering, making whole, preserving one safe from danger, loss or destruction. The greek expression is noted in the New Testament over one hundred times in reference to being saved or healed.
In 1997 a charismatic movement, led by Randy Clark of Bethel Church, birthed the idea of guided inner healing prayer sessions labeled Sozo prayer or Sozo ministry. The Ministry of Sozo claims to provide inner healing and deliverance in which the goal is to reach the root of traumas, people or things that have hindered your personal connection with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Many of these ministries claim to posses prophetic powers that are useful in personal deliverance.
The Bethel team created six tools to use that have made the sessions go more quickly and precise to what they desire you to experience. According to Bethel's website, the model of “deliverance” they use came from Clark's teaching which began in Argentina. The following are the six tools:
1. Father Ladder - The Father Ladder tool was designed to explore how the subject's relationships with the people in their life may be affecting how they relate to the Trinity.
2. Four Doors (hatred, fear, occult, sexual sin) - In which a Sozo leader tries to identify which of the four sins may have opened up a spiritual “door” to demonic possession or oppression.
3. Presenting Jesus - The sozee (i.e. the one being delivered) is then instructed to recall their most painful memories and discover Jesus in the moments in order to bring healing.
4. The Wall - identify any negative blockage in a person's soul that impedes the flow of God’s love which can activate that person’s gifting and character in Christ.
5. Trigger Mechanisms - Acknowledgment of the feelings associated with our memories.
6. Divine Editing - Inviting your Heavenly Father to fill in the voids created by lack of nurturing. He will ‘edit’ your memories — both ‘edit out’ painful memories and ‘edit in’ His nurturing, as the website describes.
Later, Shabar was created, which claimed to be advanced healing for those who have been receiving Sozo healing and yet cannot hold on to their healing. Shabar is the Hebrew word meaning broken.
Over the years Sozo has become a mainstream way for individuals to have a super spiritual encounter with the Godhead, which proves to be in complete opposition to what the scriptures teach us. Attaining intimacy with God via a facilitated mental journey through visualizations and new spiritual experiences is nowhere found in Scripture. Nonetheless, in the Bible, we see the Lord healing individuals in the Gospels, the Apostles healing people in the book of Acts, and the writers of the New Testament epistles speaking of healing in the church. Since healing is clearly a part of the Christian experience, does the Bible prescribe a certain manner for acquiring God's healing from suffering?
JAMES 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.
JAMES 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
JAMES 5:15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
JAMES 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
In the case of suffering, James says we must pray for a solution. There is no mystical formula for prayer. When a prayer is offered "in faith," as it says in Chapter 5 of James, then that person is expressing their trust fully in the Lord to restore the one suffering, IF deemed by God. This is the manner of prayer that leads to God's supernatural healing should God deem it necessary, James says. Apart from this instruction, the Bible gives no other recipe for healing. Also, we must keep in mind that God doesn't heal everyone, as we can see within our own lives, but instead sometimes God chooses to use our suffering to bring us closer to Him and to further glorify Himself. More about this can be found in our Joy in Suffering or James Study.
Unfortunately, there are many ministries filled with false teachers who deceive those desperate to be healed from suffering, like the Sozo movement within the Church. Usually, these conmen or women set up shop in charismatic environments, where fervor and emotion replace sound doctrine and good judgment, leading many needy believers to be fooled into expecting miraculous healing on demand. Again if we look to scripture we see that our suffering is used to glorify God. Should we seek His guidance wholeheartedly through prayer and with perseverance:
2COR. 12:6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say,
2COR. 12:7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
2COR. 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
2COR. 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2COR. 12:10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
We strongly advise believers to be wary of these so called "supernatural prayer" movements. Instead, seek godly intercession with mature, devoted elders or other members of the body with a heart to serve God in quiet humility and chaste reverence. Never agree to donate money as a quid pro quo for healing or prayer. Additionally, be content with your circumstances past and present, as trauma oftentimes is the best tool used for discipleship and sharing your personal testimony with others.
For an in-depth study of God's Sovereignty we suggest listening to the The Sovereignty of God Series on our website. Additionally, you may find the following articles on our website helpful in addressing this further: