Demystifying and Defining Inner HealingTo demystify inner healing, we must define it properly. Inner healing is a multi-denominational, lay person Christian practice that typically exists to help people connect to God on a personal level, and it often engages elements such as forgiveness, repentance, lies and truth, and sometimes the processing of memories to bring healing. Some models utilize prayer as the primary means to the healing of the heart, while others rely heavily on biblical counseling. Some employ a combination of both prayer and counsel. Most, if not all, focus on removing hindrances, bondage, and strongholds that block a healthy Christian life. Some focus on traumatic issues while others focus on baseline issues that affect the Christian walk.
Jennifer Barnett's First Freedoms
Drawing Near to God by Cultivating a Wholehearted Prayer Life All who read this will be inspired and challenged to cultivate a deeper prayer life and walk with Jesus. — Dr. Darren Whitehead, senior pastor, Church of the City, Franklin, TN Deeply profound yet wonderfully practical. — Dave Clayton, author of Revival Starts HereGet Product
Read First Freedoms by Jennifer Barnett to experience inner healing through cultivating a wholehearted prayer life.
Most Christian inner healing models find their basis in verses such as:
- “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
- “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1).
Unfortunately, inner healing remains largely unknown by the greater Protestant church.
If it is known, it has been distorted as unbiblical, mystical, new age, or unholy. These distortions have robbed the church of foundational spiritual formation practices in prayer and freedom in Christ. As a result, inner healing of the heart in near relationship to God often has been outsourced solely to mental health practitioners. Although these are vital members of the healing process, these practitioners were never meant to be the sole mediators for daily abiding with God or a substitute for healthy relationships in tending the heart in prayer.
Inner Healing in the ScripturesAs you can surmise, God placed the healing of the heart as of utmost importance in spiritual formation and mature discipleship. In fact, he mentioned it over 40 times in Scripture. Consider passages such as:
- “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
- “Love the LORD your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
- “Trust in the LORD with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
- “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).
- “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart” (Proverbs 21:2).
- “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
- “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
- “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
We know facts about God but lack in knowing him intimately.
God does not see as humans do; rather, he looks right into our core and weighs spiritual significance in the heart. He invites us to heal the heart, and multiple times in Scripture, he asks us to trust him and love him with all of our hearts. It’s as if he must have known we would struggle to offer all of our hearts to him, with our wounds and disappointments and our sin and our false narratives that spin webs of lies about his character and grace. That being said, a holy God would not ask us to tend to something of such significance and leave us without tools to be successful. He wants us to find healing in our hearts. In my book First Freedoms, I explore some of these tools to aid in the healing of the heart and how to allow God to search it for truth and restoration. I invite you to read it for a more in-depth study of this topic. Now let’s examine five key principles of inner healing.
Five Principles of Inner HealingInner healing can often be interchanged with terms such as “ministry of freedom” or “freedom in Christ.” Most inner healing models agree that Jesus understood the broken nature of this world and equipped us with biblical tools for freedom to heal our hearts in near relationship to God. A typical church can go through varying levels of heartbreak, and no church member is immune to pain, despite the intensity of it. The smallest of woundings can do major damage in a person’s life, most prominently in how they view God and other people—not to mention how it can affect their identity.
A natural response to pain is to unknowingly or knowingly build spiritual strongholds in our lives.
Strongholds (a defensive structure) can be built from either a mountain or a molehill of pain. They also both can be equally effective in keeping God and others out. The heart becomes shut off from good things in an attempt to protect, hide, or shut down. The majority of inner healing ministry knows that anyone, regardless of maturity or history, is susceptible here. Rusty Rustenbach of The Navigators describes five principles of inner healing. They are:
- All of us have had our hearts broken.
- The heart broke in response to something that happened in the past.
- Our reaction to events, not the events themselves, places us in bondage.
- Present difficulties often trigger past pain.
- Life-changing truth can be known and experienced when God communicates it to us in a supernatural way.
Communicating With God Amid Inner HealingWe connect to God through communicating with him. A core belief of inner healing ministries is the ability to listen and hear from God. Scripture supports this many times, with invitations such as:
- “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. … My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:14, 27).
- “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24).
- “But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).
- “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
- “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13).
Just as parables speak a thousand words in a picture, God can speak using our spiritual ears and eyes.
Those senses belong to him, and their main purpose is for communication. So a foundational practice in inner healing ministry is asking God questions and then listening to his response. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He can reveal truths that are hidden to our natural minds and capabilities. In searching our hearts, he can point to the root cause of the issue, the belief system that is distorted, and show us why we do things that we don’t want to do. He receives glory when we rely on him after he shows us things we can’t find in our own strength. He wants to partner with us, and he designed us to find freedom relationally through communication with him. As we communicate with God, we experience closeness to him and healing in our hearts. This freedom and intimacy with God will likely provoke the enemy, which leads to the next aspect of inner healing.
Spiritual Warfare Amid Inner HealingAnother aspect of inner healing is the presence of spiritual warfare. Simply put, if the enemy is the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and exists to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10), then we can eventually expect to be on the receiving end of his fiery darts that are directed to destroy us (Ephesians 6:16). His very name means “accuser,” and the Scriptures tell us to be prepared for warfare.
The most destructive battle in the Christian walk is the battle in the mind, and we need decisive weapons to secure the victory.
Many of us hold mental strongholds, and Satan’s plan is to build those defensive walls and keep building them higher. Neil Anderson speaks of these fortresses of the mind in The Bondage Breaker. He describes them as “fleshly thought patterns that were programmed into your mind when you learned to live independently of God. Your worldview was shaped by the environment you were raised in. But when you became a Christian, nobody pressed the CLEAR button. Your old fleshly habit patterns of thought weren’t erased.”3 Without a model and lens for inner healing, it can be easy to wrongly assume that those patterns were cleared and then become frustrated with the struggle that persists. Equally damaging is adopting those patterns as one’s identity, and then being unable to remove these harmful patterns because of the false belief that it is simply “who I am.” How can Christians combat these strongholds? Paul spoke of the warfare practice of “taking thoughts captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) to the obedience of Christ. This practice can protect Christians from the defense mechanisms and strongholds that block a healthy life. Patterns are present and long-standing. But the renewing of the mind creates new patterns that align with the mind of Christ. As Francis Frangipane states in The Three Battlegrounds, the goal is Christlikeness, not warfare.4 Thus, we want good, solid strongholds built with God and secured by his ways, purposes, and truth. These practices are found in most, if not all, inner healing.
Different inner healing ministries lean into certain beliefs, but all lean into the finished work of the cross.
As Chester Kylstra says, “We appropriate the cross in all fullness into our lives. We receive it, apply it to our lives, possess its reality and victory, and are empowered to move forward in faith.”5
Inner Healing Through Freedom PrayerJust as the church has many denominations with different beliefs and practices, inner healing has many models and ministries with kindred purposes of freedom but diversity in foundations and methodologies. Freedom Prayer is one such model, with a fast-growing reception in conservative churches and other like-minded non-profits.
Freedom Prayer is a biblically based personal prayer model that helps to recognize and resolve hindrances in the Christian life.
As a ministry of sanctification, Freedom Prayer focuses on removing strongholds to produce a mature walk with God. It does this by offering tools for transformation and healing. With a focus on connecting individuals to God securely, Freedom Prayer is both an inner healing model and a discipleship tool for spiritual formation to teach people how to pray and abide effectively. Freedom Prayer is also the name of the ministry for which I serve as executive director. It is a non-profit ministry with a multi-denominational network of churches all over the world invested in the ministry of freedom in Christ. Freedom Prayer focuses on building and equipping Freedom Prayer teams in church settings. It aims to equip the larger church culture with tools in this essential “first responder” ministry to those hindered and seeking a deeper prayer life. People know that the ministry of Freedom Prayer partners well within the church. It not only equips the body of Christ but also is committed to long-term relationships in extending the ministry of freedom across the culture and into various aspects of community life in the church. With primary principles such as being biblically founded, easily discipled and reproduced, and spiritually effective, Freedom Prayer teams meet huge needs in current church life by providing solid teams of people equipped not only to meet emotional and spiritual struggles in prayer but also to offer a safe space to be discipled into an abundant prayer life.
The Core Model of Freedom PrayerFreedom Prayer is easily recognized by its core model6 that consists of:
1. 10 FoundationsThese 10 basic principles give an understanding and belief system for ministry. Saturated with Scripture, these foundations are where all ministry sessions find their basis.
2. WESUDThis acronym stands for “Wounding, Entanglement, Sin, Ungodly Belief, and the Demonic.” This is the lens we use to filter an individual’s hindrances. Derived from Luke 15, these areas of hindrance offer both the primary motivation and solution, both of which Jesus expressed in the parable.
3. The Fruit LoopThis is a catchy, rhyming guide on how not to get lost in a prayer session. These steps keep ministry “on track.” It allows the greater church community to learn to “bear well” with others in prayer. Fruit, Root, Boot, Loot, and Scoot are the steps for efficient prayer times and efficient discipleship.
4. Doing Kingdom BusinessThis is the biblical “action” in the prayer time, with tools in forgiveness, confession, repentance, renouncing, breaking agreement, and casting away. This is the “how-to” of clearing the heart from the hindrances that block healthy relationships with God and others.
5. Spiritual WarfareUnderstanding that the battle is often in the mind, these are practical tools that both acquire and keep the freedom that Jesus secured.
6. ConnectionThese are tools to assist in drawing people closer to God. They are dependent on Scripture and the process of abiding and building capacity with Jesus.
Phases of Freedom PrayerWhile there is great value in many aspects of inner healing, Freedom Prayer focuses on helping the church adapt the healing of the heart into vital ministry teams and the greater church by honoring and partnering with the existing church culture and ministry initiatives. Freedom Prayer, the ministry that I help lead, focuses on freedom without neglecting the logistics of administration, ministry teams, and discipleship. Thus, it offers training in three phases that build healthy and long-standing prayer teams.
Phase 1: TrainingFreedom Prayer partners with churches and their leadership to introduce tools for freedom. It also supports well their existing vision and goals. Communication with leadership is key as well as a Freedom Prayer Basic Training weekend to teach and equip the initial team and interested attendees. The tools in inner healing must be taught and presented on a level that everyone can grasp and utilize. The primary goals in training are to offer tools for personal freedom and to raise up and equip a Freedom Prayer ministry team.
Phase 2: Continuing EducationWhile a great many weekend conferences exist, the real education happens afterward. After the initial training, Freedom Prayer assists in forming a prayer ministry team. It pays special attention to the personal freedom and spiritual health of the team. Freedom prayer uses a Continuing Education curriculum to equip the team further and review the core model in preparation for ministry. For most people, inner healing is a “new” language that must be practiced to be utilized fluently. The Continuing Education phase is designed to give time and intentional support to the health and confidence of the new team.
Phase 3: Establishment and PartnershipFinally, as the Freedom Prayer ministry is introduced to the broader church following the formation of the team, ongoing resources and relationships are provided to cultivate a culture that walks in freedom. That newly formed team provides prayer times for their community as well as innovatively offering the tools of freedom and heart healing in other aspects of church life. This is crucial as the goal is not just a small ministry team of people who are connected to God in freedom but an entire church who walks solidly in freedom and nearness to God. That kind of church can change a city. Phase 3 also offers Advanced Training as well as strategies for reproducing the team to meet the needs of their community. For more information on Freedom Prayer, check out freedomprayer.org.
Inner Healing Is Vital for the ChurchIf the “Eeyore Epidemic” has produced a church of half-hearted disciples, then we must implement the solution immediately for the survival and health of the body of Christ. Like Eeyore, we can be tempted to sit in our brokenness and drag our feet, showing up to the day’s events hopeless. While we are physically present—we are suffocating underneath years of lies and pain. Sadly, doing church that way has become normal. But as we see in A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner, eventually Eeyore’s friends scolded him, stating, “It’s your fault, Eeyore. You just stay here in this one corner of the Forest waiting for the others to come to you. Why don’t you go to them sometimes?”7 Unfortunately, due to bondage and brokenness, we often become self-focused and paralyzed. We can’t move. Like Eeyore, we retreat and often become isolated in our inner battles.
But the miracle of inner healing is that when we can’t move, Jesus comes to us in our need.
Over and over again, Jesus searches for the lost sheep and finds the lost coin discarded. He looks for the prodigal and also gently brings the oldest brother back into his inheritance. Jesus comes looking when we can’t move. He goes to the one trapped in the corner paralyzed by fear. He reaches for us when we are lost and lonely. This is who Jesus is. There is a solution if we’re willing to take it. Inner healing at its best makes room for Jesus to do what he does best. He heals the heart and sets it free.
Experience inner healing as you read Jennifer Barnett’s First Freedoms.