Praying: On Visions, Images, and Reality

Some things must be believed before they can be seen

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1 NIV

Prayer, or intimacy with God, allows us to see what other people cannot see.
To others these prophet visions are illusions. In fact, however, they have already occurred in heaven and these are the reality.

praying child

Doctors have assumed in the past that the visual circuits in the brain and how we perceive reality from illusion are all in place by the time we are six.


If you have seen the movie The Illusionist, you will remember it tells an incredible story while plying the viewer’s mind with illusions from both the illusionist and there are even mis-directions from the Director of the movie. The twists and turns in the story keep you spell-bound the entire time you watch the movie. I could not move from my seat watching it. As the movie tagline says, “Nothing is What It Seems.” The movie is able to do this because the visioning capability of the mind fills in the blanks to force the illusions in the mind of the viewer of the movie as well as the people of Austria, where the story takes place. You create a story that isn’t there. Animals can’t do this – only Man. As a result, you see the hero and tragic heroine unleash some type of spiritual awakening in Austria – a transformation that affected the entire culture and history of the area.

How does the human mind work, and how is it different from that of an animal? Why is it that many times a person near death can seemingly vision themselves to be well and recover? In 1989 I was paralyzed by destroyed neural system that actually destroyed my entire neural system. The doctors told me I would never walk again, that the neural system could not be rebuilt. My wife heard the doctor say this to me, I never heard it. I read Acts 3 every day over and over again. A little over a year later I walked, unaided. How did this happen? The doctors could not explain it. Why is it animals can’t do this?

The brain essentially functions as a pattern recognition device. A computer memory, in contrast, stores ones and zeros, and only for a very short period of much less than a second. The computer processors have to continually read the computer memory cells and rewrite them thousands of times a second, putting down data again exactly as it was originally stored with no change. The brain, in contrast, stores patterns as electro-chemical firing paths between the neurons in the brain. As we remember stories and images and their associations, the related dynamic firing patterns are rewritten physically. The images are stored physically as patterns in the way the neurons fire. The patterns are physically strengthened each time they are remembered and rewritten. A piano musician, for example, can “play” a piece in his mind and strengthen the patterns involved in playing that particular piece even when he doesn’t have a piano.

There is a big difference in the human mind from the computer, however (and this isn’t the only difference). This difference is also in the human mind when compared with the animal brain. The human mind can time travel. It can go back to the past, replay a story and experience it; and then when it rewrites the story in the mind can even alter it in some way, altering our view of what happened. Then the patterns for the altered story gets strengthened in the mind with time and are perceived as reality. This altered story is seen as reality and used to strengthen patterns in the future. Also, the mind can travel to the future, create a new story based in part on past images, play it, experience it, and store the new pattern. I saw myself as walking again, long before I did it. Animals cannot do this. Basically, the human mind can vision itself to be well and draw physical healing from that vision.(1) The problem is that doing this violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics – the law that states that the system is running down to its original state of chaos. We start dying from the day we are born. That’s part of the Curse from the original disobedience of Man in the Garden of Eden. Willing yourself to be well must draw its power from outside the system. That is where prayer comes into the picture. God has the power to heal and wants to heal.

About 35% of the power of the normal human brain is devoted to visioning. That indicates the importance of this visioning power, even for a blind person. In the past, almost all of the circuitry for processing vision has been assumed to in place by the time we are six. Surgery to correct vision later was assumed not to give vision and a waste of resources. As my eye doctor told me some years ago:

“I can give an older person glasses for 20-20 vision, but if they have not seen for years they will not see with the glasses.”

There is a classic experiment often done in schools where eye doctors are trained. A kitten just born is placed immediately in a dark room and raised for a year in total darkness. When the kitten – now a cat – is put in the light it is blind and will never see. This was assumed to be true for humans. The visual circuitry is already in place by the time we are six. At least that what the doctors use to think.

Doctors have assumed in the past that the visual circuits in the brain and how we perceive reality from illusion are all in place by the time we are six.

In India nearly half a million children suffer from blindness. Doctors have been reluctant to use modern surgical methods to solve many of the physical problems, such as cataracts, as the surgery was seen as too late to help. Back a few years ago, however, some doctors didn’t know this and operated on 12 year old girl who was born with severe cataracts. She had the surgery to remove them and within a year was able to see family faces and identify objects. Now doctors there are working to expand this research, working with 14 children and one adult. All of them have experienced significant improvement in less than a year. The doctors are unable to explain what is going on in the patient’s brain(2).

Many of us, unfortunately, live the illusion just as the doctors in India (and in the US) and the people in The Illusionist did. In the movie the Crown Prince had no power against the illusion. The power in the story was in the illusion. When we are sick, we put more power in what the doctor tells us (logic and knowledge) – the illusion – than in the reality of the healing as driven from our intimacy with God. That’s how the healing happened in the Garden before the Fall. This doesn’t mean we should throw the doctor out, it’s just we need to place more priority on what God is doing through our sickness than in what the doctor tells us or even the physical healing of the sickness. What we see as the illusion (that God can miraculously heal) is really the reality. Our brains are wired by our culture so that by the time we are six the illusion is reality. The Enemy fights to maintain the illusion. The power of the risen Christ can break the illusion.

Some years ago some kids from a church over an hour’s drive from Portland did a prayer march around a pornographic store in Portland and then drove back home. That night the store burned to the ground and a man inside the store died in the fire. I asked the church leader telling me the story how old the kids were that did the march.

“Very young.”

I asked if their teacher could visit our church and share her teaching.

“There is nothing unusual. She teaches a simple faith. The difference is that the kids are raised in a culture isolated from television and the rest of the media. They don’t know that what they did was miraculous. They assume it as reality.”

The pastor of this same church had been getting some criticism about his preaching about sacrificial living. One Sunday he took a bold step of asking an elder to take these kids to a separate room and pray for what his message would be about as he preached and the scriptures he would use. At the end of the sermon the elder returned with the kids, and they were able to tell the congregation all five of the scripture passages the pastor had used and give them in the correct order. One kid even had a strong image during the time of her parents on a burning altar and was told by the elder not to share it. You got it, the pastor has used the related image in his message.

As the movie tagline of The Illusionist says, nothing is what it seems. Do you see illusion or reality? At the time of Christ, the Pharisees saw only the illusion. The people in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up could see little of Jesus’ healing and were bound by the illusion. Their brains were hard-wired over thirty years to see a carpenter’s son. Blind Bartimaeus, though, was snot bound by the illusion. He received his sight (Mark 20:29-34).

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Rom. 12:2 NIV

Today, even our churches are bound by this illusion. Prayer takes us to the very throne of God where, because of what Christ did, we can ask anything. Not even the angels can do this.

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  1. Although some scientists have disputed that we can do this, multiple examples has shown this true. The brain can be challenged to rewire itself. Until recently, they didn’t know how this was done. Now we are learning how this is done. (See Beyond Illusion: Leading from Reality by Carl Townsend)
  2. “An Unlikely Vision”, TIME, March 5, 2007, p. 61. Also see the December, 2006 issue of Psychological Science.

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