Did you know that the Lord can heal our memories? That Jesus Christ can heal the woundedness that lies in our memories of brokenness and sin. These may be memories where we may have been harmed or possibly even where we may have hurt someone else. This is a form of prayer where we can enter into those vulnerable memories and ask Jesus to be present.
Throughout our lives our daily experiences shape the narrative that we live out day to day. Sometimes during painful experiences, we come to believe lies about ourselves, about others, or even about God’s love. When the Lord brings healing to these memories, He breaks and restores the harmful narratives that we are told and may continue to tell ourselves.
This is much easier said than done. Typically people would rather not relive or retrieve difficult memories from their past. It’s possible they have never felt safe enough to do so, or the thought of reliving the memory brings shame that feels too difficult to swallow. But now with research that’s been done, we actually know that if we reject these memories instead of moving through them, they will continue to have a grip on us and can continue to harm us. So in moments when we feel safe, it is important to work through these memories, and one of the most healing ways I have done that is by inviting Jesus into these memories and allowing him to show me where he is.
The process is simple:
1) Get yourself into a comfortable position and close your eyes.
2) Ask: “Jesus, what memory do you want to heal?”
3) Observe. Pay attention to the scene you are imagining, what’s happening? What does it look like? Who’s there? How do you feel?
4) Ask: “Jesus, where are you?”
5) Observe. Where is Jesus? Is he close to you? Is he saying anything? What’s His body posture like? Is His presence more abstract?
6) After you have felt God’s presence, you are welcome to keep praying or you can close your time in prayer.
This form of prayer is vulnerable. But it is right there in the most vulnerable parts of hearts where our deepest longing lies, and that is a transformative place to invite Christ into. Together with Christ is the safest and most loved place we could ever exist. Personally in my experience, I have been shocked over and over again at the intense love and mercy Christ has shown me when I am with Him.
As an example, I’m going to share a memory that came to prayer recently.
After spending some time in the Lisieux House chapel, I decided it had been a while since I had asked the Lord to heal one of my memories. I didn’t have anything specifically in mind, but decided to give it a go.
I asked, “Jesus, what memory do you want to heal?”
He then showed me a memory of when I was young and had just started playing soccer. I had learned how to play goalie, and I was starting to get really good at it. In a specific memory, I remember one of the first big saves I had made, and I could hear all of the moms cheering for me, commenting on how amazing I was. From that day forward I started to get a lot of attention for my talent as a goalie. More and more people wanted to have me on their team.
Then the Lord showed me another memory of me playing soccer. I was now in high school, still playing goalie. Only this time, it was a game where my team was playing poorly. My defense was falling apart, and goal after goal was getting scored on us. I started to get so upset that I started yelling at my teammates. I was so harsh that some of the girls on my team started to cry.
I asked Jesus why he would show me this memory specifically. It was probably one of my worst moments, a time where my bitterness and resentment were not hiding.
The Lord then showed me the more tender and broken parts of my heart. He showed me that, the anger I was displaying was just an outward manifestation of the loneliness and abandonment that I was feeling deep down. My defenders, who were supposed to support me, were letting me down and making it almost impossible for me to succeed. It made me feel like I was letting everybody down, and I hated that their lack of support put such a burden on me. And to go one step further, I was terrified that if I let people down then I wouldn’t be wanted or loved anymore.
So then I asked Jesus, “Okay Jesus, well where were you in this?”
He then showed me that he was standing right next to my dad on the sidelines. For context, every single game since I started playing goalie, my dad would stand on the far end of the field right next to where I was. Away from where the rest of the parents stood, and he was often all by himself standing there, eyes fixed on me, rain or shine.
I thought more about why my dad stood there…he wanted to make sure I wasn’t lonely and he wanted to make sure I was safe. And the thing that brought me to tears was remembering that he started standing there way before I ever “got good” at playing soccer. His presence and protection was not correlated to my ability to perform. His unconditional love for me is what drove him to be there. It didn’t matter if we won or lost the game, he was going to stand by my side. And that’s exactly where Jesus was too.
The parts of my heart that have been wounded by rejection and abandonment needed to experience the healing of this memory. They needed to be reminded that God's love is secure, and that even when others fall short, it will not threaten my need for love and belonging. My Heavenly Father will never abandon me. The Father’s love for me does not change based on my ability to do good things. I am already loved, I am already chosen.
I was actually able to share this prayer experience with my dad. When I called him and told him about the memories that came up and what I received in prayer, I could hear him choking back the tears as well. One of the first things he jokingly said in response was, “In all honesty, I wasn’t standing there because you were good at soccer, in fact I was standing there because I was afraid you weren’t gonna be good! and I was afraid of you getting hurt.” His words confirmed the sense I had that he was standing there not because I earned his attention, but because he had already loved me and wanted to protect me. It was a beautiful opportunity to tell my father who he was to me in that moment, and that his security imitated the love of Jesus.
What started out as a difficult memory to recall, ended in beautiful intimacy with Jesus Christ. It also blessed me with immense gratitude for my father here on earth, who was able to show me the virtues of Christ through his character. Not all of our memories of our parents are perfect, but I was grateful to experience one in which my father emanated the love of God.
My time in prayer was difficult, I was shown my faults. But I left my time in prayer feeling more safe and loved.
You may be reading this and thinking, “That sounds great, but I’m good.”
Regardless, I would encourage you to give it a try and see what comes up. Sometimes when I try this form of prayer, a memory that I didn’t realize had an impact on me comes up. Sometimes it can be really simple. The most important thing is, do not be afraid. The Lord will always be with you and He will not harm you. The key element to this form of prayer is to invite Jesus and the Holy Spirit to reveal these memories, because they will only show us what is necessary and have the power to heal. Sometimes these memories may be emotionally charged, but not always. The Lord is full of surprises.
As a reminder, everything from the Lord is positive, encouraging, and uplifting. If you experience something that induces more shame and causes you to feel like you’re not enough, that is not from the Lord. That is not true, and something you should reject. The Lord may have hard things to tell us at times, but if it is from Him, we should feel encouraged. He will never heal us by using shame or fear, He will always heal us with His love.