Sozo Prayer (Sozo from the Greek “save” or “deliver”) is defined as “a unique inner healing and deliverance ministry in which the main aim is to get to the root of those things hindering your personal connection with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
Although this might sound good, its methods are far from it. In fact, Sozo is much closer to New Age mysticism than to Christianity because it focuses on attaining intimacy with God via a journey through the subconscious rather than through prayer and Scripture.
Sozo prayer is the invention of Bill and Brenda “Beni” Johnson who serve as Senior Pastors of Bethel Church in Redding, California. They are very much associated with questionable revivalists such as Rodney Howard Brown and Randy Clark (best known for their involvement with Holy Laughter)
Sozo Prayer came about in 1992 when Pastor Randy Clark, a healing evangelist, began to hold meetings at Bethel Church. He introduced them to a model of “deliverance” from Argentina known as The Four Doors and began training members in this method. One of those trainees was Dawna DeSilva, the founder of the Sozo Ministry, who claims she began to use the method and saw a “miraculous difference” in people’s “level of freedom.”
This is how Sozo was born.
Sozo prayer utilizes a mediator or guide to help participants delve deep within themselves to discover any deterrent to drawing close to God. While drawing close to God should be a goal of every Christian, Christians don’t need a mediator or a guided journey through their subconscious to do so. Sozo also draws much of its practice from new age mysticism, including entering into a mild trance state and exploring internal rooms or stages of the mind. This is not biblical.
Prayer, God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, and fellowship with other believers connect us to God, and Christians should cultivate these spiritual practices, or disciplines, to draw closer to God.
Jesus tells us to rely on the Holy Spirit: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13– 15).
While we do not need a mediator to help connect us to God, it is true that other people can be helpful in our relationship with God. Hebrews 10:24–25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This is one reason regular church attendance is important. Additionally, God has specifically equipped His people with various ministries that are helpful to others. First Corinthians 12:7 says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
In Ephesians 4:11–14, Paul writes, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Our need for spiritual enlightenment or opportunity for relationship is fully met by the Holy Spirit and our study of God’s Word under His guidance. The following passage from the first chapter of 2 Peter is long, but shows us how God has provided for us and what we are to do to build on our faith.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 1:3-9
According to this excellent blog, Closingstages.com, by a pastor who has had first-hand experience with the Sozo ministry, it makes false promises of miraculous psychological cures by pretending to be based upon a combination of Christian teaching and psychological science. But in reality, it’s theories and practices are a “travesty of both.”
A typical Sozo session involves encouraging the Sozee into a mild trance while being “led” into a series of mental / emotional rooms or stages where the person connects to their deeper feelings and thoughts and comes to have a new experience with God.
These sessions involve the use of tools such as the Father Ladder which allegedly helps the Sozoee understand how the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity correlate (knowingly or unknowingly) to their experiences with parents and friends.
The Five Doors reveal how sin enters lives: through hatred, sexual sin, occult, thievery and fear. “These doors have generational roots, cultural expressions and/or may be temptations the Sozoee has yielded to in varying degrees.” By forgiving anyone who contributed to the open door, the door is closed and sealed with the blood of Christ.
During a session, a guide or mediator helps the person to take down a Wall – a defense mechanism – by closing a door, something that is accompanied by a loud clap of the hands. “Japanese Christian brain scientist Aiko Horman discovered that the sound of a clap breaks the arch of brain wave connection between spirit and mind, thus disengaging a lie.”
The most dangerous aspect of Sozo is that some of the psychotherapies practiced (by untrained individuals) are so called “memory healing” or “regressive” therapies that “probe the unconscious for buried memories to be uncovered and healed.
Repressed memory therapy is extremely dangers and has wreaked havoc on people’s lives.
This testimony, published on Closingstages, documents the horror experienced by a man whose daughter attended a Sozo session at Bethel eight years ago and experienced a so-called “Recovered Memory” that he had molested her from the age of three to thirteen – none of which was true. This broke up the family.
I contacted two attorneys with ‘false recovered memory’ experience. Both were shocked that regressive therapy was being practiced at all. Both attorneys told me that the whole recovered memory issue died out in the 1990s when it was exposed for the hoax that it is. After a few therapists were sued for big dollars the practice stopped—until Theophostic and Sozo started it up again. Both Theophostic and Sozo therapy includes regressive therapy techniques.”
In Sozo Prayer the premise for prayer is not Biblical. Where does the Bible teach us we need to root through our subconscious through the help of a Sozo minister in order to connect with God? Rather, we’re told that anyone who wants to come to the Father can do so through the mediation of His Son. If we want to connect with God, the Person you want to see is Jesus, not a Sozo minister.
Furthermore Sozo therapists are not trained to handle the kind of potentially serious psychological issues that may arise during a typical session.
Sozo prayer is not a biblically-based practice and is not something that is necessary or likely beneficial for Christians in seeking to draw closer to God. Intimacy with God is a product of fellowship with Him through the work of Jesus, the light of His Word through the Holy Spirit, and continually seeking to lead a life that brings Him honour and glory as we submit to His work of transformation in us.
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
Special thanks to Susan Brinkmann for her work on this important subject.