Sozo ministry, or Sozo prayer (from the Greek word for “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.” Sozo has its roots in the Charismatic movement, being created by a group of people from the Bethel Church in Redding, California, and modeled after spiritual practices observed at revivals in Argentina. The group that originated Sozo is tied to such aberrant movements as the Toronto Blessing and the New Apostolic Reformation.
A Sozo session is designed to provide Holy Spirit-led wholeness and freedom for the Sozoee (the one seeking deliverance). Sozo requires the presence of a mediator or guide who is trained to walk Sozoees through a time of prayer and reflection that is supposed to facilitate intimacy with God. The facilitator guides the Sozoee through an ascent of the “Father Ladder,” in which the Sozoee is encouraged to “visualize” God and speak to the image of the Lord created in the mind’s eye. This is followed by identifying various “doors” that have allowed sin to enter one’s life, closing them, and “sealing” them by the blood of Jesus. Obstacles to the process are identified as “walls” that must be torn down. When a “door” is closed or a “wall” is demolished, the Sozoee is told to give a single clap of the hands, supposedly to help disengage the lie that had taken root in his or her mind. Past hurts are explored as various “rooms” of the mind are opened and searched—Sozo practitioners even claim to track down spiritual wounds acquired in the womb! Of course, none of this is found in Scripture.
According to the Bethel Sozo website, one of the goals of Sozo is to enable participants to “heal your relationship with God to enable you to fulfill your destiny.” Sozo aims for the complete healing of body, soul, and spirit. Sozoees will know their deliverance is complete when they are able to discern that the “strong man” has been defeated (based on Mark 3:27).
One of the emphases of Sozo is extending forgiveness to those who have wounded or in some way committed an offense against the Sozoee. Forgiveness is granted in order to bring about certain blessings:
– forgiveness relieves one of a burden he had carried
– forgiveness frees one from a “prison of torment”
– forgiveness closes a “door” that was allowing Satan access to one’s life
– forgiveness allows one to “step out of the way” and let God have a “direct line” to the offender
Intimacy with God is definitely something we should seek, and forgiveness of others is a biblical command; however, the methodology of Sozo is questionable at best. Attaining intimacy with God via a facilitated mental journey through visualizations and new spiritual experiences is fraught with danger. Our motivation for forgiveness should be more than just the blessings we reap from “letting go.” We forgive in obedience to God and because we have been forgiven (Colossians 3:13). Maturity in Christ comes with the exercise of the spiritual gifts within the church and “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:11–16). Sanctification comes through the Word of God (John 17:17).
The experience-based, extra-biblical practices of Sozo are of human invention and require human instruction—not to mention the payment of a “suggested donation.” With its visualization techniques, guided meditation, and “soaking prayer,” Sozo is, in many ways, closer to New Age mysticism than to Christianity.
The Bible tells us that a Christian’s peace is found in prayer and thanksgiving, not through being “Sozoed” (Philippians 4:6–7). A Christian’s destiny is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29), and God will complete His work in him (Philippians 1:6). A Christian has no need of extra, man-made programs when he has already been blessed with “every spiritual gift in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:3). A Christian has the written Word of God and needs not seek further messages from God or new experiences in the spiritual realm.
One of our goals is to “no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14). Sozo is yet another “wind of teaching” that believers moving toward maturity would do well to avoid.