Can you really think yourself rich, married or successful? Carrie Lloyd investigates
We will do almost anything to save ourselves from fear. Be it prayer, fasting, rounding up the intercessors like a coalition of cheetahs, dousing ourselves in holy water, walking on hot coals (or is that just me?), selling all our belongings, selling someone else’s belongings…
In times of uncertainty, fleeces are thrown down like a rug seller in Turkey, scriptures are shoved under the mattress of the guest bed – in case, you know, our visitor feels a little ‘off’ – and we wait upon the Lord for courage, for change, for a sign that will push us to a glorious new destiny.
Or a breakthrough, at least. This is us (give or take a little exaggeration) within the Church.
When people outside of the Church are scared, there’s usually a rise in fix-it mechanisms that promise a better life. And there’s nothing like a pandemic to throw the planet into a panic, resurging that old trend of manifestation, poking once more at the practice of the laws of attraction.
I realised it had become a movement again in 2020 when, suddenly, everyone working from their Los Angeles home office had a vision board pinned just above their eyeline, filled with pictures of that Mercedes they always wanted to own or the qualities they hoped for in their yet-to-be-discovered spouse.
When a trend is kicking off in LA, you can bet your Bible that it won’t be long before it hits the pages of a British magazine or appears on a morning TV talk show.
CHRISTIANS ARE JUST AS CAPABLE AS EVERYONE ELSE OF MANIPULATING THINGS MEANT FOR GOOD, OF TURNING HARM TOWARDS OURSELVES AND OTHERS
REPACKAGED AND REDEFINED
Manifesting can mean different things to different people. For the Church, it is a phrase often used when we see evidence of the supernatural tangibly displayed in the natural (from signs of the miraculous to displays of the demonic).
Throughout my time pastoring in a charismatic church, there have even been different interpretations of what is ‘manifesting in the Spirit’ and what is manifesting under Satan’s thumb.
Often, the same action can be interpreted differently, depending on who you talk to. But in the secular world, the definition of manifestation is a little less complicated.
For most, it is simply a practice of thinking aspirational thoughts with the purpose of making them real. It is a technique that brings what you desire the most into your life through thoughts, visualisations, belief and action.
But is manifesting really anything new? The term originally stems from the New Thought movement, made popular by Phineas Quimby in the early 19th Century and whose famous student, Mary Eddy, founded Christian Science.
It held the belief that ‘Infinite Intelligence’, or God, is everywhere; spirit is the totality of real things, true selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, sickness originates in the mind, and ‘right thinking’ has a healing effect.
In 1897, the New Thought movement began to teach individual prosperity; that one’s ability to channel positive thoughts would lead to success.
That same year, philosopher Ralph Waldo Trine’s In Tune With the Infinite; or, fullness of peace, power and plenty sold millions of copies, cultivating a wide following, including the automobile industrialist Henry Ford.
Fast forward a century and, in 2006, Rhonda Byrne published her now-famous self-help book The Secret (Simon & Schuster). Based on the film of the same name, Byrne’s theory is a simple three-step process: ask, believe and receive.
If it sounds familiar, it’s because it is. It is based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 21:22: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
NOW, MORE THAN EVER, THERE IS A GREAT NEED FOR THE CHURCH TO MAKE MANIFEST THE HOPE, KINDNESS AND TRUTH FOUND ONLY IN JESUS
A MOVEMENT GOES VIRAL
By March 2020, with a worldwide pandemic gripping the globe, many were panicking and Google searches for prayer were at an all-time high. Alongside that rise in spiritual curiosity, the manifesting movement exploded.
Instagram agony aunt Roxie Nafousi’s Manifest: 7 steps to living your best life (Michael Joseph) became an international bestseller and was billed by Vogue as “the millennial answer to The Secret”.
Intuits, wellness gurus and motivational speakers such as Gabrielle Bernstein, author of The Universe Has Your Back (Hay House) and Lacy Phillips, founder of To Be Magnetic, a digital manifestation programme endorsed by everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop to Harper’s Bazaar, were everywhere, from the pages of Elle magazine to the sofas of This Morning.
The isolated (which, in a time of pandemic, meant all of us) had more time than ever to hone the art of astro-projecting their desires into the universe.
A quick internet search today throws up many manifesting methods, including the 369 method, the 555 method, the pillow method and the whisper method – all viral sensations, primarily birthed on TikTok and mainly aimed at getting your ex-boyfriend back, it seems.
The 369 method involves writing down the desire you want to manifest into reality three times each morning, six times each afternoon and nine times each night, for either 21, 35 or 45 days (depending on who you ask).
Nothing new under the sun
The Bible affirms: “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21) and Jesus did say: “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24) nevertheless, for many, the manifesting movement is far from a return to biblical truths.
Instead, it’s a dangerous and demonic twisting of biblical principles. It’s fair to say some in the Christian community have panicked at our culture’s embrace of manifesting, believing participants are opening themselves up to demonisation if they indulge in Satan’s manipulative game play.
But the manifestation movement is not dissimilar to people reciting declarations of scripture each morning.
Steve Backlund’s book Victorious Mindsets (Igniting Hope Ministries) recounts incredible testimonies that have come from reciting Bible verses repeatedly.
Healing, increases in wealth, reconciliation in families and restored marriages have all been put down to such techniques, which adherents say is all part of renewing our minds (Romans 12:2) and taking “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
It has long been scientifically and spiritually accepted that hope brings the most influence to a room, just as self-sabotage precedes the demise of great potential.
Equally, methods designed to acquire what we want, without a voice of wisdom, or sound, objective intelligence, can be deadly. I have seen people testify to the power of manifesting as they have purchased Bentleys, bought mansions and signed record deals.
I’ve also witnessed the same people crash into debt, divorce and denial. The same can happen in both sacred and secular camps; in fear, we seek to gain control.
In fear, we can abuse faith, placing it in the wrong things. Alternatively, we can choose to surrender our fear by placing our “confidence in what we hope for”, being assured of “what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
IT IS OFTEN THE ADVERSITY, NOT THE WISHES GRANTED, THAT BUILDS OUR CHARACTER
DREAMS AND VISIONS
Proverbs says that “where there is no vision, the people perish” (29:18, KJV). Today, as young people turn away from the trauma and uncertainty of modern-day living towards manifestation, the Church may want to work on communicating the intentionality of hope.
We know the power of dreams and the success that they eventually brought Joseph (Genesis 41). We know of hospitals, charities and social enterprises that started with a vision.
I know of Christians who pray, and who also visualise their hopes and dreams in the shower, including my friend who, aged 28, just made the Forbes magazine ‘30 under 30’ list. His company, which earned more than $100m within its first two years, provides employment for many people in the city where it’s based.
That, if you ask me, is an answered prayer. If you ask him, he will tell you that he visualised not only the sensation of that first $1m in his bank account, but also the process of getting there.
The journey, he says, was important. God was his motivation for risking starting a business in the first place and the reason he wasn’t frightened of failure.
The biblical principle of grafting hard glorified God and underpinned his work ethic. His goal, as a Christian, wasn’t simply a Lamborghini; success had a purpose beyond his own desires.
GIVING UP CONTROL
Often, those written-down manifestations – and the prayers of Christian believers – don’t work because we don’t actually want to do the work.
Sometimes, Christians can be (whisper it!) lazy, expecting God to do all the heavy lifting. And, as the secular crew places their belief in the law of attraction, we place ours in prayerful manipulation – more “our will be done” than his – as we pray prayers aligned only towards our own desires.
There can be a fine line between the selfish prayers we pray for ourselves, and the lists others make without guidance from an omnipotent, loving Father.
I’ve prayed many a prayer that didn’t get answered and it took nearly a decade of living to understand why.
Often it was either not an outcome God considered best for me, or not an outcome that would prosper another. And no matter how many times I could have written in the morning, afternoon and evening that my dad was coming back to life, my dad did not come back to life.
There is a humility that grows out of what life itself throws at us. It is often the adversity, not the wishes granted, that builds our character. Some things are out of our control, and some things are within it; it is great wisdom to know the difference and, ultimately, that’s the trump card the faith community can play.
With God’s help, we can learn to discern the difference between self-seeking hopes that magnify our sense of ego, and partnering with the dreams that glorify God.
I am surrendered, then, to hoping for and acting upon the dreams placed within me. To learning the humility to let go of that which is not good for me, or anyone else. Perhaps that Bentley will, one day, appear – but probably not without the hard graft my Forbes friend displayed.
Perhaps that chateau in the Dordoyne will be my third home – if it doesn’t puff up my ego or distract me from my neighbours’ struggle to pay their bills. But neither can become the be-all or end-all of my identity. If they do, I know Jesus would ask me to sell them in a heartbeat.
DESPERATELY SEEKING SAFETY
The recent resurgence in manifestation is occurring among a generation that is desperately seeking safety, hope, connection and a sense of belonging. It might be tinged with manipulation, especially when it involves writing down the name of an ex-partner 18 times a day, but Christians also need to guard against this tendency.
Now, more than ever, there is a great need for the Church to make manifest the hope, kindness and truth found only in Jesus.
But that needn’t come in the form of rebuking others, shunning them with demonic dread. Manifesting needn’t be called satanic (it depends on its posture and who we partner with) but it can, often, be compassionately challenged by asking: “Why?” To conjure up our own ideas of Satan’s schemes gives him too much credit and is scripturally inaccurate.
The more important questions, perhaps, are: Why have young people lost hope? What are they so fearful of, that they strive to control the thoughts and hearts of others?
Equally, Christians are just as capable as everyone else of manipulating things meant for good, of turning harm towards ourselves and others.
The Church is fond of using 2 Corinthians 11:14 as a warning against Satanic attempts to grab our attention, but just as “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” so, too, can Christians attempt to manipulate and control through less-than-godly means. So let’s take off the power-tool belt and take a step back for a moment.
God has plans to prosper us (Jeremiah 29:11), but he is waiting for our “yes” – a yes that brings action as much as hope. So write the lists, dream in the shower, but be open enough to surrender all of these to the God who is above them all.
Consider the freedom of others and the harm (intentional or otherwise) that our desires could cause. Remaining flexible enough to navigate the horrors and hiatus of a world that remains outside of our control requires a constant conversation with wisdom himself.
For within Jesus’ tone is nothing but tenderness, and an encouraging whisper. A whisper far more powerful than the universe itself.