Visualization is the practice of forming mental images or scenarios as a way to realize goals or desires. It involves picturing in the mind a desired outcome or result. Some common examples are visualizing success before a job interview, visualizing wealth and abundance to manifest financial prosperity, or visualizing good health to aid in healing. But what does the Bible have to say about visualization? Here is an overview of key biblical principles regarding visualization:
Visualization Requires Faith, But Faith in God, Not Faith in Visualization
The concept behind visualization is that mentally picturing something can help bring it into reality. In a sense, this requires faith – faith that the mental image can influence actual events. The Bible affirms the power of faith, but cautions against putting faith in the wrong things. Faith should be placed in God, not in processes like visualization. As Hebrews 11:1 explains, biblical faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is confidence in God’s power and promises. Visualization, on the other hand, focuses faith on one’s own mental processes.
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Positive Thinking Encouraged, But Not as a Means of Controlling Life
Visualization often involves positive thinking – picturing ideal scenarios and believing they will happen. Scripture encourages positive thinking and optimism. For example, Philippians 4:8 says to think on things that are noble, just, pure, lovely, commendable. However, the Bible cautions against believing we can control outcomes just by positive thinking or visualizing. God is sovereign over all things. Proverbs 16:9 says “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Positive thinking can be helpful, but God ultimately directs each person’s life.
Philippians 4:8 (ESV) – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) – The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
Guard Heart Against Covetousness and Greed
Visualization is often used to picture material blessings like wealth, possessions, or status symbols. But Scripture strongly warns against covetousness and greed. For example, Luke 12:15 says to watch out for all kinds of greed, because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. The 10th Commandment prohibits coveting anything that belongs to one’s neighbor (Exodus 20:17). While daydreaming about nice things is not necessarily sinful, the heart must be guarded against discontentment and idolizing material wealth.
Luke 12:15 (ESV) – And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Exodus 20:17 (ESV) – “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Prayer and Meditation on Scripture Recommended Over Visualization
In times of uncertainty, need, or desire, the Bible recommends prayer and meditation on Scripture, rather than visualization. 1 Timothy 2:1 encourages making prayer requests to God for all people. Joshua 1:8 commands meditating on Scripture day and night to be wise and successful. Saturating the mind with God’s Word is portrayed as more powerful than visualization. Isa 26:3 promises perfect peace when the mind is stayed on the Lord.
1 Timothy 2:1 (ESV) – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people
Joshua 1:8 (ESV) – This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Isaiah 26:3 (ESV) – You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Avoid New Age Associations and Occultic Visualization Practices
In some New Age or occultic practices, visualization is accompanied by meditation techniques like chanting, crystal gazing, or astrology. These are forbidden in the Bible, which condemns occultic practices (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). While basic visualization does not necessarily involve the occult, Christians should be prudent to avoid questionable mystic influences.
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (ESV) – There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD.
Caution Against Visualization as a “Magic Formula”
Some promoters of visualization teach it like a force that can be manipulated to automatically bring results. But the Bible disavows such formulas. Paul explains in Colossians 2:8 that results come from Christ, not ritualistic practices. Outcomes depend on God’s sovereign will, not techniques. So while visualization may be helpful in some ways, it should not be presumed a secret method for getting what we want.
Colossians 2:8 (ESV) – See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Avoid Pride; God Resists the Proud
Pride is a sin Christians must actively avoid. Some advocates of visualization present it as a way for people to “manifest” or attract things through their own mental powers. But this can feed pride. In reality, all good things come from God (James 1:17). Visualization should not make us feel self-sufficient or garner pride. For “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
James 1:17 (ESV) – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
1 Peter 5:5 (ESV) – Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Avoid Making Idols Out of Visualization
We must be careful not to make visualization an idol or trust it over God. Unfortunately, some advocates of visualization border on this. But Exodus 20:3-5 clearly prohibits making idols or worshipping anything above God. Our trust must remain in God alone. Mental visualization, like other practices, can become misused. Christians should avoid extreme fixation on, or devotion to, visualization processes.
Exodus 20:3-5 (ESV) – You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.
Summary of Biblical Perspective on Visualization
In summary, the Bible affirms the power of faith and positive thinking, but cautions against putting ultimate faith in mental visualization or believing it alone controls outcomes. Visualization should not become a source of pride or covetousness. Occultic or New Age forms of visualization must be avoided. Meditation on Scripture and prayer should be central, not visualization. If practiced in balance, visualization may assist people in productive and godly ways. But it should not be presumed a secret power of the mind or practiced in extremes. As in all areas of life, biblical wisdom and prudence are essential.