George's HealMyLife book - a manuscript in process on Listening Prayer Therapy

You are invited to read and comment on this version of George's HealMyLife book  and to e-mail George click on: with your comments, edits and suggestions.

Just copy this page into Microsoft Word, edit and comment, and e-mail to me your feedback: Meantime, compile your own copy by printing these pages and putting them into a binder.

listening prayer therapist

In the summer of 2012 there will be a Listening Prayer Therapy Conference to learn in person from George Hartwell.  You will be at a retreat setting for 5 days.  Presentations will cover the material in the HealMyLife book but with an opportunity for questions of the author.  Practical input will include group prayer and opportunities in small group to practice the skills of Listening Prayer Therapy. 

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Heal My Life Book - Chapter 1.  Opening Conversation with God

Distribution for review and comment purposes only, May 2011 © George Hartwell, May 2011,

Let us begin with prayer.  In this prayer we will ask God to join us in this conversation between you, the reader, and myself - the writer.  In this prayer we will request that God's Spirit - which His presence with us and in us - would guide our conversation and inspire our prayers.

Okay, here is the prayer: "Dear Father, we invite Your Presence, Your Spirit, to be with me, as I write, and my reader as he or she reads.  May this time be fruitful for Your Kingdom.  Protect us from evil as we open our hearts and turn our spirits to You, we pray in the name of Jesus."

Let me introduce myself.  My name is George Hartwell.  I am a Christian counselor and prayer therapist.  I hope to give you some maps to guide the process of healing and sanctification in your life.  May these maps lead you in the process of inner and emotional healing that is central and essential to Christian life; and may they help you guide others in this same process.

The gift of God to this world is the historical life of Jesus and the ongoing present life of Jesus in those who choose to be in the process of becoming the children of God.  (John 1:12.)  Great and powerful gifts can be misused, misrepresented and unappreciated, and, if this happens, a good gift can become very evil.  If an institution chooses to call itself the church but refuses to step into the process of inner healing, sanctification and becoming children of God, then this so-called 'church' is capable of perpetuating great evil.

Scott Peck, in the People of the Lie, explains that essential evil is the refusal to admit to sin, wounds and faults in oneself.  To refuse to participate in inner healing - the process of dealing with one's sin patterns, wounds and faults, the process of "confessing one's faults to one another" (James 5:16) - is to push one's sins out of one's awareness and enter into pretending and denial.

The nature of such evil people, families and churches is to project evil out on others.  Evil people say, 'Those who are not us are evil.'  "They are bad (not us.)"  Sin and bitterness grows in the heart and spawns evil.  The result is many congregations and denominations calling themselves 'the church' when they are not the church.  They are not the community that Jesus modeled with his disciples, in his works of healing and deliverance and that Jesus died on the cross for. 

"And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost."  The church has all but forgotten the tools, the insights, the process of growing up in Christ, of inner sanctification, of shedding the old man and growing into the new.  "Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it."  (Lord of the Rings opening monologue.)

So we shall look for truths that have been lost and denigrated.  We will search for ancient wells that still hold refreshment for the Body of Christ. 

Inner healing work is best done with the help of another: a friend, a pastor, a counsellor.  James says: "Confess your faults to one another and pray for one another."  James 5:16.  So find a guide for yourself or, alternately, find a partner who can learn with you and work with one another.  Be a guide to one another.

There are many reasons why it is hard to do this kind of work alone.  Inner healing prayer usually does not work when done on your own.  We lack objectivity about ourselves.  Often we lack faith for ourselves but can have faith for another. 

Even though I have a calling that involves faith and prayer, I prefer to pray with someone.  I remember that Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with you."   I usually will pray with someone in agreement rather than pray on my own.  (If I do pray on my own, I prefer, then, to put the prayer in writing.)

I will give instructions to those who are in the role of guide by describing what I do in a prayer therapy session and some of the prayers that I use in my practice as a professional Christian counselor.

However, I do not want you to become a complete slave to my rules.  There are many times when empathy and intuition requires that one not be a slave to the rules.  Because of this, I will provide principles to guide you so that you can work with some flexibility. 

Leanne Payne is one of my mentors.  She almost owns the term 'listening prayer.'  She wrote on the subject and leads weeklong training conferences called 'Pastoral Care Ministry.' 

Leanne Payne uses a phrase 'practicing the presence of God' and introduces people to that wonderful little book called  The Practice of the presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  This monk lived in France 400 years ago and developed a remarkable life with God.  

I often prayerfully read The Practice of the presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  I meditate on his simple instructions in this book always hoping to move my relationship with God toward the incredible intimacy that Brother Lawrence experienced. 

Brother Lawrence learned to live his life as an ongoing conversation with God - spontaneous prayers during his day.  He found great delight in God in this simple practice.  He discovered a treasure of joy and comfort by praying during his work.

Life as a continuous conversation with God is our hope and our mission.  Within the professional prayer therapy session this is manifest as an inner attentiveness to God.  The counselor (guide, friend) is open to the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Such attuned listening to God is the background to the specific practical prayers that I introduce to the prayer therapy session and that I will write about in this book.

The guide must hold the stance of listening to God so that the Holy Spirit can give wisdom and guidance when flexibility is needed.  Our listening to God is in the background in our conversation with one another, in our choice of therapeutic focus and in the choice of the specific prayers to use. 

In a life of continuous conversation with God, every day and every major event will begin with a conversation with God.  Brother Lawrence did everything for the love of God, "asking as often as possible for the grace to do his work."  He once had a great dislike of kitchen work but, as a humble cook at the monastery for 15 years, he developed quite a facility for doing it.  He always rejoiced at being able to do little things for the love of God.

I do not have the discipline, the practice of this yet.  The best I manage is to be diligent in prayer therapy sessions to ensure that prayer is part of the process.

So invite God to be part of any prayer therapy session.  You might say, "Father, I invite you to join us here today and be part of this prayer therapy session."

Listening is so important in counselling and in prayer that you might invite God's spirit be present to help in the communication and especially in the listening.  You might say, "May your Holy Spirit help us to listen to one another and to listen to you."

You can ask for God's guidance during this session, saying "May you guide us in what we do, say, and pray here today."

I see my primary responsibility as a counselor is to listen to God and listen to my client.

Invocation is a Latin word that means to name or call upon.  We call upon some God by naming Him.  There is a danger that we could call upon other spirits if we call upon them.

Therefore, in the initial prayer that I do for a time of inner healing is to name and call upon God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - without naming evil powers or demons.  In fact, I never start a counselling session by binding demons or Satan.

There are good reasons (see: Going Deeper below) that I do not do that.  None of my most significant mentors in prayer therapy did that.  I now know why they did not teach this practice.  They were avoiding trouble.

Follow my example and that of my closest mentors and never begin with prayers focused on demons or Satan.  Do not bind them.  Do not command them.  Do not give them any extra attention.  I have already explained the principle here:  "What you invoke (name) is what you get."


Going Deeper Regarding Unhealthy Spiritual Warfare:

What you invoke, what you name, what you call upon, is what you get.  If you want God's presence, then be very disciplined in your focus on God and be disciplined in not calling upon demons by naming them , binding them, etc.  The danger of praying about, commanding, and binding demons is that when you call upon and invoke demons, you get demons.  They respond to your attention to them.

I once taught a University course for teachers using behavior modification.  One thing I taught teachers is that when your initial attention is on misbehavior, you are apt to get more misbehavior.  From the point of view of learning theory, the children respond with more of the behavior that gets attention.  I taught teachers to focus their primary and initial attention on the students who were examples of the behaviour that she wanted.  Think of Satan and evil spirits that long for your attention and hate it when God gets your attention.

You may wonder how the practice of binding demons, Satan and territorial spirits got started.  I have a theory that whenever anything good for the kingdom of God gets underway that Satan schemes to misdirect, confuse or undermine so that it will not bear fruit.

The rediscovery of the Holy Spirit by the Pentecostal movement and then the charismatic movement was clearly a threat to Satan's kingdom.  One of the tactics to undermine this may have been to release a teaching that has the potential to wreck the lives of individual Christians, undermine families and bring division in churches.

One town in Ontario, Canada was active in prayer for their area.  They used the teaching about binding principalities and powers because of the teachings of Peter Wagner.  However, they became deeply concerned when great disunity among the congregations involved.

When they read a book warning about this by John Paul Jackson called "Needless Casualties of War," they decided to follow Jackson's directions.  They repented of their demonic focus and, instead, focused only on God.  This, they found, was much better.  Conflicts became resolved.  In the local Christian bookstore all the books by Peter Wagner were removed and John Paul Jackson's book was displayed instead.

The theological explanation of taking authority over Satan made sense when I first heard it.  I followed this demonic teaching until I attended a PCM and heard Leanne Payne's frightening experience with the arrogant 'prayer warriors.'  The conference that the 'prayer warriors' prayed for was invaded with dark spiritual forces and Leanne Payne was fighting against oppression the whole way.

I did a lot of backpedaling and repenting and ran for spiritual cover.  I wanted to be hidden in Christ - a level of protection that is the natural condition of Christians.  'Hidden in Christ' was lost when I did this kind of prayer.

While engaged in this practice I lost an ideal professional position based on my completed Masters Degree form University of Calgary.  I was a member of the Psychology Department of University Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta for about four months!  That job loss is embarrassing to recall and recount.

I had been taught that Matthew 18 - where Jesus says whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven - referred to prayer.  Now I know another interpretation: Hebrew Christians understand this as empowering the leadership of the new community to rule.  I thought it was authorization "spiritual warfare."  It was not. 

Let us search through the Old Testament for any example of God's people being taught or authorized to battle angels in high places.

Our first observation is that there is lots of history, prophecy, poetry, wisdom and law but very little mention of evil angels (demons) or of spiritual warfare.

There is a story in which there is an attempt to use spiritual warfare to battle the children of Abraham that had left Egypt.  A prophet is summoned to curse Moses and all that traveled with him.  This is as close to 'spiritual warfare' of this sort that I can find in the Old Testament.  However, it does not look like our hero has authority over angels.  On the contrary.

An angel encounters Balaam - our spiritual warrior- - and he does not have authority over it.  See Numbers 22.  The angel says "I would have killed you by now" In the face of this angel, Balaam bows his head and falls flat on his face.  No binding angels here.  Balaam's donkey is instrumental in saving his life from the angel.  How humbling, disconcerting and frightening for Balaam.  How not in support of the 'bind angels' theory.

Let us look at Daniel's prayers for exiled Israel (Daniel 9).  This is the only instance that I can find where the Bible reports on true spiritual warfare.  In this case, Daniel, our hero, starts the actions with his humble prayers of confession and intercession on behalf of the exiled children of Abraham.  There are angels in this story and a heavenly fight.

An angel is sent from heaven with an answer for Daniel.  The 'prince of the kingdom of Persia' blocks that angel.  Michael, one of the chief princes of heaven, came to help the first angel get through to Daniel.  Daniel is not involved in the heavenly battle.  You can look if you like but I can find no indication that Daniel should have joined this battle with his prayers.

Heaven answered Daniel's prayers.  His prayers are an example for us but they are not an example of 'spiritual warfare.'  He prayed confession of sins, his people's sins.  He prayed for God to fulfill His promise.

Any 'spiritual warfare' was between angels - here called princes.  Michael - a 'prince' was sent to help the other angel, perhaps Gabriel.  Daniel does not "bind" the prince of the kingdom of Persia.  Nor does the angel who talks with Daniel rebuke him for keeping out of the battle.  The angel does not instruct Daniel in "binding" angels.

Let us look in the New Testament.  If we search through the stories of Jesus' life, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we find that Jesus cast out demons and his disciples were authorized to do the same.  This was person-to-person ministry so that people would be healed.  Is this justification enough to enter in to battle with those 'Princes' that Daniel left alone?


Did Jesus give us any example of "spiritual warfare' against the principalities and powers?  Let us examine the text.

1.Jesus does use the phrase "Get behind me Satan" but his temptations continued (Luke 4:1-13).  In that context, the phrase "Get behind me Satan" appears to be a stern rebuke rather than a command.

2.When James and John want to call down fire on a Samaritan village Jesus warns them not to; that they are in the wrong spirit.  Here is a warning against the wrong use of spiritual authority.  Luke 9:51-55.

3.Jesus saw a spiritual victory over Satan in Luke 10:18 when his disciples discovered "even the demons are subject to us in your name."  However, notice that they did not "bind the strong man" in every village.  Rather, they followed his orders to heal the sick, cast demons out of people and declare that the kingdom of God is at hand.

4.If the modern teachers of 'spiritual warfare' were correct, then Jesus would instruct his teams to "bind Satan" themselves.  Peter Wagner would; Jesus did not.  His teams came back with a delightful report.  Jesus declares, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."  Given this success does Jesus need to change his orders and adopt a new strategy more like modern 'spiritual warfare?'


Given that Jesus rebuked James and John, "You do not know what spirit is leading you to do this."  It is possible that new forms of spiritual warfare involving attacks on angels and Satan inspired by the wrong spirit?

To investigate this further, we can study the Book of Acts - the early history of the Jesus followers.  According to Paul in Ephesians 6:12, "principalities," "powers" and "the rulers of the darkness of this age" blocked and opposed them.  Paul knew that they were in a very real spiritual conflict with opposition from the high-level angels.  How did the Jesus followers deal with this?  Can you find any example of an apostle or deacon "binding" Satan or "taking authority over" a prince of the air?

Paul faced unbelievable levels of persecution and opposition.  He discerned that a messenger of Satan had been sent to buffet him.  What was Paul's response?  "Concerning this thing, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me."  2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

We know that Paul exercised authority over demons.  Paul had no problem with authority.  Why then, does he not exercise authority over this "messenger of Satan?" 

Clearly, if this new "bind the angels" form of spiritual warfare were true, Paul would exercise his authority over this "messenger of Satan."   In fact, throughout the Book of Acts I do not find any teaching or practice of anything resembling modern spiritual warfare.  Paul does not and neither does any other apostle "bind" the 'principalies' and 'powers' that Paul said they were up against.

In the letters to the churches by Paul, James, John, Peter, Jude and the Book of Hebrews there are many examples of prayer and instruction in prayer.  However, I do not find any example where there is instruction to 'bind' princes - those rulers of darkness to use Paul's phrase from Ephesians 5.

Instead, I find a warning in 2 Peter 2:10-13, that the devil and his angels need to be treated with respect.  Peter believed that those who "reject authority and speak evil of dignitaries" were making a destructive error.  In fact, Peter classes these teachers among false prophets and those who secretly bring in heresies.

Jesus authorized the 12 and then the 72 to cast out demons and they discovered that "even the demons are subject to us in your name."  Paul, too, cast out demons.  What I notice is that they do not cast down the principalities and powers mentioned in Ephesians 6:12.  Peter warns that these angels are "greater in power and might." (2 Peter 2:11).

Peter and Jude refer to the fact that "Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when disputing about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" (2 Peter 2:11, Jude 9)  Peter and Jude seem to expect their readers to understand that dignity and respect is due to angels; that they have authority, power and might that you do not mess with.

All this supports John Paul Jackson's contention (in Needless Casualties of War) that that territorial spirits, princes of the air, are of a different order than demon forces.  Jesus authorized authority over demons that were oppressing individuals.  However, Jesus did not authorize his 12 or the 72 to "bind Satan's angels over the towns and cities they went to. Luke 9:1-6, Luke10:1-11.

Jesus did not authorize prayer against these 'princes of the air' - what scripture calls angels.  It is rebellious to attack when an attack is not authorized.  Peter has a long rant against those who "speak evil of the things they do not understand" and calls them false teachers.

All of Second Peter, chapter 2, is this huge rebuke against these who despise authority, are presumptuous and self-willed and "are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries."  They will receive the 'wages of unrighteousness.'  Peter is saying that those who attack angels - the ones the Bible calls princes and dignitaries - are in disobedience and rebellion.  For example, to bind the Prince of Persia is to be in sin and rebellion.

 Paul addresses how to deal with territorial angels in Ephesians 6:10 - 20.  He advocates that Christians arm themselves to "withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand."  He advocates praying for protection but says nothing about binding.

Paul was not shy to exercise his authority.  It is clear that, if Jesus had authorized Paul to bind or command Satan's angels, he would have done it.  He would have taught it.  He does not do it - witness how he deals with the messenger of Satan sent to buffet him in Second Corinthians 12:7 - 10 - and he does not teach it.  

So far, I have trouble finding biblical teaching or example that authorizes God's people to attack or bind Satan's angels at the level of territorial spirits, rulers of the air, etc.  Are you with me in this?  Let us look at one more book - John's visions in the Book of Revelation.

Here we find lots of angels, demons and spiritual warfare.  The Christians part in all of this is to overcome - "By the Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony"  The patience, faith and obedience of the saints are mentioned in Revelation 13:9, 14:12.  

There is a war in heaven in which Michael and his angels fought with the dragon and his angels - that serpent of old, called the devil, and Satan.  The great dragon and his angels were cast out of heaven.  Because he was cast down, there is salvation, strength and the kingdom of God.  Revelation 12.

What we observe here in this war is angels fighting with angels.  There is no mention of human 'spiritual warriors' in this battle, no evidence of saints binding and attacking angels.  They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Revelation 12:11.

Our lives and our testimony appear to be important, not our 'spiritual warfare.'  We need to trust the Lord of Hosts to provide air coverage as we, on the ground, fulfill our calling.

Taking our hint from Daniel and the Book of Revelation we choose to let God deal with territorial spirits.  The commander of Gods angels, the Lord of Hosts, our Lord Jesus Christ said he could call for 12 legions of angels.  "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide me with more than 12 legions of angels?"  Matthew 26:53.

If this is correct, then we command, revile or bind angels, we usurp the position of the Lord of Hosts.  Who do we think we are?  We are using authority that is not ours.


Observations and Testimony 

What I have discovered both in my life and in others is that when we sin against the authority of God, we lose God's protection.  As we act with pride and arrogance, we lose our cloak of humility.  The Christian should be hidden in Christ, instead we, and our supply lines from God are exposed to the eyes of the enemy.  As a result we experience an increase in attacks by Satan's forces. 

I experienced problems in my finances (loss of job), health, and family relationships (divorce).  That these were attacks was not easily detected.  It felt like being under a curse.

The fact that the result of these prayer practices feels like a curse suggests that the teaching is demonic in origin.  Peter said that we will experience punishment and that we will "utterly perish in our own corruption."

Rebellion is as witchcraft.  When I took up this new teaching on 'spiritual warfare,' I moved into rebellion and deep sin which brought with it loss of job, struggle with poverty, loss of independence.   

I observed painful results in the lives of others involved in false spiritual warfare: teens in rebellion, poor health and poverty.  A friend of mine, who continued this type of 'spiritual warfare' after I had turned from it, experienced loss of marriage and family, loss of respect among fellow Christians, and health problems.  He ended up disgraced, at home, living with his mother.

A pastor phoned me about breaking a curse.  He knew there was a problem because any job he applied for seemed to slip through his hands.  I discovered that his church was practicing binding territorial spirits as a form of spiritual warfare.

There is good reason why demons would inspire false spiritual warfare?  It appears to give Satan's forces legal rights to attack us.  We appear to lose God's blessing and protection.  Satan begins to mess with our supply lines (job, finances), our family (divorce and teen rebellion), our health and, no doubt, our relationship with God.

Is there any underlying reason that people get attracted to false spiritual warfare?  In fact, there are several.  First, we live in a highly militaristic culture.  Second, there is little cultural appreciation of true strength shown through empathy and listening.  Third, where parents or leaders are over-controlling there is a loss of masculine will and backbone and the need for power (pseudo-independence) comes in to play.  Warfare type prayer is an outlet for this power drive.

Any activity that distracts our love and attention from God and directs us to Satan can be the outward expression of an hidden and inward anger at God.  Anger at God has many roots.  In my life it could be dad being away at war when I was two and three years old.  My Performance Orientation (people pleasing) personality pattern always generates anger at God and I was deep into that.  Can you believe it?  My high school principle said to me, "George you don't always have to be so nice."

We best follow Brother Lawrence's example in "Practicing the Presence of God."


For further studyNeedless Casualties of War by John Paul Jackson.



We open a prayer therapy session by inviting God to bless and protect us, to be with us and help us to listen to God and one another.  The Christian counselor, or prayer minister, is committing to accepting the guidance of God during the session, to staying attuned to God's Spirit.

We invite the presence of God and we practice the presence of God.  We are careful not to name, focus on or bind demons at the start of a session.  We focus, attend to and listen to God.

This other practice puts our focus on the wrong place.  It draws attention to the powers of darkness and may attract their presence.  By putting demons "on ignore" and by minimizing the attention we give to evil, we avoid invoking evil.

We chose to practice the presence of God and to delight in Him.  That way we enjoy the blessings of His Presence and His Spirit.



I invite you to read and comment on this early version of my HealMyLife book - a manuscript in process on Listening Prayer Therapy.  Just copy this page into Microsoft Word, edit and comment, and e-mail to me:

Other chapters in early manuscript form needing your input.


Print off for personal use only.  Do not publish.  © George Hartwell, Mississauga, Canada, 2011

George Hartwell M.Sc. is a Christian counselor with a masters degree in clinical psychology, 30 years experience and who integrates prayer therapy into his counseling practice. 

To learn all About George or his professional practice see: George's Professional web site, Christian marriage counselling, Christian phone therapy, and Christian Marriage Retreats