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

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:

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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Chapter 4.  Confession in Listening Prayer Therapy 

 Sin is something we cannot handle.  We can see sin as weakness in our life, as an issue we cannot handle, as a life in a rut.  All the problems we bring to a therapist can be broadly seen as faults.  James says that in order to be healed we should confess our sins (faults) one to another and pray for one another.  James 5:16.

Sin also is associated with guilt.  I have broken God's law and I am to blame.  I know that I need to be reconciled with God.  It would help to know that God forgives me and that I do not need to live with this burden of guilt.  It would help to bridge this separation from God to achieve restore community with God.

It is hard to transact confession-forgiveness without naming the sin and, therefore, being open about it.  It is hard to remove guilt without confessing sin as sin and receiving forgiveness from God.

Often a child feels guilty even after a parent or Social Worker tells them they are not responsible and it is not there fault.  Nor do thing resolve in the heart of the adult through the assurance that "You are not guilty.  It is not your fault."  What we believed as a child, remains in our heart (emotional brain) until there is heart change.

An important principle in Listening Prayer Therapy is that hearing revelation from God changes the human heart; human consolation, comfort and exhortation do not.  What is heart and life changing is the powerful rhema Word of God - which is the word that we hear in our spirit when we enter into listening to God mode.

The secret of Listening Prayer Therapy is this living active Word of God.  We cannot create heart change and Life Transformation on our own.  It is all about revelation from God.  It is as we listen, present moment, that This is the Word of God is active.

This Word of God is transmitted by the Holy Spirit.  This Word of God is received in our human spirit.  Therefore, this active Word will bypass our minds and will change our hearts.


What is Confession?

Confession means being open with God.  Confessing sin to God is opening up the conversation with God about something that we cannot handle, about our faults, about those things we feel guilt about.

A counselling session is an opportunity to be open and honest about one's problems, faults and weaknesses with another person.  God will consider our openness with one another in an atmosphere of prayer as a time of confession to Him.   

In Christian counselling the counsellor can serve as an ambassador of Christ.  The counselor can mediate love and forgiveness to the client by listening without judgment and through sensitive prayers.

In some Christian circles, we may chose to see sin and confession as a personal matter between God and us.  We want to keep it private.  We may visualize interpersonal confession as a formal sacrament as it is in the Catholic Church.

With these views, we might miss the reason that James speaks of confessing our faults to one another.  There is authenticity and, therefore, power in speaking out something you want to deal with.  There are risks being taken and, therefore rewards achieved, when you confess out in the open to another. 

In some cases, the 'confession of sin' aspect of counselling is present without direct mention.  I do not bring it into the open.  However, there are times when it is good and helpful to make the confession and receiving of forgiveness part of the therapy process. 

When is it necessary to make confession of sin an open part of the counselling session? Consider the following four factors:

1.Does this person have trouble receiving because of an underlying belief that they do not deserve good? 

2.Would this person be feeling guilty, rightly or wrongly, for the topic under discussion?

3.Is it really important for this person to experience God's love?

4.Would this be a helpful opportunity to learn more about this person's comfort level and preferences in listening prayer?  Would this be the right time to learn more about their learning and listening style?


My Personal Experience with Self Help and Confession

Overcoming sin on your own is hard and frustrating work.  No matter how hard we work, in the end sin wins.  Paul, in writing the Book of Romans, describes deep frustration in his battle with sin as described in Romans 8.

One way to see sin is those behaviours, attitudes and character traits that cause problems for others or us and are impossible to change.  Sin is, in my definition, something we cannot deal with.  It is well beyond my control, which is why Jesus died for my sins.

Is it your experience that self-change projects are short-lived?  That has been my observation of my efforts at self-help.  When I try to change some important characteristic of myself using the best of Psychology and self-help, I usually gain temporary success - but not lasting change.  Is that your experience? 

After I came to Christ, by giving my life to God, many of my faults and twists in my character were still present.  For example, I still was a people pleaser.  I focused on doing things for God rather than getting to know God.  However, I began to discover the methods that bring about more lasting change.

Change before Christ did not last.  However, when I confessed an issue as sin and turned it over to God in prayer that seemed to work.  Moreover, it worked with a lot less effort on my part.  The main thing I did was to recognize my sin and confess it, turning it over to God.  I then learned not to focus on it and to leave time for God to act.

When I finally recognized my 'People Pleasing' pattern, I confessed that to my minister who was at the same training with me.  We prayed about it.  After that, I noticed some immediate changes in my way of acting in groups.  I notice over the years that I have been in an ongoing process of discovering and expressing my true feelings, needs, tastes and learning to be comfortable with being myself. 

Openness may trigger in us a fear of vulnerability, a fear of losing control.  However, I trusted Jesus and was willing to take the risk.  Sometimes my confessions were on my own and sometimes to others.  Both ways brought lasting results and progress toward lasting freedom.

True, we may fear vulnerability, but that is because of false beliefs.  This childhood beliefs would be what Paul would call our 'Old Man.' Childhood experiences lead to these conclusions and they became lodged in our emotional brain (heart).  However, we can learn that with God - the God of Love - these beliefs are not true.  Opening up to God is the safest, healthiest and most secure thing we can do.

Releasing sin to Jesus means affirming his role as our Saviour and receiving the work that he did on the cross where he became sin and died for our sin.  Rather than ignoring or minimizing the work Jesus did we thank him for it and put what he did to work.

Read Matthew 11:28, 29 and you will see that he does a part - "I will give you rest" - and yet there is a part for us, "Take my yoke upon you."  Knowing what our part is takes learning and listening, as he says: "learn from me."

The first part is releasing our sin problem to him and letting him do his part - the major part.  We give it to him through open and honest confession of our problem.  Learn to do this and you will learn to find rest for your soul.


Self Change or Confession of Sin, which is more restful?

"Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

What does wisdom and experience show you?  Is it easier to tackle faults, sins and addictions on your own through your own 'do-it-yourself' project, or confess it as sin and give the job to Jesus?  Is it do it yourself or 'let go and let God?'

Something in you may feel that you have to do it yourself.  It feels more empowering to do it oneself.  It may be difficult to give up this feeling of power and your self-concept of adequacy.

My experience with self-change projects - my own - is that they are short-lived.  I might keep up a program for a few months but then I am no longer motivated to keep it up. 

Therefore, it was a pleasant discovery that I could take difficult issues; find some way they were sin; confess them to God and turn them over to God to deal with.  I found that real change happened that way.  It was subtle.  It did not always show up dramatically and instantly, but real permanent changes started to take shape in my life as I turned difficulties over to God this way.

So, it has been my experience that the easiest way to change, to heal, to improve is to turn our sins over to God.  This requires less work than self-change because the work was finished on the cross.  We honor God and esteem the work of Jesus on the cross when we confess our sin and allow him to change us from the inside out.

If Jesus died for my sins, why do I take the burden of dealing with them on myself?

I now realize that self-change is mental (conscious thoughts and choices) and, therefore, will not and cannot be successful in dealing with issues of my heart.  My mind can not change my heart. 

Heart change is God's realm.  Can we do heart change?  I do not think so.  We cannot change our hearts, any more than a leopard can change its spots.  The evidence is in as far as I can see - my own changes do not last.  That only God can heal my life is what my web site URL designates.  Only God can heal my life.

If you want to do this on your own, then keep track of your results.  Is this working for you?  Do you like the results?  If, as I believe, sin is not something that we cannot deal with, then you may face repeated failure in trying to change yourself on your own.

I prefer what works.  Therefore, I will let go of my need for 'power.'  I will humble myself and go to God in prayer.  All that God requires of me is an honest and open heart - an open conversation with Him about my sin.  I can do that.

Does that make sense?  All God requires is that we communicate; that we talk to Him about our sin.  Once you have turned to Jesus as your Saviour, declared through baptism that Jesus is Lord of your life and asked to be filled with the Holy Spirit, what is needed in our ongoing process of healing and sanctification is ongoing confession of sin.

Then we need to let go and leave it with him.  Let go of it for at least three days.  Bury it with him as he was in the tomb for three days.  Let the sin pattern die with him and Christ be resurrected in you.  Christ in you will overcome sin.

We name our sin.  We acknowledge our responsibility for it.  We admit our weakness in dealing with it (See 12 Step Program).

We now affirm his role in our life as Saviour.  Jesus Christ is our 'higher power.'  As Savior, he not only forgives our sin, but also breaks the power of sin in our life.  He overcomes the sin patterns that we cannot overcome on our own.  We are prepared to trust him in this and give our problem to him.

Watch and see what Jesus does.  Sometimes he just takes over and the pattern comes under control.  Sometimes he teaches us something we need to know to do our part.


For further Study on Sin and Confession

Study Romans Chapter 7 to recall how tough, how impossible, it is to defeat sin on your own.

In a good concordance look up the Hebrew for confession and the Greek word for sin in James 5:16.

I believe that you will find that the Hebrew word for confession means, "open hands."  In the Eastern way of talking to God, very concrete picture language is used.  An open hand gesture means surrender or openness.

You may find that the Greek word "sins" in James 5:16 also means "faults."  James says we are to confess our faults to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed. 

Study all the 'one another' commands to discover the way we need one another to build up the Body of Christ.

I would define confession as being open about one's problems, faults, weaknesses and sins with the purpose of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing.  In this definition it is easy to include a counselling session as one form of confession.

with Jesus.  It is our imagination but when we go their in prayer, we give the Spirit permission to use our imagination to present Jesus to our imagination.  When we do so, Holy Spirit inspiration will animate the scene.  The Holy Spirit mediates Jesus to us and we are able to experience Jesus with us and speaking to us in a way that brings comfort and healing.  God, present by the power of the Holy Spirit and appearing as Jesus, brings truth and love to our heart and heals our lives. 

Does this happen easily and often in my counseling office?  Yes it does!  The more often I take the risk of using listening prayer, the more often God's healing comes through.  The first few times when I ventured to try this, I was nervous.  Now, after years of experience, I am confident in the results.  The results have been very consistent. 


Summary: How to use Confession as a Listening Prayer Therapy

In confession, we are open and honest about our faults, weaknesses and sins and ask for God's forgiveness.  Participating in confession can bring dignity to life because we are admitting that our choices and attitudes are under our control.  This helps overcome the helpless victim mentality because we are taking responsibility for our part - no matter how small.

We not make the confession on behalf of the other.  It is important for people to pray aloud on their own behalf and take responsibility for their life and this is one of them.  At times, you may need to suggest the wording to your client, but then let them do the praying, aloud.  If they are stuck then guide them aloud phrase by phrase.  If a person has trouble with this, coach them through it.

It is a big mistake to always pray for the person who wants healing rather than to encourage them to pray.  Here is an area where it would be a serious mistake for you to pray on behalf of the client.  It is their responsibility to confess their sins.  Let them do it.


The Next Step after Confession

When a person confesses their sin, they need to receive assurance of pardon.  From the perspective of Listening Prayer Therapy this assurance should come as revelation from God.  A fresh encounter with God provides the heart experience of receiving forgiveness and the assurance of God's love.

The prayer therapist will encourage the person needing healing to request forgiveness after their admission of faults, addiction or sins.  You want them to go from "Please forgive me," to "Do you forgive me?" and to listen to God.

One way to do this is to set up a picture of an encounter with Jesus and a question.  The question may be as simple as, "Does God forgive me?" 

I remember something that Agnes Sanford used - picture meeting Jesus and confessing your sin and asking forgiveness of him in this picture.  What does Jesus say when you ask Him for forgiveness?

However we will look more at this in the next chapter.


You are invited to read and comment on early version of George's 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:

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

Here are the seven chapters in the first section:

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