George's HealMyLife book
- a manuscript in process on Listening Prayer Therapy - Chapter Six
Just copy this page into Microsoft Word, edit and comment, and e-mail to me:
In Christian prayer therapy we use listening to God for healing. Listening to God is also a lifestyle, an attitude that we take with us everywhere and at all times.
That means that we live unconsciously and spiritually attuned to God even while we do our everyday tasks. Consciously we join Brother Lawrence in practicing the presence of God on a continuous and daily basis.
Living as he did, 300 years ago, Brother Lawrence found that his mind, his thinking and his intellect would interfere with his communion and conversation with God. If he needed to be careful living in a monastery, how much more careful must we be, over-stimulated as we are by multiple media. Honestly, communion with God and with others is impossible for some of us unless and until we unplug ourselves from our multiple media world (TV, computer screen, Facebook, Twitter, cell phone, headphone music, etc.)
Brother Lawrence practiced the presence of God out of a great love for God. He did everything he could for the love of God. He felt much closer to God in his day-to-day activities than most people ever believed to be possible. The worst trial he could imagine was losing his sense of God's presence, which had been with him for so long a time.
Brother Lawrence felt that there is no sweeter manner of living in the world than in continuous communion with God. God's presence was a delight to his soul and spirit. He believed that all spiritual life consists of practicing God's presence, and that anyone who practices it correctly will soon attain spiritual fulfillment.
Brother Lawrence found that his soul so filled with a constant inner joy that at times it was overwhelming. God responded to the exuberant devotion of Brother Lawrence with abundant grace. He enjoyed contentment and satisfaction from possessing such an ever-present treasure.
Brother Lawrence had the habit of continuously conversing with God, telling him everything that was happening. He freed his mind from thoughts that distracted him from serving the Lord, to permit a comfortable conversation with God.
Our overactive mind can completely overwhelm God's still small voice speaking to our heart. Many of us suffer from an over active mind and intellect; even our spirits get wound up. If we are to hear from God then we will first need to learn to bridle our mind as well as learning to unplug from media. Failing to calm our minds and our spirits can result in a completely blocked relationship with God.
We need to examine our lifestyle in other ways. Are we getting enough sleep? Are we drinking too much coffee? Are we out of touch with life because we drink too much alcohol, or consume too many recreational drugs? Such practices may make the listening to God lifestyle very difficult.
Yes, we may need to unplug our coffee maker; unplug our overactive mind; or unplug ourselves from over-stimulating media, so that we can practice the presence of God.
You may want to treat these practices, or our overindulging in these practices, as sin or addiction and confess them to God asking for help to break their power. Have fun developing your own picture of Jesus doing this.
For those who need to unplug from media, I suggest taking short media breaks. You need to learn to live in the present moment. Try to do so for 5 min. at a time. Become aware of what is going on in the world around you without media input. When you are with people in a setting where you are supposed to be connected with them, take drastic action. Turn off your cell phone, your iPod and your iPad.
As you unplug from media and reduce or avoid coffee and drugs, you may still find a struggle to calm your mind. Now you need to learn to calm your mind so that you can have periods of peace and stillness. Only when your mind is still can you listen to what is coming from your heart and spirit.
During listening prayer therapy, you will be listening for God's voice. God's voice may appear as a spontaneous thought in your mind. In order for a spontaneous thought to come to your mind, your mind must be still. Learn to discern the difference between your thinking and a spontaneous thought arising in your mind.
How would you picture an overactive mind? How would you picture giving an overactive mind to Jesus? If you have creative answers to those two questions then you are on your way to creative listening prayer.
What are the steps involved dealing with an overactive mind through listening prayer?
Confession: First, you recognize that it is a problem. You discuss it openly. You may want to confess this pattern as sin and ask for forgiveness.
Jesus Proclamation: Second, you proclaim that Jesus is Lord of the problem. Use the Jesus Proclamation. I declare Jesus is Lord, Savior, Healer and Deliverer of my autonomous mind.
Verbal Prayer: Thirdly, you pray in words asking Jesus to put your overactive mind to death so that you can have a normal calm mind. Or you may ask Jesus to bridle your mind so that it is under his leadership.
Imaginative Prayer: Fourth, you put your prayer into picture form and create a story so that your heart can participate. You create a story about Jesus dealing with your overactive mind. You develop a picture of an overactive mind. We think of what it would look like to take that overactive mind to Jesus. When you have devised the outline of the story, then you use your imagination to see yourself taking your overactive mind and giving it to Jesus to deal with.
The final steps are to observe the outcome. Note what happens and how it feels, and to thank Jesus for any good things that happened. Then be calm and let all this soak in.
To practice these principles and skills, design a listening prayer to deal with unplugging from multi-media.
The prayer therapist must discern whether the client is going into their head or their heart.
If the client does not wait but responds very quickly they may be reporting what they think Jesus would say. Listening prayer usually involves a time of silence and waiting on the Lord.
If the client uses the word "think" in describing the prayer that, too, may be from their mind and not a heart encounter with Jesus. For example, "What I think Jesus is saying is that I am forgiven."
If the answer is in conventional language, if it sounds like the expected answer, it is possible that their head is speaking and they are not reporting a listening prayer encounter with Jesus. A true encounter is often fresh and suprising.
You may have you own way of dealing with that. You must confront the client with the fact that they need answer mediated by Jesus - by listening to him not by saying what you think he would say. You need to get them out of their head. They need to meet with Jesus, actually picture meeting him in their imagination, as scary as that might seem.
There is also intellectual resistance. Here the person's mind refuses to do the exercise. They already know (intellectually) the answer.
People who are well versed in the Bible often object to asking Jesus if God forgives them. They will say that they know - intellectually - that He forgives them. I agree with them that their head knowledge of the Bible may tell them that God forgives them (see: 1 John 1:9). I explain that only heart knowledge will heal them. That heart knowledge is only received from God. In the case of Listening Prayer we imagine meeting with Jesus, ask him and listen for his answer.
I persist in requesting them to close their eyes, relax, let their mind be still and ask God, "Do you forgive me?" They are to wait and watch and see what God says to them.
People may report difficulty with the exercise because Jesus did not say anything. Ask some questions. Are they giving Jesus time to speak? Are they paying attention to what he does? Do they feel anything in the scene? Sometimes the 'answer' may come in a good feeling of comfort but no words. I accept that, work with it, and move on to thanking him for that feeling.
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
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.