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:
© George Hartwell, May 2011, www.HealMyLife.com, Distribution for review and comment purposes, May 2011
A client may tell me that what they need is for me to listen. A friend may tell you that they really need someone to talk to; that they need a listening ear. They need a loving ear more than a talking mouth.
In the first session, there is a natural tendency to lay everything on the table. My client often feels lost as they jump from topic to topic. As the counsellor, I keep very good notes, because this is the overview of their life - a map of their issues. Everything they talk about will need to be dealt with in later sessions.
"Listen to me" is a special kind of counseling session. The primary need of the client is for the counselor to listen. They need to cover many painful concerns. It all floods out.
Listening is a form of prayer. Listening is a core part of counselling. Listening is a form of love. Listening is healing.
Listening involves an empathic connection with the other. Through listening, we carry one another's burdens. The Christian counselor must listen to the client and listen to God.
In this kind of session, there is minimal time for discussion or insight. I need to focus on what the client is saying and sharing. They may not appreciate too many interruptions.
For many people, it is profoundly healing to have someone listen to them.
For some people, it is profoundly difficult 'just' to listen to another in pain and not do anything. The therapist must let go of control of the session in order to listen. It feels like one is vulnerable, even helpless, when one does not 'do' anything. The act of listening requires core inner confidence.
God's love (agape unconditional love) brings healing. God's love flows through our hearts as we listen to another. Our listening in love brings life to another and lifts depression.
A simple prayer that I call "Put it on the Altar" enhances the healing power of a "Listen to me" session. This prayer of letting go and letting God makes conscious the fact that the real listener, the real lover and the one who watches over our lives is involved in the process.
Counselling, listening and the burden bearing can be heavy and, therefore, is not for everyone. People who listen to trauma often are traumatized themselves. There can be transference of spirits to the listener. Heaviness of pain and the defilement of sin may be transferred to the listener.
Wisdom says that God must be called to this and equip you for it. It is not enough that you can feel people's pain. Your own wounds can make you sensitive to other people's pain.
You must to set up prayers of protection, learn to mediate the burden to Jesus, and get cleansing prayer for yourself after your session.
Be prepared for the fact that God will use counseling sessions with others to expose your own weak areas. Often I am including myself in the client's prayer because I know my issue is on the table as well. You will be challenged to face yourself. I have.
Set up prayers of protection at the start of the session. If you find that the going is heavy, start praying it over to Jesus. (Use the "Mediation Prayer.") At the end of the session, pray committing all of the contents of the session back to Jesus. You may use the "Put it on the Altar Prayer."
The "Put it on the Altar" prayer involves a visualization of an altar. The client can have his or her own picture of what that means. With this prayer, I invite the client to share the content of the session with God. It takes some of the burden off their shoulders, and mine, and leaves it with God.
I suggest that we close the session in prayer and that we do this by giving all of the different issues and concerns to God. Then I describe the concept of putting all of what was discussed on God's altar; that we give it to God. I then ask the client if they would be willing to picture this in their mind's eye while I put it in words.
I put the prayer into words, wait a while if the client is quiet, and then ask the client how that was for them if they were able to picture it. I know that not everyone finds it easy to picture things, however, if they do, that helps me to know that their heart is engaged in the prayer.
I want the heart engaged. What happens in the picture now helps reveal the unconscious beliefs of their heart. The heart, as expressed in what we can "see," is our organ of faith. Our language reveals heart belief (which is our heart's wisdom) when we say either "I can see that happening" or "I can't see that working." The language of seeing is the language of heart faith.
Another sign that the heart is engaged in the prayer is if there are feelings. There can be many different kinds of feelings from sadness to relief. Therefore, I ask, "How does that feel?"
I learn the outcome of this simple prayer when my client comes in for their next session. I am often surprised by how deeply they have been impacted by that simple prayer of "Put it on the Altar." They sometimes report profound release and peace.
I strongly encourage you to use this simple prayer, "Put it on the Altar," when the focus of the session has been primarily listening to the client.
When the person coming for counseling and prayer requests that you just listen to them, you will know that this is important to them. Be an empathic listener.
End the session with a prayer offering all that they have shared with you to God. You may use the simple prayer called, "Put it on the Altar."
Invite them to picture the prayer as you put it in words. After the prayer ask them if they could see themselves putting something on an altar. Ask them if they left it there. Ask them how it felt.
Listening, visualizing and feeling are three different styles of prayer. Depending on your receptive learning style, you will be more comfortable with one style and less comfortable with another. When the feeler (sensor or kinesthetic) learner does visualization it is not as easy and clear as when a visual person does it. However, even if being visual is not your natural receptive style, I would encourage you to try it.
Prayer therapy is effective when the person wanting healing is actively engaged in the prayer.
1.Sometimes it is important that the other put the prayer in their own words.
2.Sometimes they can participate by actively imagining what is being prayed.
3.Ask for feedback to see if their participation involves the heart and imagination.
4.Ask them for detail about what they pictured during the prayer.
5.Ask them how they feel after the prayer.
Participation at the level of imagination and feeling provides good assurance that this prayer was heart-felt. Heart-felt prayer is more likely to connect with God and be effective. For, ultimately, only God can heal our life.
"Put it on the Altar" allows the offering of something to God, putting our burdens in His care and letting go of control of the outcome. It is a Biblical picture of dedicating something to God. Psychologically it is the experience of "Let go and Let God."
"Put it on the Altar" portrays the movement of releasing control. Releasing your grip (control) in this way is a good first step toward letting God be part of one's marriage, relationships, family, and community.
God is love and love does not control or dominate others, therefore, when you choose to work it all out yourself, God keeps hands off. The movement of putting it on the altar gives God the right to move, to heal, to save, to deliver, to counsel, to comfort and to enhance communication. When you do your part and invite God to do His part, then you step into a working partnership with God.
By the way, "Put it on the Altar" is also a form of worship, of committing yourself to God in trust.
Put it on the Altar - Reducing Anxiety and Stress
We make ourselves anxious and create unnecessary stress for ourselves when we try to control things we cannot control. We create tension when there are all kinds of things we would like to change in our immediate situation, in our loved ones, in our own limitations and in our health. Wanting and trying to change what we cannot control creates tension in our body and anxiety in our mind. In releasing control, in letting go of those things we cannot control brings relief from tension and anxiety. Reducing worry and stress makes for a healthier body and a calmer mind.
Put it on the Altar - Letting go of Outcome
There are many situations in life where we cannot control the outcome. We can love another but cannot guarantee that it will be received - or reciprocated. We can work with all our skill at a particular project but do not know if it will be appreciated. We can invest our time in a course of study but cannot control our mark. We do well at a job interview but that does not guarantee us the job. We can put out our top effort as a team and still not control the score. Life is full of these instances where we cannot control the outcome. Put it on the Altar allows us to relax and leave the outcome in God's hands.
Letting go of Children and Loved Ones
Our children are not our own they are a gift of God, a trust from heaven, an arrow to launch into the future. If we tie a string to the arrow, it cannot fly straight. If we do not loose the heartstrings to our children, our hearts will get broken. We need to hold such trusts carefully but not tightly. We must not try to do God's part. Jesus is their Saviour and we are not. Balance can be restored when we use "Put it on the Altar" to release our children to God. Done from the heart, you may experience grief, and that is okay.
Putting it on the Altar in Counselling
People come to counselling carrying many burdens: addictions, habits, and personality patterns about themselves they cannot change; distressing situations involving grief, concerns and frustrations with others and life. The full story can take up more than an hour just to unload the short version. There may not be time in one session to pray effectively and specifically for root causes of issues. However, one can lead a client to take all that was shared from their heart and to put it on the altar, picture and experience giving it to God. In that one prayer I have had clients report remarkable peace in their life between appointments.
How to Put it on the Altar
Several things are required to undertake this healing encounter. Decide what you want to put on the altar. Develop a picture to represent what you are putting on the altar. With eyes closed and in a prayerful attitude, picture yourself putting it all on the altar. Put in words the fact that you are releasing this to God and leaving the outcome with God.
Follow up to Put it on the Altar
The counselor or guide should ask for a report of what happened. Find out if the person was able to picture (or sense) putting it on the altar. Ask them what happened to it. Ask then how it felt.
Put on the Altar and community
According to Jesus, Kingdom of God community is associated with attitudes of humility (Blessed are the poor in spirit - those who admit to their own poverty), open, honest expression of our heart (Blessed are they that mourn) and those who give up power and control (Blessed are the meek.) Giving up control of others and things is a prayerful expression of these attitudes and, therefore, a door into kingdom community. In marriage relationships, the attitude of humility - not dominating and controlling others - allows emotional safety, connection and intimacy.
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.