- - Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The purpose of prayer

Prayer comes from a Latin Word that means to obtain by entreaty or petition; an earnest request to God. Prayer is the conversation of the soul with God, not a monologue, but a two-way street that requires listening. It can be spoken, contemplative, formal, informal, impromptu, planned, secret, social, private, public, intermittent, or continuous. Inner healing and therapeutic prayer are used in counseling to invite God’s healing presence to come and restore, forgive, erase, transform, and set free the inner life of the client in order to allow him or her to detach from sinful choices and painful trauma, and grow in all that Christ would have.

Prayer as an expectation and command

Is there any subject that is off-limits for your prayers? Of course not. Then your counseling should be a significant part of your prayer life. Spiritual interventions, such as prayer, should be essential components of the Christian counselor’s practice. However, all spiritual applications should include and follow a policy of informed consent.

Research shows that prayer is often utilized as a counseling intervention and that it is considered particularly relevant to counseling ministry by many prominent practitioners. Faith-based counselors can always bathe their session preparation and post-session assessment in prayer, as well as engage in continuous silent prayer for guidance and direction from God while in session.

Prayer in counseling

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Various types of prayer are found in Scripture, and some are germane particularly to a counseling context. While we are not always able to vocalize to God our prayers every hour of the day, our hearts must be constantly in full presence, awareness and communion with God.

Brother Lawrence, the 17th century Carmelite lay brother, suffered from depression for ten years before finding peace through practicing the presence of God. Prayers of thanksgiving for the work of God can also be offered in counseling (Psalm 50:23). Through prayer, we can confess our sins, which often lie at the root of failings and crises (Luke 18:13).

Prayers of blessing (numbers 6:22-27), of petition, intercession and supplication (1 Samuel, 1:17, Matthew 6: 11-13, 2 Corinthians 9:14), for the sick (James 5:14-16), as an entreaty for an urgent need (1 Timothy 5:5), and for protection (Mark 14:38), can all be helpful when working with clients.

The Apostle Paul asked for prayer on his behalf for the right words (Ephesians 6:19), something so essential and common when working with others.

The power of prayer

Counseling without prayer is like running without oxygen. Through prayer, God communicates to us, hope and confidence, guidance and assurance, love and presence. Prayer is for protection and offense; defending against the attacks from the enemy of our souls and attacking evil. We can pray for wisdom, knowledge, insight, discernment, forgiveness, power, deliverance, blessing, protection, justice, assistance, victory over sin and oppression, peace restoration, people in need, and opportunities to minister.

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We can pray for everything: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Gary started to pray for his father and within a few weeks, God began healing his life. His attempts to inflict pain on his father no longer brought him pleasure. Gary discovered, “You cannot hate someone you are praying for.” He began to forgive his father for all the pain and abuse he had suffered, and in the process of prayer and communion in the will of God, it brought him a new freedom, as love replaced his anger and hatred.

Note: Excerpt used with permission by the author and Christian Counseling Today, a publication of the American Association of Christian Counselors (www.aacc.net).

Ian F. Jones, Ph.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Counseling at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is chairman of the Division of Church and Community Ministries and holds the Baptist Community Ministries’ Chair of Pastoral Counseling. He serves as the Executive Director of the Board of Christian Professional & Pastoral Counselors (BCPPC), International Board of Christian Care (IBCC).

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