Prayer Counseling: FAQs and Approaches
What are some of the tools we use for prayer counseling?
I would like to highlight the tools that we at FHI generally use by describing how I might use one or more of them with a client. For simplicity’s sake, I will call this imaginary client John.
John has been having a hard time at work: he feels ignored and excluded by his boss and misunderstood by his co-workers. He has been a believer for most of his life but is finally starting to realize that he is not living the abundant, overcoming life that he has heard should be the norm for a Christian. So he comes to see me to find out why life is not working for him and why he is often angry and depressed.
Approaches to Prayer Counseling
In our first meeting, I ask John to fill me in on his life, especially his childhood and relationships with his parents. Using the Elijah House Ministries’ tool of tracking “from fruit to root,” I may spend a lot of time with him exploring the recurring patterns in his life and the present negative situations that he finds himself in (the “fruit”) before I help him see how those patterns can be traced back to his sinful responses to the hurts of childhood, possibly even as far back as the womb (the “root”). The present pattern in his life is that he goes from job to job and feels passed over for promotion, which in turn makes him alternately angry and depressed.
After fully exploring the present reality, I ask him questions about his childhood, and he shares with me that as a child his father openly showed favoritism towards his brother and how this hurt him. As he begins to recognize his attitudes of unforgiveness and bitterness, inner vows he made to protect himself, and the belief in a foundational lie that he is not important, I help him to see his need to confess and repent of his own sin, release forgiveness to his dad, bring the sins and unforgiveness to death on the cross, and receive resurrection life from God. I then lead him in specific prayers from Elijah House or have him pray in his own words while incorporating the principles we have discussed.
In our first meeting, I ask John if he knows what is the “heart issue” that he wants to pray about. The heart issue, or heart wound, is any area in his heart where he does not feel faith, hope and love. After some discussion and listening to the Holy Spirit, we determine that his heart issue is anger and depression. Using the structured seven-step approach of Prayers that Heal the Heart, this is what is prayed:
- He breaks the generational sin and curse of anger and depression
- He cuts soul ties of anger and depression with his family, friends, co-workers
- He renounces negative expectations and beliefs about anger and depression and replaces them with God’s truth
- He renounces any and all inner vows related to anger and depression and replaces them with new purposes
- He breaks word curses that have been spoken over him
- He receives healing from traumatic memories that caused the anger and depression
- Finally, I minister deliverance from all spirits related to anger and depression
These steps can be done in one prayer counseling session, but are usually done over several, as John and I together identify what specifically needs to be prayed for. For instance, we will take some time to identify his negative expectations and beliefs about anger and depression, and then determine God’s truth about each belief.
At the end of each prayer, we also ask God to give John a picture of what it looks like for the step to have been accomplished. For example, after praying to cut a soul tie of anger and depression with his mother, he might see an apron string being cut.
In our first meeting, John and I discuss a current situation in his life where he is consistently being ignored by his boss and how hurtful this is to him. We discuss the need for forgiveness, and John agrees that he is ready to forgive his boss and agrees to use the 9-step prayer from Finding Freedom through Forgiveness.
This is not necessarily considered an inner healing model. However, I find it to be one of the most valuable tools in my ministry because it has proven to be a very effective way to help clients like John truly forgive from the heart. This tool was developed by Jean Wulf, MSW, LCSW and is a nine-step prayer that helps the person get in touch with their hurts, recognize the conclusions they have drawn about their experiences in life, and truly release forgiveness. Click here for the link to the whole prayer.
Before we pray through it, I explain to him that the things that hurt us the most as adults are usually related to real or perceived hurts from God, our family, our friends and authority figures in our lives. In this case, that was hurt he felt when his father showed favoritism to his brother. Therefore, when we pray, we include God (after all, He’s responsible for everything, isn’t He?), mom and dad, siblings (if any), spouse (if any), children (if any), the person or persons we want to forgive, and anybody else who has hurt us in a similar way.
John has one brother, is married and has two children, so in step #1 he asks God to forgive him for his own sin of anger and resentment against God, his mom and dad, his brother, his wife and children, his boss and all those who have made him feel marginalized or who ignored him.
In step #2 John asks for forgiveness for judging all of the above as insensitive and uncaring (i.e. they are what they did).
In step #3 John asks for God’s grace to help him forgive all of the above for making him feel marginalized or who ignored him.
He prays through steps #4 exactly as the prayer is written.
In step #5 John asks for God’s grace to help him release the sense of entitlement (i.e. his inner attitude of demanding) to be important and noticed.
He prays through steps #6 through 9 exactly as the prayer is written.
When John has finished praying through all nine steps, I ask God to show Him what it looks like to bring all of this (the anger and resentment, unforgiveness, judgments and sense of entitlement) to death on the cross and what God wants to give him in return. John sees a huge tree with deep roots being pulled up and burned and a new healthy tree being planted in its place.
Combining Several Approaches
In a typical prayer counseling session, I am most likely to use elements from all three of these approaches. I also may use tools from other ministries, such as Christian Healing Ministries’ Prayer for Healing from Conception to Birth, which helps the client who has had a specific issue for as long as they could remember, often indicating some type of wounding in the womb or at birth. I also use a lot of listening prayer or three-way dialogue, where I may ask the Lord questions while both the client and I listen for His answer.
For example, in our first meeting, John fills me in on his story and the reasons for his visit. We stop and listen to where the Lord wants to take us in this session. John gets a picture in his mind of a time when he wanted desperately for his father to come to his piano recital, but his father chose to attend his brother’s basketball game without apology. He had felt hurt and bewildered but didn’t have the courage to ask his dad why. Instead, he made excuses for his dad all of his life. Then as an adult, he was passed over for promotion several times, and it made him angry, but he never challenged it. Instead, he would hold in his anger and soon become very depressed over his life. We talked about the need to release forgiveness to his father and his brother, and he was willing to pray the 9-step prayer.
He also shares with me that his grandfather had suffered from depression. So, using step #1 of Prayers that Heal the Heart, we pray to break the generational sin and curse of depression.
Finally, I ask the Lord to speak to John about what he believes about himself as a result of his childhood. He acknowledges that he believes in his heart that he is not important, that others should always come before him and that he is not lovable. Using the prayer for bitter roots from Elijah House Ministries, John repents for believing this foundational lie and the ways that he has tried to protect himself and flee from life.
To seal the healing in his heart, I ask the Lord to show John what it looks like to be set free from the hurt, the anger and the depression. He sees a picture of heavy weights being lifted off of his shoulders, and then he is able to walk alongside the Lord on a peaceful beach.
Prayer Counseling Brings Freedom
God has seen His children’s need for freedom and wholeness and has responded by giving keys to healing to many of His servants. Whether we use one or all of these tools in prayer counseling, it is a privilege to fulfill the Lord’s purposes by cooperating with Him as He heals the brokenhearted and sets the captives free.