Tag Archives: Prayer

A time to lament? Try this tool

If you are like me, you experience life now as an ongoing season of upheaval and distress. Between the pandemic’s staggering death count and losses and the racial wounds and ideological rifts we face each day, who doesn’t feel the crushing weight of pain? Yes, the outcome of the George Floyd trial and the success in vaccinating millions of Americans is a move in the right direction–and yet, even successes can trigger more grief. Just ask anyone who lost a loved one. When a new positive event takes place, it can sometimes trigger a shockingly deep wave of grief and loss. There is a lot of evidence that the way of grief and loss is just now really breaking on us like a tidal wave.

Have you ever wanted to an audience with God to tell him of your unspeakable pain? You are not alone. Job did. The Psalmists did. Jesus, the son of God, even did. We have their complaints and laments recorded for us to read and emulate. And since they are recorded in Scripture, we can accept that God invites us to make these cries known to him and to our neighbors.

If you want some help in writing a lament to express your pain to God and to your friends, consider using this new tool just created by the Trauma Healing Institute at American Bible Society. I want to point out a simple and free download where you can do this. Hear how the creators describe the need to lament:

In moments when human dignity is being diminished and violated…When safety and justice feel forgotten or impossible to find…When we feel like we cannot take another step…

Our pain is not a burden to God. God is present.

In times such as these, we here at the Trauma Healing Institute have just launched the new, free, easy-to-use Trauma Healing Basics resource: How to Lament.

This resource is a blueprint for honest prayer in times of great turmoil. God is waiting for us to pour out our hearts. Crying out to God with honesty in times like these is a form of worship; instead of turning away, we open ourselves to God. This little tool explains how to do it.

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Christian interventions in counseling

Regular readers of this blog will know that I believe that Christian counseling is not merely counseling done by Christians or merely the use of specific christian interventions. Rather, Christian counseling is founded on Christian/biblical ways of perceiving the world, the problems in it, and the goal of imaging Christ from start to finish.

However, it is good to think about the specific use of certain christian practices in counseling: meditation, prayer, bible reading and application, casting out demons, absolution, etc. How are we to think about these practices? Do they have a place in professional counseling? What are limits we ought to place on them? When should we refrain? How do we secure informed consent?

Elsewhere I have published on the guidelines we ought to consider when using Scripture in counseling. I will not repeat them here but for those who have not read that article, I do think Scripture is something that CAN be used in counseling–even OUGHT to at times. What is of more importance to me is HOW and WHEN and WHY.

Let me here consider the most commonly used practice: prayer. Here are some shaping values before we consider any practical application.

1. Prayer is talking and listening to God. It is not a technique and should not be treated as such. It is not magic. It is, from a Christian perspective, sharing one’s heart, praising, questioning, interacting with the Creator of the universe who remarkably wants to relate to me. At its heart prayer is submissive acknowledgment of God–even when praying like Job.

2. Prayer then needs to be a free act without trace of coercion. The one praying must not be coercive (you talk to God not at another person). The one being prayed for ought not feel obligated to say anything.

3. People have diverse (and not always happy) experiences regarding prayer, faith, relationship with God, etc. So, what is comforting to you may be triggering for another.

4. Prayer is intimate. Prayer often results in our setting aside defenses and becoming vulnerable and needy.

5. Prayer is power. Praying for someone gives the one praying a position of power.

So, how might a counselor consider these values and use prayer in counseling.

1. Assessment of client. What is my client’s faith tradition, experiences with prayer, history of abuse by leaders of the church, understanding of God? Have they ever felt coerced to pray, coerced by the prayers of others? Have they been publicly prayed against? Do they value prayer?

2. Assessment of self. Why am I praying for my clients (out loud)? What messages am I trying to communicate? What do my prayers reveal about my own faith?

3. Consent. Have I explained why I pray for my clients? Do they really have the right to say no?

4. Review. How are my prayers received? What impact, if any, do they have?

What does this look like for me? I don’t pray with every client. I don’t choose to start my sessions with prayer (at least the first one) until I have a better sense of my client’s experience with prayer. I work very hard not to use prayer as an effort to disarm (though I think it can do this) or to preach a message, but only to make supplication to God for healing, for care for the downtrodden. When I use imagery in prayer I make sure that it is grounded in common biblical images (God as shepherd, Christ as lamb, etc.). I never ask clients to pray but many of them choose to do so. And, I do let clients pray for me when they want to. It is part of how believers care for each other.

I do believe that prayer is extremely important but that I do not need to do it to be actively asking God for healing or guidance. I will say that when conflictual couples pray, they often find that it is hard to stay angry and embittered and pray. It can be helpful, either in reducing bitterness or by discussing bitterness and its impact.

It should not be used when clients do not want it, might be confused by it, or if it is not authentic to the counselor. It is considered good professional ethics to utilize resources from a client’s life. However, it would not be good to fake (e.g., my praying in a way that would please a member of a cult, an atheist praying as if he or she believed what she said, my talking to God even though I am no longer practicing as a Christian, etc.).


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Praying Proverbs 30

Recently read Proverbs 30 and see how it could be “translated” to today as a prayer model.

1. Reminder of who I am and am not (v 2-4)

“I am the most ignorant of men…I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.” “Who has gone up to heave and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands?”

2. Reminder to not mess with God’s Word (v. 5-6)

3. Prayer to God for mercy and protection (v. 7-9)

…keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “who is the lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of the Lord.

4. Numerous reminders of the reality of how this broken world is, various examples of pain and a final reminder that fools who exalt them self come to strife, just like “twisting the nose produces blood.”

Certainly, this isn’t all that we need to pray, but I think it helpful none the less.

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