Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Healing Prayer Practice

In the previous article, we looked at some basic healing prayer principles to prepare our hearts and minds to encounter God and receive his healing power.   
The practice of healing prayer is not a religious exercise as many would be inclined to think of when hearing the word “prayer.”  It is not an exercise of willpower, nor a spiritual discipline to add to a list of good works to make one more pleasing to God.  Salvation through faith is a Gift of grace  accomplished by the work of Jesus (see Ephesians 2:8-10).   Jesus finished his work by living on the earth as a man, dying on a cross, and returning to Father through resurrection life.   His work now is in the hearts of those people who believe in him, to change them from the inside out in becoming more and more like him (Psalm 51:6, Romans 12:1-2, Colossians 1:22-23, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, 1 Peter 3:4).   
This transformation process is putting the hurt and wounded pieces (discussed previously) back in order, to make us whole and complete in God’s original design.  Healing prayer is a tool to help in this transformation process.  It requires an enormous amount of self-honesty, humility, facing painful memories, and trusting God to see us through.  Healing prayer can take many forms and vary greatly from person to person.  Let’s look briefly at the following 5 basic elements.
1. Acknowledge the beliefs of our inner heart, feel the emotions they stir, and identify the specific lies believed.
2. Ask Jesus to take us to the source (of these ingrained misbeliefs (perhaps in a memory).
3. Confess belief(s) in the memory(ies), renounce their effects, and acknowledge inability to change without the help of God.
4. Ask Jesus to reveal His presence in our pain in whatever way He chooses, and receive the truth.
5. Engage Jesus' ministry of truth in the memory(ies), and respond with ongoing transformation.  
First, we start with where it hurts.  What are the specific sensations, feelings, and emotions causing pain (displeasure, discomfort, disruption) at the moment?  Avoid trying to “figure out why” at this point.  Many people start by identifying things their “inner voice” is telling them.  Examples might be “I am not important, not loved, not needed, or unfit,” “I am worthless, a mistake, a failure, or stupid,”  “I should have done something to stop the abuse from happening,”  “I am too weak, helpless, or defenseless,”  “I am bad, dirty, or shameful,”  “I am all alone and will always be alone,”  “I am incompetent, or  I can't do anything right,” “I am anxious or afraid,” or “I am not ______  enough. or I don’t have enough ____ .”   
What are the feelings driving these beliefs?  Be as specific as you can in naming the negative feelings (ie. abandoned, rejected, deserted, forgotten, left out, don’t belong, ashamed, failure, faulty, stupid, trashy, unclean, unfit, unworthy, anxious, desperate, fearful, nervous, scared, untrusting, confined, cornered, defenseless, frail, helpless, weak, damaged, flawed, ruined, betrayed, disgraced, inferior, insignificant, unappreciated, unloved, defeated, hopeless, tired, despair, disoriented, confused, or indifferent.    

The next element is to invite God into the midst of the pain.  Jesus is very qualified to identify with pain and suffering.  In fact, the Bible says there is absolutely no type of human suffering he himself has not experienced (see Hebrews 4:14-16).   Remember, Jesus is the Healer.   He knows where the source of the pain lies.  He wants to remove the bad root, not just the symtoms.   Ask him to lead you to the origin of this pain  in your life.
The next major element is acknowleging and confessing our own misperceptions, misinterpretations, misjudgments, and/ or misconduct in the event(s)  our memory(ies) lead you to.  We cannot change the past, and much of what happened  is out of our control, but we can recognize and change the way we respond to it.  For example, maybe our pain leads us to remember our perfectionist dad or mom not giving us recognition or affirmation for significant acheivements, but instead always communicating how our performance was lacking.  Yes, maybe our parents were neglectful (or even abusive) is some regard, but blaming them for our reactions will not help us now.  We must indeed admit we were hurt, and reacted negatively, and confess (speak out loud) what we thought and felt about this at the time.  The list above may help here too.  Again, focus on what it felt like in the inner most depths of your being as a child, not on what it would’a, could’a, should’a been like.   
Longings for appropriate touch, acceptance, affirmation, and belonging are normal.  When these longings are not met, it is also normal to react and believe things that are not true  (critically judge)  those people in our life who should be supplying those needs.  In the example of a perfectionist parent, our inner voice may be telling us things like “Dad doesn’t love me,” Mom is mean,” “Dad cares about my sister more than me,” “Mom doesn’t understand,” “I’ll never be able to please dad and mom,” or “They are not interested in how I feel.”   But because “normal” in this case, is sinful, we must be willing to renounce the misbeliefs and actions, and surrender these over to God in exchange for the truth.  
The next major element Is listening for what God wants to tell us.  Listening is a skill to be developed.  Our faith is often so oriented towards doing (for God), we have difficulty being in God’s presence long enough to hear (from God) what he is saying to us.  This seems so basic, but it needs attention as an element of its own because it is SO important.  This involves quieting our spirit (complete silence is preferable) and asking questions like “Jesus, what truth would you like to reveal to me?”  “What are you saying?”  “What is the truth about my parents? (in the example above)”  “Where were you Jesus when this happened?”  or “What is the truth about who I am (and whose I am)?”  
Shame is the greatest source of lies.  Blaming ourselves for things out of our control is a form of shaming ourselves.   God never condemns us.  He sometimes condemns actions (that are against his will), but God does not condemn people he created in his image.  Any voice of condemnation we hear against our identity as a child of God, is from the enemy of our soul.  Truth always affirms our identity as children of God.  
God speaks truth through his written Word, the Bible.  He also speaks truth through other means such as his creation, people, pictures, prophetic images, and imagination.  Truth always affirms God’s character as holy, righteous, all loving, and all powerful.  Regarding other people, truth is able to separate their bad behavior from who they are as a unique creation of God.  And regarding the self, truth affirms our identity as God’s child, and his unfailing love is always accessible. Simply asking and receiving his love will connect us to it.  
The last element to mention here is surrendering to the truth with our heart (not just with mental assent)  and commitment to action for soul sanctification.   Perhaps confession, repentance, and/ or forgiveness is necessary, in addition to this type of work done in previous steps.  Our hearts are made of many parts (chambers).  Some parts may have been brought into the realm of believing, while other parts have work remaining to be done.  Healing is God’s work and in his timing.  Remember, when Jesus says, the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), there is a prerequisite.  Jesus says, “if you hold to my teaching,” that is how you will know the truth (John 8:31-32).  Truth is truth.  But truth that makes a difference (sets us free) is truth that we apply.  The ongoing application of the truth of Christ’s teaching, restores us to wholeness.  Not only are spiritual and psychological conditions restored, but physical conditions such as body aches, pains and diseases can be healed as well.  
Ultimately, healing is not merely for personal benefit, but to make more intimate our relationship with God, and become a more useful servant in His Kingdom.  The practice of healing prayer can become a habit that produces a lifestyle of godly character.  Journaling is a great way to record progress, and provide a way to look back and observe measureable improvements.  Writing can also have great therapeutic value.  
Some parts of our heart can be more resistant than others to healing prayer intervention.  Severe trauma or abuse may complicate the process.  Evil spirits can create another layer of bondage.  Family history can also be a factor.  It may be wise to attain the help of an experienced healing prayer warrior or counselor to guide steps in the journey.  When practicing the steps above, a feeling of unusual fear, anxiety, or overwhelm should be cause for halting the practice and seeking help right away.  
Leaders should be leading in regularly practicing the transforming power of healing prayer.  I recommend all leaders practice healing prayer with a competent practitioner on a regular basis to guard against blind spots and areas of unawareness the enemy of our soul tries to exploit.  People helpers can only help people overcome to the degree they themselves have experienced the overcoming healing prayer.  Charasmatic gifting and people skills are not a healthy subsitute for the deep heart work of inner healing prayer.  
In my own life, I am so thankful to the Sandfords and others from whom I have learned much over the past two decades.  I have found the practice of healing prayer invaluable in removing shame, false guilt, powerlessness, anxiety, depression, and so many more unwanted thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  I haven’t arrived at complete wholeness, but my hope is secure in trusting God for transformation in his timing, without needing to understand all the details.  When I practice healing prayer, my heart is at rest in Refuge (see Matthew 11:28-29).  Please contact me if you wish for more help in making healing prayer a more significant part of life.  

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Healing Prayer Basics

When life hurts, where do we turn?  To whom do we look to for healing?  Healing prayer is turning our attention to God, and through communication with him, changing our perspective on the past, and gaining new hope for the journey ahead.
            I describe here, a few important considerations.
First, to receive healing from God, cognitive insight is not enough.  Although the part of the human being we can see (physical) is most obvious, the unseen part (non-physical or inner being) is more dominent, thus very real.  The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk explains in simple language how our emotional brain limits our rational brain.  Exploring our deepest feelings, desires, and core beliefs about our world must be part of the healing process.  
Next, our heart is broken because our world is broken.  Since the first human sinned, the Bible explains how we each fall short of the original design God has for our lives.  As we grow from childhood into adulthood, our hurts and wounds magnify our pain.  The broken things in our past create more brokenness and sometimes the real source of pain becomes hard to uncover.  
Also, we must acknowledge there are no exceptions.  We all need healing to become a whole person.  In the physical world, every child gets, at the very least, banged knees, splinters, or broken skin that is vulnerable to infection and disease.   If time passes before the wound is discovered by a caretaker, it may have to be reopened and cleaned out for it to heal properly.  Though emotional hurts and wounds may not be visible, they are real, and the passing of time makes them worse.  Insensitivities, neglects, mistreatments, rejection, losses, and shame (self inflicted or by others) does not go away on its own.  It requires a process to dislodge, and remain free of set-backs.   
For some, pain may be caused by trauma, violence, gross injustice, abuse, or severe neglect.  But common to us all are hurts caused by things like illnesses, injuries, broken relationships, family breakups, bullying, slandering, lying, stealing. immorality, and accidents.  If a painful experience hasn’t come to your mind in reading so far, try this little exercise.  Pretend that your life is over, and by  God’s grace, you are enjoying your new life in eternal glory.  Jesus comes to you, and asks you to volunteer to go back to earth in your former body, family, economic status, and the same earthly circumstances as your life was before, with one exception.  You are allowed to make one change.  What would that change be?  Whatever you wish could be changed about your life circumstances likely carries some disappointment, frustration, annoyance, discomfort, unrest, or dissatisfaction.  These symptoms create a tremendous amount of toxic stress (infection of the soul) smf negatively impact your work, relationships, self-concept, and life’s meaning and destiny.    
To become completely free of the unwanted stresses, let us consider a few more basic principles of healing prayer.   In order to discover the root cause of hurt, we must allow ourselves to “feel” the hurt long enough to identify specific feelings and emotions associated.  These feelings and emotions are always driven by specific beliefs developed and reinforced by circumstances over time.  Perceptions are created, conclusions are drawn, opinions are formed, and critical judgments are made about how life works, and should work.  The older we become the more our present core beliefs are so buried in our subconscious that we can’t even remember how and where they came to be.  Another factor on our ability to remember is the intensity to which the hurt or wound was inflicted.    Greater degrees of abuse, for example, tend to carry greater degrees of denial or dissociation,  Denial is a useful self-protection coping strategy for a time, but becomes a huge burden as time goes on.   So, naming our present feelings and naming our accompanying beliefs, are first steps in the process.  
Beliefs are powerful.  Every behavior and action we take has a belief behind it.  If we believe we are competent and capable, we will step out in confidence and display self-assurance in our work, play, and relationships.  If we believe the opposite about ourselves, we will be trapped by self-doubt, self-condemnation, and self-rejection.   An example that demonstrates this principle involves the circus elephant.  In former days, the training of  an elephant began early in the elephant’s life.   The only environment the small elephant knew was a chain that kept him in the location the trainer chose for him.  The elephant grew into adulthood believing he was limited by the confines of the chain.  When the chain is removed for circus tricks he remains with the trainer because he knows nothing else.  Freedom (escape)  does not even occur to him.  In general, animals are trained through repetition, and the natural inclinations of humans are the same.  We gravitate to the familiar, even if the familiar is harmful or not in our best interest.  A victimized person will subconsciously seek to be victimized because their beliefs confirm to them a lack of worthfulness and value.  Even depression and anxiety can be reinforced by believing life only offers despondent or scary circumstances.  
Not only do our beliefs trap us, but they are guaranteed to be telling us lies.  Our default tendency (from conception onward) is to perceive and interpret unpleasant surroundings in a negative way.  This sets us up to believe things that are not true about God, ourselves, and other people.  As children we are especially vulnerable to lies taking root in our thinking.   For example, a five year old girl who overhears her daddy say to his friend about her, “We wished she would have been a boy,” can set her up for huge ramifications.   I’ve heard numerous cases where seemingly harmless words or actions by a caretaker result in wounding.   Generally speaking, children often tend to blame themselves for bad things that happen.   The little girl’s inner voice may hear her daddy’s words as, “I should have been a boy,” or “I’m really not loved because I’m not a boy, “I need to try to become a boy to be loved,” or “I’m not lovable,” or “I am a mistake,” or all sorts of other lies.  Parents’ divorces usually result in children blaming themselves for the breakup.  Injury or illness to siblings can create false guilt and self-condemnation.  False beliefs tend to create more false beliefs so circumstances in adulthood are merely replays of childhood woundings.  This negative bent in our personhood is part of the broken condition of humanity since sin and shame entered our world.  Shame is at the root of all false beliefs.  To explore more details on how and why shame is at the root of our core identity, read Dr. Curt Thompson’s book The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe about ourselves.
The solution for false beliefs is true beliefs.  As noted above, our physical brain and mind is not the only part of us to be convinced of the truth.  Our heart (inner being) must come to an understanding of truth that secures, preserves, and advances our whole being.  
Jesus said of himself that HE is the way, the truth, and the life (see John 14:6).  Jesus is the Healer.  We cannot know Father God except through Jesus His Son (see John 14:6-7).  God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together to provide healing for our innate broken condition.  Healing prayer is an avenue by which we can allow the Holy Spirit to reveal hidden things in the broken parts of our subconscious, so they can be brought into light and take away  the opportunity for shame to continue to condemn us.  We exchange lies for truth.  We exchange condemning judgments for empathy.  We exchange despair for hope.  Disappointment and dissatisfaction can turn to contentment and fulfillment.  
Healing prayer can be hard work.  Not that prayer should be difficult, but being honest with ourselves and with God long enough to receive the truth God has for us, is the “work” that makes for, the sometimes difficult, steps in our journey.  Facing the pain in our experiences, confessing the error in our reactions, repenting, and surrendering to God’s solution, is viewed by most as too hard or scary to try.  But I encourage all who read this to decide to be one of the few.  I’m here to say the rewards are worth it.   God is our Refuge and strength (Psalm 46).   Holding on to old hurts and wounds becomes far more painful than receiving healing from Refuge.    
My next article will discuss more specifics of how to practice healing prayer.  

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry