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