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Divine Conversation: A Present-Oriented Healing Prayer Model

SOURCE:  Excerpted from a dissertation by Bill Bellican*

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. . . . My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me (John 10:14, 27).

 He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught (Isaiah 50:4).

 I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.  I pour out my complaint to him; before him I tell my trouble (Psalm 142: 1-2).

 Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue. God’s voice in response to mine is its most essential part – Andrew Murray

There is divine conversation between our Shepherd—The Lord Jesus Christ—and us who follow him.  He passionately loves us and invites us to talk to him and to listen to him.  Since the Lord is Truth (John 14:6), what we listen for and to is truth. This truth sets us free (John 8:32, 36).  The truth dispels lies and overcomes strongholds that would constrain us (2 Cor. 10:3-5).  This truth makes it possible for us to walk in light instead of continuing to walk in darkness (John 8:12; 1John 1:5).  This truth allows us to have more of the mindset of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 12:2).  This truth destroys the work of the devil (1 John 3:8).  It is readily intuitive that individuals in a loving and intimate relationship with each other carry on truthful conversation for the edification and enjoyment of the other.

Divine Conversation is a spiritual tool—a present oriented healing prayer model—that fosters communication between the Lord and us for an intentional reason.  That reason involves positioning ourselves before the Lord to attune to his truth to overcome destructive strongholds of lie-based thinking.  This prayer based spiritual tool of communication with the Lord is within the tradition of healing prayer.

I find that established Spirit-led healing prayer models typically seek the deeper source of an individual’s present distress by addressing the inception of emotional woundedness or trauma that generates false beliefs that remain operative in the present.  These models position the individual to receive God’s healing truth as he brings his healing perspective to this hurtful and painful source.  Among leading deep level healing prayer models today, in my opinion, two are most notably and visibly used—Formational Prayer developed by Terry Wardle (Wardle 2001) and Theophostic Prayer developed by Ed Smith (Smith 2007).

The present oriented healing prayer model, Divine Conversation involves a basic process.  This process is “at once entirely simple and richly complex” when one thinks about how the Holy Spirit sanctifies the mind and imagination in a supernatural interaction with the living God (O’Donoghue 1986, 192).  Nonetheless, the process is simple in its application.  It is not unlike the process of salvation.  While the overall understanding of what is involved in salvation—a holy and righteous God choosing to die in the place of sinful people in order that a personal, intimate, and eternal relationship might be restored with him through faith in him—is also deep and profound, it does involve a process. However, this process is simple enough in its application that even a child might embrace it (Matt. 18:3).  This process of salvation involves some basic steps:

* understanding God’s love

* understanding our sinful and needy condition

* understanding God’s righteous, just, and redeeming response

* understanding our faithful response

In addition to these basic steps, other actions are also included to help give additional clarity and application to Scripture (Bright 2007, 1-16).

The process of Divine Conversation is much the same.  When indicated by the presence of negative emotional upheaval, the steps of Divine Conversation intentionally can be put into action.  Just as in the case of salvation, the Lord responds to a genuine invitation or expression of our will (Rev. 3:20).  The Divine Conversation process allows you to ask, seek, and knock for the truth as an exercise of the will (Luke 11:9-10).

Divine Conversation involves four primary components:

1. Emotional Upheaval

2. Core Steps

3. Prompted Steps

4. Experienced Truth

Like the process of salvation, the Divine Conversation process is simple and fluid.  The triune God’s power and plan encompasses the entire process of Divine Conversation.  The Father and the Son desire for us to be holy and formed into the likeness of the Son.  The Holy Spirit directs and empowers the various steps to make this plan possible.  The next sections look at each of the Divine Conversation process components in more detail.

Emotional Upheaval

Lie-based thinking and negative emotional upheaval are correlated.  The negative emotional upheaval serves as an indicator that something is going on within that needs attention.  Emotional upheaval serves “as God-given ‘dummy lights.’. . .[these emotions] are a God-given means for discerning inner motivation and thinking” (Kellemen 2005, 396).  This type of emotional upheaval is characterized by such things as an unsettled spirit, a lack of emotional peace, angst, anger, anxiety, and depression. Both Wardle and Smith have written a great deal about the connection between past wounding life events, associated lies, emotional pain/upheaval, and current life events (Smith 2007, 15-46; Wardle 2001, 127-144).  Our past constantly shapes and affects our present. We only have the moment to live in the present.  It then slips into our past. Our mind associates what it is currently experiencing with previously stored data whether that past data is based upon truthful or erroneous interpretation.  When a past event is based upon truth, there is no problem.  For example, each of us has learned somewhere originally in our past that a green light means go, and a red light means stop.  In the present, when we come upon a traffic light changing from red to green, there typically is no problem.  There is peace, and no emotional pain is present.  No lie-based thinking is involved.  No past wounding life event was experienced when originally learning the meaning of green and red.  The experiences associated with this original learning event were based on truth—green means go and red means stop.

However, too often, present life events tap into past experienced emotional wounds and troublesome life events that have never been resolved.  When that occurs, we ultimately experience the emotional pain or upheaval that is associated with the lies we presently believe based on our interpretation of the past event.  Left unattended, we may turn to any number of behavioral narcotics (both socially acceptable and unacceptable) in the present to quell the emotional pain we feel (Moon 1997, 39-43).  Scripture calls attention to the dual purposes of Satan and God as captured in Genesis 50:20—the same event involves two vastly different motivations.  Typically, Satan seeks to capitalize on our past woundedness to intensify and exaggerate the lies.  He desires that the emotional upheaval will turn our attention onto self and short-term fixes apart from depending upon God.  He wishes our destruction and harm.  Conversely, God uses the reality of this present emotional upheaval to get our attention focused on him and his pathway of truth and healing.  He is only interested in our good as he accomplishes his will concerning us.

Smith does clarify that some painful past experiences actually may carry truth-based emotional pain.  For example, I may experience present grief or sadness when an event triggers a memory about the reality of growing up without both parents present.  This emotional pain is real and normal.  It is based on truth—both parents were not available to me.  However, if that emotional pain and upheaval also ties to a belief that something is wrong with me because I did not have both parents in my life, a lie is present and operative.  Although some present negative emotional upheaval can be based upon past truth, “it is more common that the emotional pain . . . is rooted in what was falsely interpreted about the event as opposed to the truth in the event” (Smith 2007. 168).

Divine Conversation becomes one additional way to deal with the negative emotional upheaval and lie-based thinking in the present moment in place of turning to any other ineffective and harmful coping mechanism.  More extensive and deeper healing work may be needed to address the root or core issues fueling the lie-based thinking and emotional upheaval, but the lie-based thinking can be abated in the present moment.

Divine Conversation:  The Core Steps

We must consider the reality that we are in a personal relationship with a supernatural and triune God who greatly loves us and desires a communicative relationship with us.  He purposes to engage us in a unique relationship that is designed to mature us spiritually and conform us to the likeness of Christ.  One of the divine weapons or tools that God uses to accomplish this is Divine Conversation.  As we look more specifically at Divine Conversation, we must remain mindful that steps and technique are never to displace the relational connection with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

What follows are the core steps for Divine Conversation (i.e., to define, to own, to move, to demolish the lie, and then desire and experience the truth).  It is desirable to have quiet, focused, and intentional time regularly to practice Divine Conversation.  However, spontaneously engaging in Divine Conversation is also feasible.  This type of prayer is to be used in the present moment of need.  As with any new skill, even a spiritual skill, practice is required.  Continued practice makes us more open, aware, receptive, and sensitive to the personal working and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Continue to practice Divine Conversation and the various spiritual exercises so that you are likely to initiate use of Divine Conversation at any time.  Use it immediately in the midst of any circumstance.  It is a form of prayer, and we are invited always to be in prayer (Rom. 1:9-10; Eph. 6:18; 1Thess. 5:17; 2 Tim. 1:3).  Just like Nehemiah, there are times where intensive prayer and communion before the Lord are necessary (Neh. 1:4).  Then, there are times when spontaneous communication with the Lord in the present moment is needed (Neh. 2:4).

Included with each step is a brief description and suggested dialog with the Lord.  The dialog is just an example.  You must convey your heart through your own words—simply and honestly.  For any words in brackets [ ], insert your specific words, feelings, and thoughts.

Core Step 1.   Define the Lie.  The initial step toward solving a problem is to define what the problem is.  In the case of lie-based thinking, the first step is to define the actual lie that is intruding upon the present.  For the most part, lies become rooted in our minds from several sources usually during our younger, formative years.  First, someone who intends to hurt us can speak lies into our lives.  In addition, we can experience traumatic episodes in our lives perpetrated by others, or we can experience trauma as the result of natural disaster or other calamity.  Second, those around us can unintentionally cause hurt and damage because of their skill-based, emotional, and relational deficiencies and/or mistakes in judgment.  Third, we can mistakenly come to the wrong conclusion about an event in our life and focus on a false interpretation.  Regardless of the situation, our mind works to make sense of an event, and we come to some interpretation of it.  As Kellemen notes, “We must make sense of our life experiences. . . . we are meaning seekers” (Kellemen 2005, 174).  Finally, we are subject to our own sinfulness and faulty natural disposition that touches every aspect of our existence.  “We are all bent souls. . . . Sinfulness infects both our thinking and our affections, blinding us to truth and causing our hearts to stray,” writes McMinn in Why Sin Matters (McMinn 2004, 37).  Ultimately, we fail to think and do that which we should, and we end up thinking and doing that which we should not (Rom. 7:15-24).

When our interpretation is not based on truth or is flawed, the seeds of lie-based thinking are planted, surrounded by emotional pain.  On a repeated basis as time passes, certain present life events serve as triggers as the brain associates the present situation with past information or memories that are stored.  When what is stored and accessed is based on lies, painful memories, and emotional pain, these intrude into the present resulting in emotional upheaval and dysfunctional coping measures.

The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17), delights in uncovering anything, including lie-based thinking, that hinders our ability to live and walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25).  As fallen as they are, God can sanctify our reason and imagination to use them for his good purpose (Foster 1998, 25-26).  Thus, we must look to the Holy Spirit and seek his help in determining the lie,

“Holy Spirit, sanctify my mind as I am feeling [anxious and overwhelmed] in this moment.  What feels true to me?  What am I believing right now that is not based on your truth?  I want you to bring any lie I believe to my attention.”

Wait on the Holy Spirit as you sense, feel, and listen for him to bring to you the lie(s) you believe.  Allow the Holy Spirit to do this in his way and timing.  Keep alert and attuned to the Holy Spirit to do this. The lie will typically take the form of oppressive, intrusive, negative, hopeless, and despairing thoughts.  Many times, the lie will include self-identity statements (i.e., “I” statements) such as:  “I am no good.”  “I can’t do anything right.”  “I’m pitiful.”  “I will never get over this.”

At other times, the lie may be aimed at God.  These types of lies could include things such as:  “I can’t trust you.”  “You don’t love me.”  “You will abandon me.”  These are lies which you might know are not true about God, but they feel true in the present moment.

Whatever form the lie takes, always listen and sense for what seems to feel true.  It does not have to make logical sense.  You might even cognitively argue that you know better.  However, you are allowing the Holy Spirit to have you experience what feels true in the present moment.  In this case, this is the lie that is affecting you.

Allow the Holy Spirit to enable you to discern the difference between what actually could be true versus what feels true but is not the truth.  For example, a person asked to pray in front of a large group for the very first time may feel anxious or nervous about doing so.  This person may even think, “I might stumble over my words,” or “I am not ready to do this, yet.”  These are normal and true feelings and thoughts for a person in this situation.  Still, this is different from this same person thinking and feeling, “I will make a fool of myself if I do this,” or “I will stumble over my words and prove that I am an idiot.”  The latter are lies that hold us captive which the enemy capitalizes on to inhibit our spiritual walk and development into the likeness of Christ.  In his book, The Lies We Tell Ourselves, Chris Thurman does a wonderful job defining various categories and aspects of lies we believe and how to distinguish lies from truthful thoughts (Thurman 1999, 3-99).

Core Step 2.  Own the lie.  By owning the lie, we must acknowledge that the lie revealed by the Holy Spirit is real, and it is destructive in our lives.  We must embrace how this lie feels terribly true, and it is operative in the present moment of our lives.  We must agree with the Holy Spirit, not only about what the lie is, but also about the extent it has an evil hold on us.  We must see how the lie connects to our dysfunctional thinking and behaviors.  We must allow ourselves to grieve over the presence of the lie in our lives and for the space that we give it within ourselves to thrive.  We proclaim to the Holy Spirit,

“Holy Spirit, yes, it does feel true that [I am worthless and will never be of value to you or anyone else.] This lie has held me back and kept me down for so long.  I grieve and sorrow over how I continue to give in to this lie and let it control me and dictate how I live.  Cleanse me as I have focused more on this lie than I have focused on you.” 

Core Step 3.  Move the lie.  Moving the lie involves willingly, humbly, but decidedly taking the lie to the presence of Christ.  As McGee says, “We turn from our self-willed approach to life and reestablish a face-to-face relationship with Jesus” (McGee 1995, 191).  We turn the control of our lives and this lie over to Jesus.  We realize that he is the only one who desires to and can handle our hurts and fears.  Only he can tear down and effectively destroy the strongholds of lies in our lives.  Only Jesus can bring freedom for us to live freely in spite of outward circumstances with an inward peace based upon our moment-by-moment relationship with him (Isa. 26:3-4).  We must remember and take action on the fact that we cannot handle the vast array of lies that surround us and intrude into the present moment of life.  We have no power or wisdom in and of ourselves.  We must look to Jesus to fight against our strongholds and the lies within (2 Chron. 20: 12, 15).  We can confidently enter his presence with freedom to find mercy, grace, healing, and truth (Eph. 3:12; Heb. 4:16; James 1:5).  Apart from him, we are powerless to do anything about the lies in our lives (John 15:5).  To that end, we choose to remove the lie from just our presence and take it to the presence of Jesus,

“Lord Jesus, by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, I bring to you this lie that feels so true.  What feels true is that [I am worthless and will never be of value to you or anyone else.]  It has held me captive too long.  It destroys me.  I believe that apart from you, I can do nothing about this lie.  Only you can destroy this lie.”

To be mindful of the presence of Jesus, allow yourself to feel his surrounding nearness.  Center your thoughts upon him realizing that there is not a moment of your life that he is not present and involved (Ps. 139; Isa. 52:12).  You might also use the Safe Place exercise as a way intentionally to be in the presence of Jesus as you bring to him the lies that hinder you.

Core Step 4.  Demolish the lie.   God is truth and totally truthful in all ways (John 14:17; Heb. 6:18; 1 John 1:5).  Satan is the originator, embodiment, and perpetrator of lies (John 8:44). Satan uses lies in our lives to harm us in any way possible (John 10:10).  These strongholds and lies “are ways of thinking and evaluating that are false, arrogant, and destructively disobedient. . . . [They] are beliefs that are untrue about oneself, others, or circumstances” (Murphy 2003, 376-377).

The plan of God includes destroying the works and lies of the devil (1 John 3:8).  God desires to give us what he knows is good and best for us—his presence which is his truth (Matt. 7:7-11).  God requires that we hate any form of evil (Rom. 12:9), flee any form of demonic presence (1 Cor. 10:14, 21), and let nothing master or hold sway over us that is not of God (1 Cor. 6:12).  Since we were bought at such a great price (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 6:20), God is vested in demolishing the strongholds that are counter to him and his love and plan for us (2 Cor. 10:3-5).  Seek his help in eradicating the present lie that you have brought to his presence,

“Lord Jesus, please now demolish this lie that [I am worthless and of no value to you or anyone].  Tear it down.  End how this lie holds me captive.”

Core Step 5.  Desire the truth.  God’s desire for us is more than just bringing us truth to counter lies we believe.  While he does want us to have his truth, his greater goal is for us to desire him more (Matt. 6:33; 22:37) and to relate to him more intimately.  He wants us to want him more than what he will bring to us or do for us.  God has placed choices before humankind from the beginning of time through the present day (Gen. 2:16; 3:6; Josh. 24:15; John 3:16-18; Rom. 1:21-25).  He considers the motives of the heart about what an individual really wants to do (Prov. 16:2; Heb. 4:12)—whether or not we genuinely want to abandon the lies believed to embrace his truth or just feel better.  Jesus even asked the blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46; Luke 18:41) what he wanted him to do.  Obviously, Jesus knew the man was blind.  However, Jesus had Bartimaeus state what he desired.  Jesus gave him more than just his sight as Bartimaeus also entered into a personal relationship with Christ.  Do we really want more of his presence in our lives?  Do we desire a full and deep application of his truth to do more than just help us in the moment?  As we truly delight in him and want more of his presence, he will give us this desire (Ps. 37:4).  Express your desire for the fullness of the truth of Christ to be experienced by you,

“Lord Jesus, I do want to hear or sense your truth in place of this lie that [I am worthless and of no value to you or anyone].  What is your perspective?  What do you say about this?  Let me not hear any other voice but yours or receive anything other than your truth.  Make it possible for me to experience you and your truth and the freedom you promise.  I am willing to receive whatever you bring to me.”   

Divine Conversation:  The Prompted Steps

The prompted steps are key elements about which to be mindful and willing to initiate as the Holy Spirit prompts you.  While attuning to the Lord and waiting for his truth to counter lie-based thinking addressed through the core steps, the Holy Spirit may encourage implementation of one or more of these prompted steps.  The reasons for these prompted steps are two-fold:  (1) The Holy Spirit knows that there is some impediment to your receiving truth; (2) He wants further to solidify his relationship with us.  Although the core steps are essential to the Divine Conversation process, any or all of the prompted steps are taken only as the Holy Spirit moves one to implement the prompted step(s).

Prompted Step 1.  Reaffirm position in Christ.   It is critical for us to know and internalize who the Lord says we are from his perspective.  We tend to spin around what we have internalized as true (Prov. 23:7).  As Neil Anderson says, “The battle is for the mind, which is the control center of all that we think and do” (Anderson 1993, 282).  Since Satan does not want us to be free because we might continue to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, he desires that we forget who we are in Christ.  Satan wants us to continue to internalize who we were apart from God.  Quite the opposite, the Holy Spirit wants us to revel in the fact that we are children of God and planned to be like Christ (1 John 3: 1-2).  As the Holy Spirit leads, remind yourself and experience the truth about who God says you are by reaffirming truthful identity statements that the Holy Spirit brings to mind,

“Holy Spirit, help me remember and experience the truths that [I am yours.  Jesus is my King, Savior, Lord, Master, Beloved, Brother, Friend, Shepherd.  I am God’s forever. God loves me more than I can understand.  God chose me to be in a forever relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit.  I am forgiven and accepted in every way by you.  Allow me to receive your truth in place of this lie.”]

Prompted Step 2.  Resist the devil.   Scripture makes it clear that Jesus defeated all the powers of evil at the Cross (Col. 2:15).  Additionally, in James 4:7-8, we are reminded that as we willingly and consciously submit to God’s authority, we can take a stand against this defeated foe—the devil.  The end goal of doing so is greater communion with God.  Anderson reminds us that although Satan is a defeated foe and his power is limited, “he still has the ability to deceive ‘the whole world’ (Rev. 12:9)” (Anderson 2000, 161).  However, we counter Satan’s deceptive attempts and practices with the internalized and experienced truth and authority of Christ.

Because of our faith in Christ, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph.  2:6, NIV).  Because of Christ’s heavenly position of authority, we also have this same position of authority.  This allows us to take a stand, resist, and wage warfare against Satan and his demons (Foster 1992, 239).

One key way we are able to stand firm and resist the devil is by spiritually attiring ourselves with the full armor of God (Eph.  6:10-18).  As we understand the significance of this spiritual resource, we can assert our will against being deceived and bullied by the enemy.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit calls us to resist the devil, we do so by taking our rightful authority in Christ,

“Lord Jesus, in your Name, I resist Satan and any demonic influence upon me.  I recognize only you as my Lord and Master.  I wear your full armor that I might stand firm against the devil’s lies.  I rebuke the lie that [I am worthless and have no value to you or anyone else].  I also ask that you—the Lord who is for me and who has chosen me—rebuke this lie and any demonic influence behind it.  Lord, what truth do you have for me in place of this lie?”

Prompted Step 3.  Proclaim desire for obedience.  According to Rick Warren, “You were created to become like Christ.  From the very beginning, God’s plan has been to make you like his Son, Jesus” (Warren 2002, 171).  The problem is that lies we believe hinder our obedience and, thereby, our progress to “be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24, NIV).  The good news is that as we seek to be obedient and in-step with the Holy Spirit, he releases his power to transform us into his image and to accomplish his purposes.  As Warren continues to emphasize, “God waits for you to act first. . . . [by] doing the right thing in spite of your fears and feelings.  This is how you cooperate with the Holy Spirit” (Warren 2002, 175).  As you seek his truth about the lie you brought to the Lord’s presence, acknowledge your desire to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in ways of obedience,

“Holy Spirit, enable me to desire obedience to you in all ways.  Train me in obedience.  Motivate me to obedience.  Open my eyes to what obedience looks like.  Bring to me the truths that I need only from you.”

Prompted Step 4.  Praise God.  Scripture commands us to offer praise and give thanks to God.  For example, we are told to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:17, NIV).  Additionally, the psalmist explains that God is good and what he does is good even when he allows affliction.  He goes on to say that it was good that he was afflicted given that God in faithfulness brought forth the affliction (Ps. 119: 67-75).  McGee offers, “praise is the highest form of spiritual warfare” (McGee 1995, 194).

As you wait upon the Lord to bring his truth to you in place of the lie, praise him for whatever way he directs you to praise him.  Allow the Holy Spirit to freely carry your praises heavenward,

“Lord Jesus, help me to praise you.  Enable me to believe and experience how you are using my circumstances, the lies affecting me, and even Satan’s attempts to destroy me to work out my salvation and character to become more complete in you.  I praise you for your goodness in spite of what my problems and hurts are.  I trust you will only do what is right and good for me.  For all of this, I praise you for your wisdom and sovereignty over me.  Help me to be open to your truth.”

Prompted Step 5.  Remedy Sin.  To remedy sin involves engaging one or more of several components that the Holy Spirit might bring to our attention:  confession and repentance, releasing anger – bitterness – resentment, and receiving cleansing.

Confession and repentance involve more than just acknowledging sin or a stronghold and deciding to turn away from it.  Confession means that we allow the Holy Spirit to show us the reality of personal destructiveness caused by the sin or stronghold including the depth of evil it injects into our lives.  Repentance calls us to move away from a self-willed or rebellious approach to life and to move toward a humble, relational encounter with Christ (McGee 1995, 189-194).

By releasing anger, bitterness, and resentment, we become willing to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Matt. 18:15; Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:32).  First, we move toward forgiveness, not because the offender deserves it, but because Christ deserves our obedience given that he sacrificed all to pay for our sins.  He did this for us when we did not deserve it and were, in fact, still his enemy (Rom. 5:6-10).  Second, when we hold onto unforgiveness, we impede our own healing, our fellowship with the Lord, and our ability to receive his truth (Ps. 66:18; Matt. 6:12-15; 18:21-35).

When releasing and forgiving others who have hurt us, Seamands has provided a wise and prudent way to go about this process as outlined in this summary (Seamands 2003, 130-147):

*Facing the facts.  We must be genuinely and ruthlessly honest about what we experienced.

*Feeling the hurt.  More than just being honest about the facts, we must allow ourselves to feel and connect with the pain we have and do experience.

*Confronting our hate.  We must have the courage to confront our hatred for the offender given what we experienced.

*Bearing the pain.  Forgiveness is costly.  When we choose to forgive, we also choose to bear the pain of the injustice we have experienced.

*Releasing those who have wronged us.  While not ignoring the demand of justice, we choose to release our offenders and turn them over to God.  Faithfully, we trust God to exact justice in his way and timing (Rom12:17-21).

*Assuming responsibility for ourselves.  We cease being a victim or needing to blame someone else.  We recognize that our identity is not defined by what happened to us.  A choice is made that holding on to the  pain and resentment caused by another is not to be a source of meeting our needs.

*Longing for reconciliation.  The goal of forgiveness is the restoration of broken relationships.  Just forgiving to get beyond the pain and get on with life does not go far enough.  It is very true that the nature and extent of reconciliation with an offender depends on a number of significant factors.  At the same time, as we are willing to trust the Holy Spirit to oversee this process and outcome, we find ourselves in the presence of the Cross of Christ.

After we have confessed and repented about a sin or stronghold and/or released others from our debt, it is critical that we are willing to receive the cleansing of Christ in our own lives.  His death on the Cross made provision for us to be cleansed from all aspects of every sin regardless of the source and to continue to experience this cleansing on an ongoing basis (Heb. 10:22-23; 1 John 1:9).  At times, we may feel that we have failed too many times, our failures are overly egregious, or we have been stuck in a sinful, shameful position for too extensive of a time.  The lie-based belief that either we are too bad to receive cleansing or that God will not provide further cleansing is another attempt of the devil to constrain our freedom in the Holy Spirit and hinder our relationship with Christ (2 Cor. 3:17).

As the Holy Spirit leads, express your heart to remedy any sin or stronghold, and/or for the release of troublesome emotions,

“Holy Spirit, you have shown me that I do hold [anger] toward [specific person].  Honestly, I have been [hurt] by [specific person].  However, I desire to be obedient to you.  I choose to forgive [specific person] for the damage done to me.  I do this not because [he/she] deserves this, but because Jesus deserves my obedience given how he has forgiven me.  Make it possible for me to forgive [specific person].  Take away the [anger and hurt].  Replace this with the thoughts and feelings you would give to me.  Forgive me for holding on to what happened for too long.  Allow me to experience your cleansing and release from this.”

Prompted Step 6.  Receive the Holy Spirit’s filling.  According to Ephesians 5:18, being filled with the Holy Spirit is a natural part of the believer’s life.  However, it is important to make a clear distinction.  Being indwelled by the Holy Spirit and filled by the Holy Spirit are two distinct aspects.  When a person by faith accepts Christ as personal Savior, a spiritual birth or conversion immediately takes place where the Holy Spirit forever indwells and seals the individual as proof of the redemption that has taken place (John 3:1-8; Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30).  However, being filled with the Holy Spirit as noted in Ephesians 5:18 means being empowered, released, guided, and controlled by the Holy Spirit.  This is not a one-time event like being indwelled by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion.  Rather, this is an act of our will where we seek the continual, moment-by-moment presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  As noted by Siang-Yang Tan, “When we are open to the Spirit—continually filled and seeking to be filled—we are less likely to quench or grieve the Spirit in our daily living” (Tan and Gregg 1997, 20).  When the Holy Spirit prompts or reminds us to be filled, we exercise our will inviting him to overtake us and undertake whatever he desires in our lives in the present moment,

“Holy Spirit, I seek your total and complete filling in this moment.  Take control of everything about me.  I willingly invite you to be over my entire life, and I submit to you.  Make my will and desire to be exactly what your will and desire is.” 

 Divine Conversation:  Experienced Truth

“God is not simply to be learned about in life,” according to Wardle, “[h]e is to be experienced.  He waits in every moment to be encountered by those who seek him” (Wardle 2007, 110).

We are in a deeply intimate and personal relationship with a God who is to be known and who is to be experienced.  Our problem experiencing God has several facets:  (a) We have primarily a surface understanding about Christ and do not have sufficient knowledge about him, his work, and his Word.  We have treated him like a very distant cousin who we know of but do not really know well at all and with whom we do not spend any significant time; (b) At the other extreme, we know about God in great detail and have made it a disciplined practice to study about him and his Word.  At the same time, we have ignored, not understood sufficiently, or simply downplayed the reality of the experiential aspect of our relationship with him.  In other words, we know a lot about God without really knowing God (Benner 2003, 27).  Kraft reminds us that “John 8:32 refers to experiential knowledge, not mere theoretical knowledge, as that which undergirds the truth that sets us free” (Kraft 2002, 76); (c) Some are more left brain oriented and are not as oriented to the right brain functions allowing the spiritual senses to be open to imaginative and experiential encounters with God.

God works in the totality of our lives—past, present, and future.  He wants to bring us his truth to deal with the more past-oriented, deeply seated wounds and resultant lies of past troublesome events through deeper level healing processes.  At the same time, he wants to bring us his truth in the present moment of need to counter the lie-based thinking that invades our present.  In both cases, it is the relational experience of God and his truth that bring to our lives correct meaning, thinking, feelings, and actions.

As you apply the Core Steps of Divine Conversation and are mindful how the Holy Spirit leads using the Prompted Steps, you now are open to experiencing the truth in the way that the Holy Spirit knows best to bring it to you.  God will apply his unique truth tailored to the individual.  As Smith indicates, “God’s Spirit may convey truth through thoughts and words, visual imagery, or a sense of His presence” (Smith 2007, 159).  Additionally, God may apply his truth through:  (a) his Word as we read and meditate upon it; (b) timely and wise counsel of mature Christian believers; (c) the use of providential circumstances; (d) our sanctified common sense and reason; (e) applications of nature and creation such as a majestic sunset or the worry free existence of a squirrel gathering food (Tan and Gregg 1997, 57-60).

While waiting for God’s truth, we must be vigilant in the process and careful not to desire the outcome of the process over the One we are in relationship with.  We must not put our desire and focus more on what God might say or bring than on God himself.  With this in mind, we must guard against:  (a) putting God on our timetable to bring us his truth.  He will bring it in his timing; (b) limiting how God brings us his truth.  We must be open, willing, and sensitive to his choice of how he communicates truth to us; (c) putting words in God’s mouth.  We must discern the difference between our voice/other voices and the Voice of God; (d) seeking the spectacular.  As indicated in 1 Kings 19:12, many times God communicates in the manner of a “gentle whisper;” (e) ignoring basic good sense.  God will not convey anything that is contrary to his nature or Word (Johnson 1996, 92-95).

Having reviewed the core steps and prompted steps, I want to make a final observation.  There is no reason to feel guilty or perplexed if it seems that you are encountering the same or similar lie on frequent occasions requiring repeated truth from the Lord.  First, various characters in Scripture (Moses, the Israelites, Joshua) received reoccurring truths from God (e.g., “Be strong; Do not be afraid; Do not be discouraged”), perhaps, to counter reoccurring lies they were believing.  The enemy knows what particular lies in his arsenal work best against us, and he will trigger us through life events to bombard us with them. More important, the Giver of Truth will overcome these lies with his truth on each occasion (James 1:5).

Second, keep in mind that as you focus on healing prayer in the present moment, you are not attending to the lie at its source, as would be the case in deeper level healing prayer.  Simply allow the Holy Spirit to identify whatever lies are present and bring to you the experience of truth as he directs.  As you continue to hear the Lord’s persistent truth, it will tear away at the lie stronghold weakening its ability to stand against truth.  In God’s timing and way, the stronghold will be demolished.  Scripture indicates the need for us to position ourselves as persistently dependent on God for his mercy and truthful intervention (Ps. 123:2; Luke 11:5-13).

Finally, you might consider entering a season of deeper level healing prayer to address a reoccurring lie at its source.  In this case, Divine Conversation becomes complementary to deeper level healing prayer process.

APPENDIX

 DIVINE CONVERSATION: PRESENT-ORIENTED HEALING PRAYER MODEL

 

Bill-Bellican-chart

Divine Conversation Present-Oriented Healing Prayer Model

                                                                                                  

 

CORE STEPS

 Understand Life Events – Various life events trigger associated negative past experiences and/or are capitalized upon by Satan as a venue to breed an unsettled spirit within us.

 Recognize Emotional Upheaval – A negative emotional indicator that something is going on within me that needs attention.

Attend To Lie-Based Thinking – Inner statements/beliefs/attitudes that are intrusive but feel uncomfortably true.

Define The Lie – Ask the Holy Spirit to define specifically what feels true.

Own The Lie – Once defined, embrace the lie-based thoughts that feel true owning them as though they were true.

Move The Lie – Bring the lie-based thoughts into the presence of Christ recognizing your powerlessness to deal with them.

Demolish The Lie – Seek and depend upon the Lord to demolish the lie-based thoughts and enable you to take them captive.

Desire The Truth – As an act of the will, seek and expect the reality, application, and experience of the Lord’s truth counter to the present lie-based thoughts.

Experience The Truth – In the present moment, sense, listen for, be aware of the Lord conveying and applying His truth in the ways He chooses to do so.

Peace/Freedom – The opposite of emotional upheaval enabling you to experience freedom and peace in the present moment as truth is experienced.

 PROMPTED STEPS

 Should the Holy Spirit prompt you:

Reaffirm position in Christ – I must know who Jesus says I am to Him and who He is to me.  The devil does not want me to know this. (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 John 3:1-2)

Resist the devil – The devil is defeated, and I can resist him because I belong to Christ. (Eph. 6:10-12; Col. 2:15; James 4:7-8)

Proclaim desire for obedience – I must cooperate with the Holy Spirit to allow God to produce his character in me.  The devil does not want me to change.  (Ps. 119: 33-37, 44-48; Eph. 4:24)

Praise God – I can reflect God’s goodness by being thankful regardless of circumstances.  The devil wants me discouraged and mistrustful of God.   (Ps. 119:68; 1 Thess. 5:16-18)

Remedy sin – I must receive the abundant cleansing from my sin continuously offered by Christ. The devil continuously accuses me to promote a guilty conscience.  (Heb. 10:22-23; 1 John 1:9; Rev. 12:10)

Receive the Holy Spirit’s filling – I can live an empowered new life controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit.  The devil wants me to live apart from God’s power.  (Gal. 5:16; Eph. 5:18)

Examples of Lie-Based Thinking

Lies about God – He will not take care of me.  I cannot trust him.  He will never answer me. He could not possibly love me.  He is angry with me.  He is disappointed in me. He will not help me so I have to figure it out myself.  He cannot/will not forgive me because I have done too much.  He is not enough. God owes me. God is not fair.

Lies about others – No one will ever love me.  Everyone will hurt me.  All reject me.  No one sees any value in me.  Others do not like me.  No one cares anything about me.  People do not want to be around me.  Everyone is out to get me.

Lies about myself – I will never amount to anything.  I always fail.  I am worthless.  I can never do anything right.  I am hopeless.  I cannot change.  I cannot take it anymore.  I will always be miserable.  I will make a fool of myself.  My life is wasted.  I am stupid.  It is always my fault.  There is something wrong with me.  I am doomed.  I cannot stop.

Lies about circumstances – This will go on forever.  Nothing will ever change. This situation is impossible. There is no way out of this situation.  This problem cannot be solved.  My situation is hopeless.  There is no end to this problem.

Lies that seem positiveIt will not hurt me to do this.  I need to look at this/do this.  Doing this will make me feel better.  God understands if I do/think this.  If I do this, no one will know.  I will do this only this time.

NOTES: 

Anderson, Neil.  1993.  Living free in Christ.  Ventura, CA:  Regal Books.

________.  2000.  Victory over the darkness.  Ventura, CA:  Regal Books.

Benner, David G.  2003.  Surrender to love.  Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity

Bright, Bill.  2007.  Would you like to know God personally?  Peachtree City, GA: Campus Crusade for Christ.

Foster, Richard J.  1992.  Prayer: Finding the heart’s true home. New York:  HarperCollins Publisher.

Kellemen, Robert W.  2005.  Soul physicians:  A theology of soul care and spiritual direction.  Taneytown, MD:  RPM Books.

Johnson, Jan.  1996.  Enjoying the presence of God.  Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Kraft, Charles.  2002.  Confronting powerless Christianity.  Grand Rapids:  Chosen Books.

McGee, Robert.  1995.  The search for freedom.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Servant

McMinn, Mark R.  2004.  Why sin matters.  Wheaton, IL:  Tyndale House

Moon, Gary.  1997.  Homesick for Eden.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Servant Publications.

Murphy, Ed.  2003.  The handbook for spiritual warfare.  Nashville:  Thomas

O’Donoghue, N. D.  1986.  The Mystical Imagination.  In Religious imagination, ed. James P. Mackey, 186-205.  Edinburgh UK: Edinburgh University

Seamands, Stephen.  2003.  Wounds that heal.  Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity

Smith, Edward M.  2007.  Theophostic prayer ministry:  Basic seminar manual 2007. Campbellsville, KY:  New Creation Publishing.

Tan, Siang-Yang and Douglas H. Gregg.  1997.  Disciplines of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing House.

Thurman, Chris.  1999.  The lies we tell ourselves.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Wardle, Terry.  2001.  Healing care, healing prayer.  Orange, CA:  New Leaf

________.  2007.  Strong winds and crashing waves.  Abilene, TX:  Leafwood

Warren, Rick.  2002.  The purpose-driven life.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

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*Author:  Bellican, W. M. (2010).  Divine conversation: Attuning to truth in the sacrament of the present moment.©  (Doctoral Dissertation).  Retrieved from Theological Research Exchange Network. (028-0324; 773236003)  http://www.tren.com/search.cfm

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Hurts, Wounds, Lies: Getting Below The Waterline

SOURCE:   / Conversations Journal

 Getting Below The Waterline: The Role of Inner-Healing Prayer in Spiritual Transformation

In the days following my husband’s death, I desperately sought God’s comfort in the Scriptures. After an eleven-year battle with Multiple Sclerosis and all the humiliation, fear, hardship, and losses that go with it, my faith was on the fragile side. I needed solace, the kind only God could give.  So I went to the Psalms. Isn’t that where God’s children always find consolation?

But I found no consolation there. On the contrary, in fact. One day I was reading Psalm 91, the psalm just about every Christian turns to in times of fear or discouragement:

Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.[1]

I didn’t want to admit it, but the psalm made me feel angry. My husband had not been saved from the deadly pestilence or the destroying plague. My whole family had experienced plenty of terrors by night, and plenty of arrows by day. Disaster had come near our tent. More than just near, it had invaded our tent, taken my husband’s life, and left my son and me wounded and bereft. God did not feel like a refuge. Actually, reading the psalm made me feel as if God were mocking me.

Hadn’t I loved God enough to deserve His protection? I wondered. Had I failed Him and in the process, nullified His promises? If God had allowed so much pain and suffering to happen to my family and me already, how did I know there wasn’t more or even worse to come? I felt as if I were just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Mind you, I admitted these thoughts to no one, hardly even to myself. I was a leader in full-time ministry, after all. I’d been serious about my walk with God for decades. I invested myself in helping others to grow spiritually. How could I possibly admit such thoughts and feelings? They seemed almost blasphemous to me. I didn’t want to jeopardize the faith of others.

About that time, a man in my church whom I’d only met on a couple of occasions mentioned a healing prayer ministry he was part of. With no knowledge of my spiritual crisis, he offered, “If you ever want to have somebody pray with you and help you listen to God, we have people who do that. Just let me know.”

At that point in my spiritual journey, listening to God was something that was still relatively new to me. For much of my Christian life, I didn’t know how to hear God speak to me personally. Although I had puzzled over Scriptures like John 10 that assured me that Jesus’ sheep hear His voice,[2] my prayers had been mostly one-way monologues. And the impersonality of that seemingly one-way relationship left me feeling lonely and detached from God. But during the hardest years of my husband’s illness, God had mercifully taught me how to listen to His voice. Through experience, He proved to me that I could call to Him and He would answer me,[3] and that I could come to Him with my ears wide open and in listening, I would find life.[4] He helped me to understand that He really does call me friend,[5] and that He enjoys it when I invite Him to have conversation with me, Friend to friend.[6]

I don’t think I would have survived the years of illness, loss, and relentless caregiving if I hadn’t learned to hear my Father’s tender voice. Time and time again I was amazed by His almost unnervingly personal care for me as He patiently responded to my anger and fear, and gently comforted me and fathered me. As my ability to discern His voice grew, so did my relationship with Him. God became more personal and intimate—and thus more indispensable to me—than He had ever been before.

But in spite of having heard God and even dialogued with Him in deeply personal, relational ways, He seemed pretty silent in those dark days after my husband’s death. The warm conversations we’d had previously seemed like ancient history. So when Jack asked me if I would like somebody to listen to God with me, I was open. I wasn’t hearing much from God on my own, but maybe listening with others could help me to re-connect. I had no idea what to expect, but I set up a time to pray with him and a woman from the church’s healing prayer team.

Healing prayer, it turned out, was different from any other kind of prayer I’d ever been involved with. But even though it was a stretch for me, it made complete sense. Using listening prayer as a foundation, it is a way of asking Jesus to do for people now, in our generation, the kind of ministry that Isaiah 61 (and Luke 4) describe Him as doing—binding up broken hearts, freeing captives, releasing prisoners, comforting all who mourn, exchanging despair for praise.

My prayer partners explained that they had no agenda except to ask Jesus to do His healing work. They said they would focus our prayer time on asking God what I needed and how He wanted to meet me. They asked me a few questions, equivalent to a medical doctor asking, “Where does it hurt?” Then they explained to me that they would ask God a question and invite Him to respond to me. He might bring up a memory or impression, perhaps He would stir up a painful emotion. He might bring to mind words that had been spoken to me, or maybe a verse of Scripture. Maybe He would give me a picture. Whatever came to mind I was to report. If we weren’t sure if it was from God or not, or if we didn’t know what it meant, we would simply ask Him to confirm or clarify.

In the process of listening to God in that manner, He did speak. He revealed early memories—long before the ordeal with my husband—of times when I had felt unprotected and vulnerable. He helped me to see that long before adulthood I had come to believe that those who are supposed to protect me, won’t. That if I don’t look out for myself, no one else will. He helped me to see how, subconsciously, I’d transferred these beliefs to Him, too. Without even knowing it, I’d come to believe that God would not protect or help me, that I had to take care of myself. Was it any wonder that when I needed God the most, I couldn’t find Him? I’d built my life around those devastating, isolating lies, so that I had no real expectation that He would rescue me. Sure, I “believed” Psalm 91 intellectually, but in my deepest heart, I doubted.

When those lies were exposed, I was able to confess them and ask God’s forgiveness for doubting His love and care. I was able to see and declare the truth that God is for me and He helps those who call to Him in faith. Over time, I was able to forgive the ones who had failed to keep me safe and had set me up to believe awful lies about God and life.

Healing for me wasn’t one quick prayer session. It involved a series of times similar to what I just described in which God revealed to me the obstacles that were standing in the way of my trusting Him. Over a period of months, as one by one I dealt with them, my confidence in God’s loving care grew so that now I can read Psalm 91 with peace and hope.

Inner-Healing Prayer’s Part in Spiritual Formation

My personal experience with inner-healing prayer, both offering it to others and receiving it, has prompted me to believe that it plays a helpful, if not critical, role in spiritual formation. In my case, I desperately wanted to trust God. I was miserable when I dreaded the future because I couldn’t bring myself to trust in His care for me. My struggle filled me with guilt and shame. I hated feeling suspicious of God while all the while professing my faith in His goodness. So I read books on faith. I memorized Scriptures about His goodness. I confessed (over and over and over) my fear. I gritted my teeth and tried to “just do it.” I learned so much about what it meant to trust God that I suspect I probably could have given a convincing inspirational talk or written a powerful devotional about the faithfulness of God. But no matter how firmly my head was convinced, my heart still struggled.

As others have invited me to pray with them for inner healing, I’ve discovered that I was by no means alone in my spiritual frustration. Many of us have deep-rooted wounds that get in the way of our spiritual transformation. My issues of doubting and distrusting God are far more common than I realized. But there are many others: inferiority, shame, perfectionism, addictions, obsessive and compulsive behavior, anxiety, gender confusion, people-pleasing, body image issues, and more. All of these are serious barriers to our ability to experience God and grow in Jesus’ likeness. And all of them are nearly impossible to address by conventional means of discipleship such as Bible study, Scripture memorization, or petition-based prayer.

Rusty Rustenbach, director of pastoral care and counseling for The Navigators and author of A Guide to Inner-Healing Prayer: Meeting God in the Broken Places, describes how, as a seasoned counselor, missionary, and disciple-maker, not only was he unable to help the people he ministered to get past these obstacles—he could not get past them himself. As a boy, he had not received from authority figures the affirmation he needed—which led to insecurity, people-pleasing, and periodic overreactions to triggering events that continued into adulthood. He wanted to be free from those inner attitudes and weights —but the spiritual disciplines he tried weren’t setting him free. Then one day he read Psalm 18:9: “He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.”[7] Yeah, I’ll bet God delights in me,Rustenbach mused, cynically. No, He puts up with me because He’s stuck with me.”[8]

A friend talked to Rustenbach about listening prayer (in 1997, before much had been taught or written about the inner-healing aspect of listening prayer) and Rustenbach reluctantly agreed to try it. He really didn’t expect anything to happen, but God surprised him. “Rusty, I am for you… for you and not against you. You belong to me I chose you to belong to Me because I love you with an everlasting love. You are Mine!”[9] That intimate encounter with God was deeply healing to Rustenbach; as he relates the story today, fifteen years later, his eyes still fill with tears. And now, listening and inner-healing prayer has become the foundation of his fruitful ministry with The Navigators.

“As our global society increases in complexity, size, and brokenness, growing numbers of people struggle with issues that seem impervious to traditional ministry methods.”[10] Rustenbach says. Spiritual disciplines are useful and necessary, but inadequate to deal with issues that are hidden “below the water line.”[11]

Often a person is not even aware of these below-the-surface wounds. Nevertheless, he or she may feel trapped by unwanted but automatic reactions, unhealthy habits, and negative thought patterns. In persons who have walked with the Lord for a long time these are especially troubling. After all, intellectually, they believe the right things. They have good theology. But there is a head-heart schism. What they believe in their heads does not work itself out in their lives, in spite of counseling , effort, or traditional forms of prayer. These kinds of wounds require a touch from Jesus, a manifestation of God’s grace. We need God to show us where the problem is rooted—and we need Him to bring the healing.

This process does not require a person to probe deeply into his or her past. Such introspection, as many of us have learned the hard way, often isn’t helpful, and can even be harmful. Through difficult experience we understand that “the heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.”[12] But God is able to lovingly, gently, objectively sort out what we cannot. “I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”[13]

Assumptions and Principles of Inner-Healing Prayer

There are different models of inner-healing prayer, most of which rely on some variation of these assumptions and principles:

  • A person experienced an emotional wounding, often in childhood (e.g. abandonment by a parent, real or perceived rejection by significant people, sexual, verbal, or physical abuse, loss, deprivation, etc.).
  • Lies about God, self, or the way the world works were believed as a result of that traumatic, painful or disappointing experience (e.g. “If I let people know who I really am, they won’t like me”).
  • Vows may have been made in an attempt to protect the person from future hurt (e.g. “I’ll never trust a man again”).
  • Generational patterns may have been inherited (such as patterns of fear, a poverty mindset, and so on).
  • As we practice listening prayer, the Holy Spirit speaks in our minds or hearts, through pictures, the stirring of emotions, words, symbols, or other creative and very personal means.
  • Usually God takes us back to memories from childhood where the wounding took place. He helps us to see what happened to our souls at that time, exposing lies we came to believe, unbiblical vows we made, faulty strategies for living that we adopted, and perhaps the pronouncements others made over us.
  • We confess these lies, vows, and so on, to Him and ask Him to reveal truth. As we embrace the truth He reveals, our minds are renewed and we are freed from the emotional bondage that hindered our spiritual growth and freedom. We stand with Jesus, Way, Truth, and Life, and declare our independence from the father of lies.
  • Sometimes we see Jesus with us in the memory of the painful event.  He may speak words of truth or offer comfort that usually is deeply moving and penetrating.
  • With His help, (sometimes over time rather than immediately) we forgive the ones who wounded us, both for the actual offense, as well as for the consequences we have experienced as a result of that offense.
  • By replacing lies with truth and forgiving those who hurt us, we close off areas of access to the enemy. He can no longer energize those places for us.
  • We adopt our true identity in Christ rather than the false identities we assumed because of the lies we believed and the wounds we were compensating for.
  • We expect that the Wonderful Counselor actually will meet us and touch us when we invite Him into our wounded places. When we invite Him, He will come, and He will heal.

Recently I had a conversation with a young Christian medical student who is seeking to understand God’s role in healing. He cited research that supports the efficacy of prayer for soul healing. That wasn’t surprising, he told me, since prayer is a form of catharsis, allowing for the release of painful emotions so that healing can occur. I agreed with him that pouring out our hearts to God is indeed cathartic. What kinder, wiser Listener could we ever have than our Abba, Father, who made us and redeemed us and constantly watches over us in love? But there’s more, I told him. Inner-healing prayer is supernatural. God actually does something when we invite Him to heal our hurting hearts. Somehow, He enters into our pain with us and releases us from it with no less power than when He healed 2,000 years ago.

As Richard Foster so aptly puts it, “Don’t you know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lives in the eternal now, can enter that old painful memory and heal it so that it will no longer control you?”[14]

Healing Prayer Resources

Inner-healing prayer can be a helpful adjunct to spiritual direction, counseling, discipling, and pastoral care, although depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find a good practitioner. This form of soul-care, as in any other, should be left only to those who are reliably trained, spiritually and emotionally mature and healthy themselves, biblically sound, in accountability relationships with other Christians, and with a proven record of helping others find healing and freedom. If you cannot find someone like that in your community, you may want to consider receiving training yourself. There are several options:

The Pastoral Care Team of The Navigators (Rustenbach’s organization) offers listening and healing prayer seminars several times a year in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and elsewhere, by invitation.

Ministries of Pastoral Care (founded by Leanne Payne, who has since retired) offers training each summer at Wheaton College, in Illinois.

The International Association for Theophostic Ministry (founded by Ed Smith) offers comprehensive training resources for individuals or groups (such as a church prayer team).

Christian Healing Ministries (founded by Francis MacNutt) offers conferences, seminars, a healing prayer school, and internships, along with printed and video resources for basic or in-depth training in healing prayer of all kinds.


[1] Psalm 91:3-10, NIV

[2] John 10:3-4, 8, 16, 27

[3] Jer. 33:3

[4] Is. 55:3

[5] Jn. 15:15

[6] Rev. 3:20, NLT

[7] NASB

[8] Rusty Rustenbach, teaching at the Listening and Healing Prayer Seminar, The Navigators, Colorado Springs, May 18-19, 2009

[9] Rusty Rustenbach, A Guide for Listening & Inner-Healing Prayer, Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2011, p. 22.

[10] Ibed, p. 165

[11] Ibed, p. 103

[12] Jer. 17:9, MSG

[13] Jer. 17:10, MSG

[14] Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. New York: HarperCollins, 1992, p. 205.

Cynthia Hyle Bezek facilitates inner-healing prayer through her local church’s prayer ministry. She is author of Prayer Begins with Relationship, former editor of Pray! magazine, and blogs about prayer at cynthiaprayblog.wordpress.com. She currently serves as editorial director for Community Bible Study.

Healing Prayer and Medicine: God Knows The Right Balance

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Max Lucado

We tend toward one of two extremes on this subject: fanaticism or cynicism. Fanatics see the healing of the body as the aim of God and the measure of faith. Cynics consider any connection between prayer and healing as coincidental at best and misleading at worst. A fanatic might seek prayer at the exclusion of medicine; a cynic might seek medicine at the exclusion of prayer.

A healthy balance can be found.

The physician is the friend of God. Prayer is the friend of the physician.

The example of Jesus is important.

Great crowds came to Jesus, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, those who could not speak, and many others. They put them at Jesus’ feet, and he healed them. The crowd was amazed when they saw that people who could not speak before were now able to speak. The crippled were made strong. The lame could walk, and the blind could see. And they praised the God of Israel for this. (Matt. 15:30–31 NCV)

What did the people do with the sick? They put them at Jesus’ feet. This is the purpose of praying for the ill. We place the sick at the feet of the Physician and request his touch. This passage also gives us the result of healing prayer. “They praised the God of Israel for this.” The ultimate aim of healing is not just a healthy body but a greater kingdom. If God’s aim is to grant perfect health to all his children, he has failed, because no one enjoys perfect health, and everyone dies. But if God’s aim is to expand the boundaries of his kingdom, then he has succeeded. For every time he heals, a thousand sermons are preached.

Speaking of sermons, did you notice what is missing from this text? Preaching. Jesus stayed with these four thousand people for three days and, as far as we know, never preached a sermon. Not one time did he say, “May I have your attention?” But thousands of times he asked, “May I help you?” What compassion he had for them. Can you imagine the line of people? On crutches, wearing blindfolds, carried by friends, cradled by parents. For seventy-two hours Jesus stared into face after hurting face, and then he said, “I feel sorry for these people” (v. 32 NCV). The inexhaustible compassion of Jesus. Mark it down. Pain on earth causes pain in heaven. And he will stand and receive the ill as long as the ill come in faith to him.

And he will do what is right every time.

“God will always give what is right to his people who cry to him night and day, and he will not be slow to answer them” (Luke 18:7 NCV).

Healing prayer begs God to do what is right.

Healing Prayer: A Definition

SOURCE:  Adapted from Healing Care, Healing Prayer by Terry Wardle

Healing prayer can be defined as a ministry of the Holy Spirit, moving through a Christian caregiver, bringing the Healing Presence of Jesus Christ in to the place of pain and brokenness within a wounded person.

A ministry of the Holy Spirit: Healing prayer is thoroughly dependent upon the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit. He initiates, directs and empowers the entire process.  Thus the recipient of healing and the caregiver must not only understand the work of the Holy Spirit, but be surrendered to His infilling and empowerment each step along the way.

Moving through the Christian caregiver: Healing prayer is not a technique controlled by the caregiver.  It is a transformational ministry of the Holy Spirit, with the caregiver serving as an instrument of His activity.  The spiritual vitality and emotional maturity of the caregiver are important and integrated aspects of this healing process, and must be submitted to the Holy Spirit.

Bringing the Healing Presence of Jesus Christ: People need more than solutions to their problems.  They need to experience the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ in every aspect of their lives.  His Transforming Presence strengthens and satisfies as nothing else, the one true Source of healing for broken people everywhere.  Through healing prayer, the Holy Spirit uses a caregiver to position hurting people for what Jesus alone can give.

Into the place of pain and brokenness: Life experiences often leave deep wounds that compromise personal well-being.  Left undressed, these hurts give birth to false beliefs, emotional upheaval, and behaviors that are ultimately destructive.  During the process of healing prayer, both the source and symptoms of core woundings are brought into the light of Jesus Christ, where He alone can set people free.

The Basic Steps of “Healing Prayer”

SOURCE:  (Information compiled from work by Dr. Sian-Yang Tan, Professor of Psychology – Fuller Seminary Graduate School of Psychology &
Dr. Ed Smith, founder of Theophostic Prayer Ministry; other articles: http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1039&context=ccfs_fac_pubs)
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Healing prayer is a  (Christ-centered) Spirit-led, counselor involved, and counselee consented spiritual intervention with the specific intent of healing and breaking the chain of past traumatic, historical memory events that contain lie-based thinking/feeling still influencing present day thinking-feeling-acting.  (NOTE: Healing prayer as outlined in this article is not associated with hypnosis or guided/directed imagery.)

A goal in the use of healing prayer is that it become another important spiritual weapon or tool that you add to your repertoire and use throughout life.  Healing prayer will be useful to you along with other spiritual disciplines such as worship, prayer (conversational, traditional, listening), Scripture reading and study, fasting, meditation, solitude, etc. as you continue to cultivate your faith (Phil 2:12), seek truth and freedom (John 8:32), allow transformation through renewing your mind (Rom. 12:2) and demolish compulsions and strongholds (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

Sessions incorporating healing prayer involve the following steps:

NOTE:  Initially, this process will include a counselor who interacts with you and the Holy Spirit, as you continue to “practice the Presence of the Lord” and are comfortable interacting with the Lord in this aspect, yourself.

1) The session begins with prayer asking for God’s grace, power, healing, truth, and protection from the evil one.  The understanding is the Holy Spirit is present and leading, and this will be a time of interaction between you and He (and a counselor as present).

2) Within the safe confines of the counseling room (or a quiet, calm place you choose at other times) in the Presence of the Holy Spirit, you allow yourself to relax as you become receptive to God anticipating (but not demanding) that He will move in a curative way.

3) You will focus intently on the emotions you are feeling, a statement (of self-talk) that feels painfully true, or a known traumatic event.  This may surface painful imagery or memories.  Ask yourself the question, “What are the emotions I feel about myself in this present situation which triggered these emotions?”  Feel for the statement(s) that best describes how the situation made you feel and couple the statement with the emotions you feel.  For example, “I feel stupid.  I feel used.  I feel rejected.  I feel hurt.  I feel violated.  I feel abandoned.  I feel inadequate.  I feel unloved…..”

4)  With the emotions and/or lie statement in focus, allow yourself to disconnect from the present and let the Holy Spirit enable you to drift back to the origin and source of the emotional pain.  Ask the Lord to lead you to the place where you need to be to find complete release of the lie statement that feels true and is causing the pain. The Lord may have you recall an uncomfortable event from your past childhood, He may keep your focus on the lie statement, or He may have you focus on a more recent troubling event.  Regardless, let your attitude be one of, “Lord, I trust You to take me to the starting point at which I need to be.”

5)  Just let the past memories come to you.  Keep your focus on the feelings and lie statement that feels true.  Do not try to analyze memories or attempt to pick which memories are important or unimportant.  Whatever memory comes to mind, focus on it.  Feel your way through the memory being careful to examine every part.  Sometimes the memory will begin to open up and unfold, revealing things you had long forgotten.  Find out why this memory has an unpleasant feeling about it.

Ask yourself, “How does this memory make me feel?” or “Why do I feel this way in this memory?”

6)  Allow the intensity of the emotions in the memory picture to increase as you face and embrace this lie statement (that feels true) as the truth.  When it is strong and uncomfortable, invite the Lord Jesus to come into the memory.  Simply say to the Lord Jesus something like, “Lord Jesus, I invite you to come into my memory, and I ask You to reveal Your truth to me in whatever way You choose.  What is Your truth, Lord Jesus?”  Don’t prescribe anything for the Lord or try to help Him in any way.  Don’t try to make anything happen.  Let the Lord do what He will.

Allow the intensity of the emotion to increase as much as you can.  In the midst of this darkness, continue to ask the Lord to reveal His truth to you.  He may speak a word to you, give you a visual picture, or simply bring a realization of truth to your awareness.  Whatever you hear, see, or sense from Him, confess it out loud. Even write down your awarenesses for further reflection.

7)  If Jesus does not reveal truth to you fairly soon after focusing on the lie statement and emotional pain, it is most important to remember that, by faith, you can be assured of God’s Presence and intervention.  Remember, that while experiencing God is a wonderful result of this kind of prayer, an experience is not the goal.  Should you not receive a result you thought you might, remember that God invests value in your letting go of control and embracing trust in God, who truly cares and works things out in His good timing.

Additionally, sometimes, emotions such as anger, hate, rage, offense or revenge will be present in the memory or an aspect of what you are dealing with.

If this is the case, ask yourself these questions:

a) Why do I feel these emotions in this memory?  b) Do I really want to be free from these feelings?  If you truly want release, then confess your anger, rage, offense, etc., to Him and admit your powerlessness to overcome it on your own.  Ask Him to release you completely.

After this prayer, go back into the memory or to the lie statement and engage the process again.  If He still does not speak, you may not have discerned the core/main lie.  Look around in the memory for clues to what it might be and continue through the process.

Finally, sometimes there can be an evil presence inhabiting the memory. In such case, you will need to rebuke it and take authority over it as a believer in Christ who has been born anew into the family of God (John 1:10-13) and who serves as a member of a holy and royal priesthood (1 Pet 2: 4-5, 9).

8)  After the Lord has revealed His truth to you, go back to the memory or lie statement and search for any residual negative feelings that might remain.  Make sure there are no bad emotions left.  If you sense some evidence of unpleasant emotion after the Lord has provided truth, there may be another lie still present.  This is not uncommon.  Go back to step one and process this new lie the same way you did the other.  Once you can revisit a past hurtful memory and/or stir up the lie statement and find that a sense of calmness and peace is present based on the truth revealed by the Lord, that core lie has been dispelled.

Additionally, even after the Lord applies His truths to overcome lie-based thinking and negative emotional upheaval, feelings of sadness or grief can remain.  This is normal and healthy given the reality of past losses suffered and not necessarily part of harboring past lies.  If you discern this is the case, bring the sadness and grief to the Lord; allow Him to comfort you and walk with you through this time of healing (Ps. 119: 50, 52; 1 Pet. 5:6-7).

Remember, healing prayer is a time of faithfully calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ for His truth to dispel what has been operating in our lives as a distorted “truth.”  Healing prayer is not just a technique whereby God can be manipulated or the right formula that will bring results.

The Inward Journey Begins

(Adapted from Healing Care, Healing Prayer by Terry Wardle)

What do we need in order to realize our full potential as a human being and walk successfully through life? What special endowments must we have to experience the wholeness and well-being that God designed for us? Parents and significant others are to be instruments of the Lord, helping us become all that God intended, teaching us to rest secure in our identity as His child. Parents and significant others are supposed to provide us:

*A safe and secure environment
*Constant reinforcement of personal worth
*Repeated messages that we are valued, unique, and special
*Unconditional love and acceptance
*Basic care and nurture
*Encouragement to grow and develop personal gifts and talents
*A pathway to fellowship with God

These important people in our lives were meant to love, cherish, nurture and believe in us. They were to delight in us and be thrilled to see the beautiful human being God created. They were each meant to recognize and rejoice in our unique gifts, listen to and value our opinions, and encourage us to fulfill all the special dreams dancing in our heart. When we failed they were to look beneath the mistake and affirm the wonder that we truly are to them. Their arms were to be a safe place for us to grow, a hiding place against the slings and arrows of a hostile world.

But what if some of these endowments were never given to us? What if part of what we needed was stolen by insensitive or uncaring people? What if the one called to love us, ignored or abandoned us? What is a loved one gave us far more criticism than love, shame and blame instead of nurture and encouragement? What if our opinions were ridiculed, dreams ignored or gifts and talents rejected? What if we turned to a loved one for affirmation and acceptance, but instead were sexually abused. The affect of such things would surely have compromised our ability to function in life appropriately.

The pain is great when part of the treasure that was meant to empower us for life is stolen. Rather than moving into life fully equipped to succeed and experience abundance, we feel empty and insecure. We struggle with deep despair and humiliation, and wear the shame of brokenness like a coat made of iron. We feel fear so powerfully that we want to run away as fast as possible. The constant gnawing deep within threatens to undo us, and no matter where we go or whom we are with, we feel unsafe. There might be days when dark clouds settle in, bringing a debilitating depression that feels cold and endless. Instead of believing that life makes sense, we feel confused and constantly at risk.

From whatever the source, deep wounds impact what we believe about ourselves and our world. The experience of insensitivity and abuse, especially at an early age, can lead to seriously distorted thinking. This is particularly true when the adults who are called to care for us actually injure us. As a child, we are far too young to process all that happens, and there is nowhere to turn for help. Strong emotions lead us to draw conclusions about life based on what we have seen or experienced. Granted, our assumptions may rest more on feeling than rational thinking, but a very strong belief system gets formed just the same. These values and judgments are often shaped subconsciously, empowered by negative feelings that drive us to act in unhealthy ways. Unchallenged, they will continue to operate into adult life.

Being wounded, we may intuitively conclude that we are now damaged goods, unattractive and worthy of rejection. We might believe that if people knew what had happened in our lives, they would make fun of us, or worse, injure us even more. We may easily presume that all people are unsafe and out to get us whenever possible. We may even assume that God is not there for us, allowing bad people to hurt us without care or concern. We might believe that all the loss we have experienced was somehow our fault, that we are bad and out of control. Possibly we could think that we are all alone to provide and care for ourselves. Or we may conclude that we are powerless victims, destined to limp through life, able to receive crumbs to exist, but never food enough to truly thrive.

The deep pain and the distorted belief system lead us to react in destructive ways. We develop a multi-layered coping system not even aware of the relationship between our reactions and the deep loss. In childhood this unconscious strategy may have helped us survive. But as an adult what once served to enable us only further compromises our emotional and mental health. The undressed wound hidden beneath the layers continues to eat away at the core of our inner being. And the older we become, the more difficult it may be to see the connection between certain unhealthy behaviors and deep loss. Just the same, a cause and effect relationship does exist, and it must be identified and acknowledged on the journey toward personal well-being.

The Pain Layer

The first layer of the coping system represents our reaction to pain. Stolen treasures and broken dreams do not happen without great physical and emotional agony. Abuse and abandonment, regardless of the form they take, pierce to the most tender and sensitive places in the human soul. Although the initial hurt seems unbearable, the chronic pain threatens to undo us long after the wounding occurred. How do we attempt to silence the pain? Consider the following list of possibilities:

Dissociation – food – sexual addictions – gambling – work – shopping – sleeping – alcohol – drugs – religion – television – exercising – tobacco – recreation

Any one or combination of these could temporarily anesthetize chronic pain. But they do not address the deep wound that generated the hurt in the first place. The relief seems to be a welcome alternative to the daily agony of deep hurt. In fact we initially seem to feel and function better. However, years of inattention to the wounds deep within simply intensifies the inner agony. And over time a person develops a tolerance for the “drug” of choice. This usually results in the need for higher doses or a change to more powerful pain killers. The cycle that results is very destructive. Eventually both the original wounding and the painkillers of choice exact a grave toll on our emotions, body and relationships

The Protective Layer

The next layer of defense is a wall of protection. When we are significantly hurt, the pain and trauma of that wounding motivate us to be much more cautions. We would do most anything to keep from experiencing the anguish a second time. Self-protection is not an improper reaction to the threat of wounding. It is quite healthy to learn to set appropriate boundaries with people. We have both the right and obligation to set limits on those who consistently hurt us, be it by intention or insensitivity. No one should be permitted to take or destroy any of the treasures that were intended to help us fulfill life’s dreams. However, many methods of self-protection are actually personally destructive and often harm friends and family as well.

Fearful that we might not be capable of discerning who would or would not bring us harm, we construct shields to keep people at a distance. The underlying wound remains undressed, causing the infection to grow and threaten greater pain. People never really have the opportunity to know us or call forth the wonder that is ours’ in Christ. This self-protection can grow out of embarrassment and shame. The wound not only robs us of some life endowment, it left us believing that we are essentially deformed and unattractive. We can grow fearful that if anyone saw the brokenness and weaknesses that lies within, they would openly reject and ridicule. And so, the walls go up through such reactions as:

Pretense – denial – avoidance – silence – anger – aggression – isolation – shyness – hiding

The Layer of Provision

When part of our well-being has been compromised, the absence creates a noticeable emptiness. In a perfect world, mature adults would step in to provide what primary caregivers neglected to give. They would, with God’s good help, nurture us where once abused, and call forth all that had been forced into hiding. Love, acceptance and affirmation would flow through them to fill the places in us that were robbed. But, this is not a perfect world, and as a wounded person, we seldom experience such gracious infillings from others. And so we begin to provide for ourselves. Unfortunately, what we often turn to gives little more than further pain and heartbreak. Sexual promiscuity might seem to promise acceptance and love, all the while tearing away at the soul and ultimately leaving us more intensely alone in a bed of guilt and shame. We might turn to people pleasing as a pathway to approval, only to discover that we have lost our own identity in the desperate quest to be found acceptable by others. Hungry to feel that we have worth and value, we might embrace some performance addiction. But satisfaction lasts only as long as the applause continues, leaving us alone and frightened when memories of our latest performance fade in people’s minds. We might find a way to grab what we so desperately need, only to watch it turn to dust in our hands. Any of the following could become the substitute for genuine love, acceptance, worth and approval:

Sexual promiscuity – career – academics – fame – control – success – money – athletics – people pleasing – manipulation – popularity – unhealthy relationships

It is obvious that some of these are not in themselves problematic. But whenever we try to fill the internal void with any one of these, we will find that they are far from adequate. Most attempts to do this will fail to meet our deepest needs.

The Punishment Layer

Pain often births an anger that drives us to strike back at the one who has perpetuated the injury. While we may not actually act upon the demand for repayment, the deep feeling is often there. We may have even gone so far as to extend the words of forgiveness to the offender, yet struggle with the desire to punish someone, anyone, for the robbery that left us in such pain. Sometimes, the desire to punish turns inward, causing a reaction of self-hate and self-abuse. We can believe that there must be something personally wrong for such bad things to have happened. Reactions include:

Blame – abusive words – criticism – fantasies of harming someone – aggression – slander – self-contempt – shame – physical abuse – unforgiveness – bitterness – withholding – rejection – self-abuse

Where Do We Go From Here?

We must understand and believe that God wants to meet us at the place of our own deepest pain. Jesus knows the heartache we experience and the unhealthy ways in which we may have tried to deal with the lost treasures of life. The Lord is also well aware that any coping system we may use is ultimately compromising our own well-being. Christ offers a better way. He is willing to help us systematically identify and set aside any multi-layered reaction to deep wounding. The prospect may be frightening and there will be some initial discomfort when painkillers are surrendered to the Lord. Laying aside coping mechanisms may cause us to feel vulnerable and at risk. But through the tender guidance of the Holy Spirit, God will take us back to the loss, meeting us there with great love and care.

God is willing to touch the places where pain gains its power and to bring His healing to bear upon our lives. And most important, He stands ready to replace the stolen treasures and lost endowments with something far greater. He will give us Himself. The fellowship of His Presence will far outweigh the pain of past wounding. Empowered by His Holy Spirit, we will be able to move forward in life to realize more and more our full potential as God’s miraculously endowed child.

THE WOUNDED STRUCTURE OF LIFE

WOUNDS–> LIES/DISTORTIONS–> EMOTIONAL

UPHEAVAL–>DYSFUNCTIONAL BEHAVIORS–>LIFE SITUATION

THE STRUCTURE OF HEALING

WOUNDS–>TRUTH/ACCEPTANCE–>COMFORT/PEACE–>

EMPOWERED LIVING–>LIFE SITUATION

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