Prayer is not only the base for Christian counseling, prayer is the life blood for the Christian life! It is prayer which makes Christian counseling Christian. Any counselor can stumble upon the principals of Scripture, and effectively apply them to their counseling situation. A counselor that advises his client to: "follow the golden rule" does not make him a Christian counselor. It is from a point of relationship with our heavenly Father, through prayer that will cause any inward change in ourselves, or those whom we counsel. It is this inward change; a change of heart, and change of mind, that brings about any lasting change of outward action.
It should be noted; the purpose of this writing is not to discuss the general importance of prayer, but rather its specific use in counseling. Suffice it to say, neither prayer, nor Scripture is to be used like a magic formula to apply like a Band-Aid to spiritual wounds. Christian counseling must not be reduced to an intellectual understanding of biblical principals, even though the Truth of Scripture is the rock upon which we must find the answers to all of manís needs. Neither must prayer become an "incantation" that we recite over the problem.
For the counselor, must realize that as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but...against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (NIV) The counselor must understand it is spiritual warfare that will be waged in the counseling room. The counselor, in preparation before the session, must get alone with God. He must petition the Holy Spirit to give him wisdom, and understanding in the counseling session, and to fight the battle for him. The counselor should not leave his "closet" until the battle that is about to take place is already won. Counseling that comes from the head of the counselor, will only reach the head of the counselee.
There can be great advantage to utilizing prayer within the counseling relationship. The question maybe, at what point in the counseling session would it be best to pray? Prayer used at the very beginning before the actual session starts can be a good practice to develop. In that way, it is acknowledged immediately that both parties are intent on looking to God for the answers to meet the needs discussed.
Prayer can be utilized during the session, and may be effective if a particular problem is brought up. It might be best to deal with it in that very moment it is being discussed, by handing it over to God. Depending on what specifics are being handled in the session; pausing then in the midst of the counseling session and praying can renew the focus on God. This can be especially helpful if the clientís attention is narrowly centered on their problem. How common it is, that when we are faced with what seems to be an insurmountable difficulty, it is often our "tunnel vision" perspective that makes the need appear so large, or important at the time. To stop, and pray before continuing on, may change the direction of the advice the counselor gives.
Not to be excluded, is the advantage of ending the session in prayer. None of these prayers have to be long drawn out prayers, neither should the counselor feel as though he is the only one to do the praying. By enticing the counselee to pray for their own problem, they will develop a more personal communication with the Father for themselves. They will also be encouraged to continue to seek the ever present help of our Lord on their own.
If when prayer is used, the client is encouraged to say a prayer themselves, they will often times tell God something; even out loud in your hearing; that they would never tell you otherwise. A husband might apologize to God for mistreating, or ignoring his spouse, or kids in their hearing, and yet not tell them face to face. A wife may tell God she is sorry for not respecting her husband; under the guise of prayer; and these may be the very things that need to be said to begin a healing in domestic problems.
When considering prayer in a counseling situation, it should be acknowledged there are times when using prayer automatically can be a disadvantage. Not everyone who comes for counseling will be comfortable with open, public praying. Not everyone knows the power of prayer the same way. To put the client on the spot to pray before they are ready to, could cause them to become frustrated thinking they are not being taken seriously. To some, the idea of praying is a last resort. The point is, not everyone regards the importance of prayer the same way, and the counselor must be sensitive to the use of prayer in the counseling session.
Whether prayer is used in a counseling situation or not, it is secondary to the importance of the Christian counselors own prayer life. The counselor must never forget his own dependence on the Holy Spirit for discernment into the heart of the one they are called upon to counsel. For it is the Holy Spirit who counsels; we are just His mouthpiece. While it is principles of Scripture that give us direction, it is prayer that gives us power. While we may know much to affect the head, it remains only God who can affect the heart. It is only a changed heart that will bring any lasting change.