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Teaching Counselees to Pray

Truth in Love 295

The spiritual discipline of prayer is fundamental to our growth in Christ.

Jan 25, 2021

Dale Johnson: This week, I am very thrilled to have with me Andrew Rogers. He’s a dear friend. I love this brother and we have such a good time when we’re together. He is now the Pastor of Care and Connection at Kindred Community Church in Southern California. What a wonderful church that is with Pastor Philip De Courcy, Dan Nah, who is also out there as Director of the Training Center that’s associated with Kindred through ACBC. So grateful for the relationship and partnership, and Andrew that you get to serve there. He’s also the Executive Director of OIC, that’s Overseas Instruction in Counseling, taking biblical counseling training to all parts of the globe. Praise the Lord for that work as well. 

Andrew, I’m so grateful that you’re here today to talk about this particular subject. Sometimes we have a tendency to want to grow up so much that we forget some of the fundamentals. I think it’s important that we remember the importance of prayer, well not even just prayer, but the importance of disciplines, as we engage some of our counselees. Sometimes we have misconceptions about what the counselees mean and that the counselee understands what we mean when we say certain things. For example, that everybody understands how to pray, everybody understands how to read their Bible well, and that sort of thing. Talk a little bit about, as you engage counselees, the importance of the disciplines and communicating those disciplines and making sure the counselees understand what we mean when we talk about the fundamental disciplines of our faith.

Andrew Rogers: Many of the problems, as a matter of fact, that people face actually boil down to their use of disciplines. There are some people that do come in with particular problems that they’re facing and as we sit down and just start walking through the disciplines, many of those issues start to get cleared up. Sometimes that actually becomes the main problem that we’re trying to address. No matter what we’re doing, we’re obviously talking to people about growing up in the Lord. We’re talking about progressive sanctification. That requires help, that requires power, that requires strength, that requires perseverance. All of that comes through our relationship with Jesus Christ.

We can’t depend on ourselves. We can’t depend on ourselves to save ourselves. We certainly can’t depend on ourselves to sanctify ourselves. We need the Lord. He is the one who is at work within us. He is the one who enables us. I always appreciate what Paul says in Colossians when he talks about the fact that we do proclaim Christ. We do admonish. We do warn, so that we might present people perfect in Christ, but he says, “I do this in the strength that the Lord provides.”

Even in an often quoted passage, in Ephesians 3:20, it says that He would do far more above and beyond anything we could ever imagine according to the power that is within us. We depend on that. We depend on that primarily through the use of spiritual disciplines, reading the Bible, so on and so forth. What that means is—especially in the very first time that you meet with somebody and you haven’t quite gathered enough information to discern the problem—one thing for sure that you’ll need to do, no matter the issue, is assess their use and understanding of the spiritual disciplines. You can get started right away making use of them in the counseling relationship. 

Dale Johnson: That’s helpful to even think about just as a basic checkup. It helps us to gauge, in some ways, how someone is walking. Are they walking faithfully with the Lord? That might be some helpful indication right off the bat and for us, sometimes as counselors we make assumptions that are not good assumptions. They’re not helpful, particularly in the counseling room. Those are mistakes that we make. Talk about some of the warnings that you would give for some of our mistakes in the ways that we assume maybe the counselee understands what we’re talking about, or maybe the counselee as a believer is doing these things that are appropriate. Talk about how we should be cautious of our assumptions. 

Andrew Rogers: A lot of times as we’re ministering to fellow believers and we know them, we make an assumption that when I tell them, “I want you to read your Bible this week,” that they know exactly what to do and they’re just going to follow through exactly how we would anticipate or see in our own minds. The same is true with prayer. You may say, “What I’d like you to do this week is I’d like you to pray about this.” Okay, well the problem is we don’t even know if they know how to pray. This is where it sometimes can be a little bit taboo to actually assess someone’s prayer life, but Scripture talks about the content of our prayers. It speaks to the content of our prayers. It speaks to our disposition in prayer and attitude in prayer. It speaks to our motive about prayer.

The Bible does speak about these things. It is okay, and it’s actually appropriate, and we should do it. That is when we have the opportunity to minister to somebody like this face-to-face, one-on-one in these counseling opportunities, we want to take advantage of that time and to assess how this person prays. We assess it on content. We assess it on attitude, disposition. And we assess it on motive and what their understanding of prayer is. 

Does this mean that we need to go into our prayer meetings and start picking apart everybody’s prayer life? No, that’s not what it means. But it does mean that you at least need to address it when you’re in that counseling relationship. You want to carefully and kindly and gently and humbly walk with this person, teaching them how to pray.

Dale Johnson: Sometimes as counselors we might feel that we don’t want to make that person feel shameful because we’re talking about something basic to teach them, but we have to remember the disciples actually asked Jesus, “Teach us how to pray.” It’s something that we are consistently growing in and it’s something that we learn how to do. I would argue that many today—and sometimes we fall into this trap—use prayer just simply deducing it to series of requests, when in the Scriptures we see prayer unfolded to be much more than that. We understand the assumptions. We don’t want to make assumptions as counselors, but we need permission to engage our counselees, to teach them how to pray. What are some of the ways that we can teach our counselees how to pray according to the Scripture?

Andrew Rogers: One way in particular is just exactly right where you are—Matthew 6. “Teach me how to pray,” and Jesus walks through, “This is how you pray.” We can walk right through the different aspects of Matthew 6:5-15 and talk about content. Let’s talk about the content of your prayer, because a lot of times when I’ve sat down with counselees, I might ask him, “What have you done about the issues that you’re facing?” They say, “Well, I prayed about it.” “That’s great! Now let’s talk about what you pray for.” 

A lot of times you’ll find that the prayers are very temporal-oriented and there’s not much in that prayer content that is about the glory of God, the kingdom purposes of God, or even God’s plan, and even helping me to actually reorient my mind to think more about about God and His plan and about the goodness of God and the greatness of God and the glory of God. Even sometimes about my relationship with other people. A lot of times when it’s a relationship that’s difficult, I might pray more often that you just remove the relationship or change the other person, but how much am I praying, “Lord forgive us as I forgive them”? Am I praying in accordance with that in that, “Lord, I’m having a difficult time forgiving that person but I know that’s exactly what I need to do.” And so rather than making it easier or so on and so forth, “Lord, help me actually do this.”

And then similarly, am I praying for my sanctification? “Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil.” That might sound like, “Lord, this is a very trying time and so while I can pray for it to be removed [I think we see that through the lament Psalms and other prayers we can pray for that to be removed], moreover Lord help me glorify you through this. Help me respond to this in a way that is going to honor and glorify you and please you so that I continue to grow in this habitual pattern of making use of self-control, adding to my self-control perseverance, because then I add to my perseverance godliness.” 

We can walk right through the prayer that we have right there where Jesus is answering their question and help direct the content and also the heart. I desire to glorify God, I desire righteousness in my life—that’s the bent of every believer in Christ. And then there is the right attitude. This is about loving God and loving others and it’s an attitude of thanksgiving, which is often repeated throughout Scripture. 

Dale Johnson: Now, as we think about teaching others how to pray, we can we can teach them the posture, we can teach them the attitude. Sometimes even for ourselves we get to a place where we’re exalting the Lord that way that we should, we’re bringing our cares honestly before Him, but one of the hardest things that I find to do in prayer is to be patient in prayer, to constantly bring supplication and petitions before the Lord. This is something I think in counseling that is necessary, to teach people to learn to be patient as they pray. I think of Paul with his thorn in the flesh, how he brought these supplications before the Lord consistently, waiting for the Lord to answer, to respond. This is a disposition even for us to learn, in our maturity, to trust the Lord. Talk about how we can help our counselees to learn to be patient, to wait on the Lord, for Him, for His help. 

Andrew Rogers: A few things there. Number one: We recognize wait is part of what it means to worship the Lord, trust in the Lord, fear the Lord. As Isaiah points out, waiting is how we actually renew our strength or exchange our strength. If you’re not waiting, then you’re going to start walking in your own strength. The other side of that too is recognizing that the Lord’s not going to get behind you and support you in going the wrong way. In football, imagine there’s a fumble and a teammate picks it up and he runs the wrong way. His players, his fellow players, and his coaches are not supporting him running the wrong way. If we’re not waiting on the Lord and we’re going in our own direction, then we obviously can’t expect that. I think at least being mindful of that is very helpful.

The patience issue is a big issue, because when you think about the lament Psalms, and you think about the fact that they never question the sovereignty of God, they never question the goodness of God, they never question the promises of God, they never questioned any of that. The big issue is, “How long?” The attitude is, “I know you’re going to save me. I know that the day is coming when all of the wrongs are going to be righted rightly, but how long?” 

How do we do that? Well, Scripture teaches us hope. That’s where you get Paul in Romans 8:18, “I consider that my present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to me.” Or 2 Peter 3, when he talks about the how we should be living, for the end of days are coming, and there is a place where righteousness dwells. The hunger and thirst that we have for God’s kingdom—that is what gives us the hope to remain steadfast. That’s exactly what Paul talks about with the Thessalonian church. They had that work of faith, and they had that labor of love, but they had that hope of steadfastness or the steadfastness of hope. It was hope that drove them to continue to labor to the point of utter exhaustion in faithfully carrying out the work of God. 

Dale Johnson: This is helpful. I know for me, it’s a great reminder that we can’t gloss over the fundamentals. We can’t gloss over the key and critical things. I even think, as you’re talking, how important it is for the counselee to hear me pray for them. That’s a part of them learning and being cared for well, that we know where we’re taking our troubles. We are taking them to the Lord. They can learn a little bit of how to pray from the way that I pray for them. They have somebody who’s advocating for them on their behalf, who is interceding on their behalf. 

Andrew, this has been really helpful just to talk about in very practical terms something that’s critical, that’s absolutely biblical. It’s a place where all of us need to be very dependent upon the Lord in learning how to bring our cares before Him. So thank you, brother, for talking us through this.