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I Pray Like a Counselor

For those of you here from Facebook – look, I decided to turn my annoying notes into a blog!

For those of you here from the other blog – look, I have a life off stage too!

And for those of you who stumbled on this and had no idea there was an “other blog” – if you’re a theatre person, or if theatre people amuse you, check out backontheboards.wordpress.com – it’s my other publicly-viewable irregularly-updated site.

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“I’ll pray for you” isn’t generally in my vocabulary.

Don’t get me wrong.  I pray for people.  And I tell people, if I think they’ll find it encouraging to hear, that I’m praying for them.

But I don’t usually just say I’m praying for someone.  Most of the time, I say something specific – something that tells the person exactly what I am talking to God about on their behalf – something they’ve expressed or implied a need for.  And I say that out loud (or type it, but you catch the meaning) to let them know I’m really listening, really paying attention to the reason they’re asking for prayers.

I suppose you could say I pray like a counselor.  One of the first things I learned how to do in my counseling classes was to listen.  Not just hear – listen, actively listen.  Hear the words, yes, but also hear which words are important, the emotion the words carry, the hesitation before a word that indicates a word might be scary or a replacement for a scarier word… hear the message, which is so much bigger than the words.

Result, as it applies to the “Christianity and stuff” of this blog’s title?  Specificity in prayer.  If someone says they’re nervous about a job interview, I might tell them I’m praying for them to have composure and confidence.  Or if someone is going for a medical test, I might pray for the doctor to be wise and the test results to be clear, or for whatever an encouraging result on the test might be.  Or if someone is overwhelmed by life in general and asks for prayers, I might pray for them to have rest and peace, or I might pray-in-action by asking “How can I help?”

A lot of this, of course, is based on how I’d like to be prayed for.  If I ask for prayers, I don’t just want to know that God hears me; I want to know that people hear me, too.  I like having a visible face or an audible voice there when God seems absent and silent.  And I find that hearing my need spoken back to me is a powerful expression of being heard.  So that’s what I try to do for people who ask me to pray for them – I let them know, through telling them the specific need I’m praying for, that I hear and care about what’s hurting or worrying them.  I try to give some real-time, in-depth, show-I-was-listening, human encouragement… which is often harder to ask for than prayer is, and which is a crucial ingredient in coping and healing.

There’s an interesting side effect of praying like a counselor, by the way.  I find that by being specific, being mindful of the person I’m praying for and what their needs are, I’m also being more intentional and less hurried in my conversation with God.  It’s, well, more of a conversation, rather than just sending Him a text with a couple things to add to His grocery list.

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