In 1994 I had assumed the pastorate of a church where I had the unusual opportunity to sit down with the outgoing pastor to discuss various issues of that congregation.
As I was sitting with him in his office talking, he handed me his keys and said, “Oh, I almost forgot, each Wednesday at 11:00 AM you have a counseling session, here in this office, with Mrs. Redford.” Not her real name, but I did ask, “What kind of problem does Mrs. Redford have?”
He gave me a verbal laundry list of problems that ranged from family skeletons to relationship issues to financial troubles to spiritual guilt to worries about inherited illnesses to fear of her family’s tomorrow, even mentioning her stress about a leaky kitchen faucet!
After hearing this, I asked, “How long have you been meeting with her?” The pastor said, “For the past seven years” which was as long as he had been there.
We then prayed together and I warmly wished my friend goodbye as he drove-off to his new pastorate in a neighboring state. As I waved goodbye, my mind was still trying to process this weekly counseling appointment that I seemingly just inherited.
Now, let me say something about pastors and counseling. We love doing counseling, because it makes us feel like we are doing something other than sitting in committees. It’s true that counseling parishioners is helping and influencing lives, however, seminary gives us just enough training to be dangerous!
We learn just enough to identify problems, but not enough to help others psychologically work through those problems. We are not trained in psychotherapies. We are trained in Bible therapy! We can easily get our schedules and energies drained by these good intentions, but how better it is to introduce others to the Great Counselor.
I felt an obligation to at least meet with the lady so I decided to honor the counseling appointment. I intended to at least evaluate the need before I announce or attempt any change. At my first session with Mrs. Redford, I listened. At my second session with Mrs. Redford, I asked questions and listened some more. At my third session with Mrs. Redford, I introduced her to what I told her was “prayer therapy.”
What was this “prayer therapy” that I introduced her too? I opened the Bible to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and asked her to pray about her problems using the four principles of prayer taught by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As we read through Matthew 6:9-13 I pointed out that Jesus teaches us four specific principles about prayer that if she began to use could change her problems. The four principles we looked at were start with praise, state your petition, stand on His promises, and share in His power.
At our fourth session, Mrs. Redford said, “Pastor, I hope you don’t feel bad, but this “prayer therapy” approach is such a blessing to me, that I would almost rather spend this time in prayer than here talking with you.” To which I thought, “Praise God!”
So what kind of problems do you have? Have you been carrying the same problems around for the last seven years, simply talking about them week after week with no real change?
Perhaps you have made friends with your problem and have become comfortable with a problem to complain about.
Maybe it is more than that, because the worry and concern about your problem is starting to zap life out of your day to day sense of well-being.
Whatever your problem – job, money, housing, health, family, marriage, relationship, work, illness, pain – whatever your problem, prayer is the answer.
Back in the early 1960’s, a magazine editor by the name of R.A. Renfro placed the following words into a Christian publication:
“Prayer is the answer to every problem in life. It puts us in tune with divine wisdom, which knows how to adjust everything perfectly. So often, we do not pray in certain situations because from our standpoint the outlook is hopeless. But nothing is impossible with God. Nothing is so entangled that it cannot be remedied. No human relation is too strained for God to bring about reconciliation and understanding. No habit is so deeply rooted that it cannot be overcome. No one is so weak that he cannot be made strong. Whatever we need or desire, if we trust God, He will supply it. If anything is causing worry and anxiety, let us stop rehearsing the difficulty and trust God for healing, love, and power.”
So, what’s your problem?