Cross Points 4.30.21

Praying With the Counselor

Have you ever gone to a professional counselor during tough times, to allow them to help sort things out?  I have.  One time was a bad experience, with a secular, obviously non-Christian counselor.  The council I received floored me, was very non-Christian, encouraged me to sin in order to meet my needs!  It almost soured me on counselors in general.  But then there was the other experience, this time with a Christian counselor.  This person listened, allowed me to talk, provided assessment instruments to provide resources, and in the end gently encouraged me to follow through with my Christian values guiding me.  A different experience.

“Where there is no guidance, the people fall; but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14).  Good counsel is needed by all, often provided by parents, by mature friends, or by seasoned Christians we know.  But as my example above illustrates, if it’s not good God-honoring counsel, it can cause more harm than good.

God knows this, and he provides the ultimate counselor.  When Jesus was on earth, he told his disciples that it was necessary for him to go, so the Father could send the helper, or the counselor (the Holy Spirit, John 16:7).  As we consider our prayer life, do we incorporate God’s Spirit living within us as we should?  I’m afraid too often I’d have to say no to that.  As I’ve mentioned already, God speaks to us in this conversation primarily through His Word, the Bible.  We read about or listen to the teaching of Jesus and his apostles, and as we hear what they have to say, we slowly gain God’s perspective of things.  Does God’s Spirit give us total understanding?  No, not by a long shot.  But we err to disregard the Spirit’s role in our praises and cries for help.

We know how counseling works, right?  Rarely giving orders, rarely if ever forcing things on the counselee; instead, the counselor work on things internal, allowing us to bring to the surface hidden thoughts and dangerous ways of thinking, exposing them to ourselves as they guide us.  Then they gently point us toward better ways of approaching things, better ways of relating to others, better ways of thinking that are healthy and that honor God and people.  That’s what the Holy Spirit, God’s counselor, does too.  As we submit humbly to God, as we read his Word and learn of his ways, we are gently nudged down the right path, pointed toward Jesus and discipleship.
An alcoholic prays, “Lord, keep me from drink today.”  The answer to that prayer will likely come from an internal resolve along with support and encouragement from others who understand the struggle.  God usually works that way, and we fail to allow our prayers to be answered if we avoid the resource’s he provides us.  Within the church are others who have struggled as you do, certainly within scripture there are those who have struggled also, and both can help us face and deal with our own struggles.

C.S. Lewis had some good words in his book Miracles, where he says, “A man who knew empirically that an event had been caused by his prayer would feel like a magician.  His head would turn, and his heart would be corrupted.  The Christian should not ask if this or that event happened because of prayer. He is rather to believe… that whether they are granted or refusals the prayers of all concerned and their needs have been (considered).  All prayers are heard, although not all are answered.”  In other words, God has the big picture in mind, and we should trust he is working on our behalf as we pray, realizing that in this sin-parched world we will not get all that we ask, for a variety of reasons, but God still works for our benefit.  
As you and I offer our prayers, may we ask the Spirit of God within us to guide our thoughts, then submit our thoughts to reading and studying the Bible.  Pray that God’s Spirit will lead you to mature people to help guide.  Keep your eyes open for the opportunities God presents.  Without this we tend to fall.  But with the abundance of counselors (Bible study, teaching, mature Christians, God-honoring counselors, etc.) we find safety.
Cross Point: “Plans fail without advice, but with many counselors they are confirmed” (Prov. 15:22).  “I praise the Lord who counsels me – even at night my conscience instructs me, I keep the Lord in mind always” (Psalm 16:7).
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