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Listening Prayer Therapy for Traumatic Memories

© George Hartwell, 2003, Agape Christian Counselling, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Scripture: "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by me." John 14:6

Traumatic memories need deep emotional healing.  They are not dislodged with the passage of time.  

Traumatic memories can and are being healed by Christian professionals using listening prayer therapy.  This is effective because it allows the Holy Spirit to guide to key memories; it focuses on core beliefs lodged in the memory; it uses 'God's very word spoken to me' - the powerful living active word of God from Hebrews 4:12 - to dislodged these core beliefs.

In this article I will provide a definition of trauma and PTSD that involves core beliefs.  I consider core beliefs one of three significant components of a traumatic memory that must be dealt with for complete inner and emotional healing of trauma.

Traumatic memories occur during intense emotional states such as strong fear, horror and pain.  These type of memories guide perception, belief, feeling and action whenever we are under stress.  That is the function of our Emotional Brain.

What Happens in Trauma?

In an intense emotional moment whatever seems true, whatever we are told or we tell ourselves - becomes our heart belief from then on. It is stored in our emotional brain. 

When we access this memory in the future how we see, how we feel, what we decide, what we believe and how we act will be significantly prejudiced by this moment of trauma.  What is engraved upon our heart comes out our mouth.  What was done to us we may do to others.  What we saw at that moment we may see in those close to us at another time and in another place.

How trauma effects one's life.

Each element of a traumatic memory lives on and effects our lives. What we saw may be recalled. What we believed continues to shape our beliefs. What we felt effects our feelings. What we decided fixes our choices.  How we learned to cope becomes a lifelong comping strategy.  In particular if we coped by disconnecting from the present experience - dissasociation - we will do this at other times of stress throughout our life.  We learn to disconnect, avoid, flee life.

Beliefs Imbedded through trauma.

Trauma has the power to imbed beliefs in our heart. That is what the Emotional Brain does - remember emotional events.  These beliefs effect our perspective on life, our worldview, our attitudes, our priorities from then on. Especially important is what we believed about our identity, about God and about relationships. These beliefs are the foundation of our life.

Within biblical language we have a name for those perspectives on life that were not shaped in God's Spirit and Word.  We call that the 'old man', the sinful nature, the flesh, the carnal nature.  These do not disappear when we are born from above and enter the Kingdom of God.  We are given access to tools for healing, sanctification and transformation and we must use those tools or the 'old man' hangs around.

Impact of our beliefs

Deeply imbedded negative beliefs don't change easily; don't heal with time; don't resolve with understanding or empathy. We live with them. We act on them. We feel them. Our life is built on these beliefs.  Jesus want us to build on the rock solid principles of God's truth.  We need to tear down the structure built on sand and build anew on the rock.

How does listening prayer therapy work?

Listening to God is a healthy and effective way to exchange the imbedded negative beliefs in the trauma for God's healing truth. Peace and good feelings come along with God's truth. What Listening Prayer Therapy does is to establish the conditions where you can listen for God's truth. Then you will find that His word is "living and active and effective;" that truly He has the "words of life."  God's word spoken to us is active and effective to transform the beliefs and images in our emotional brains.  Hebrews 4: 12.

How Listening Prayer Therapy Works.

 Find a time and place where you have some peace and quiet.

For those who benefit from imagination, picture a peaceful setting where you can meet Jesus and can talk with Him. Imagine that you are having a dialogue with Jesus there. (There are different learning and listening styles and not everyone finds visualization helpful.  Visual learners definately will find this helpful.  There is a type of learner called kinaesthetic who can sense the scene but do not have a clear vision.  Such learners can 'sense' the scene.)

Declare your need

You need to declare what you need is and what you want God to do. For example, you could say: "Jesus be my Saviour, Lord, Healer and Deliverer. I ask you to find and heal the root memories that are distressing me. Help me to remember and understand what I need of this trauma and no more. Then guide me to your healing truth."

Find the relevant memory

If you are not sure which memory needs healing ask God to show you. You must have some starting point; some intense negative feeling that seems to be out of proportion to the event.  Trust what comes sponatneously to mind.  Don't analyze, doubt and question your memory.  (this is our cognitive brain, neocortex, our "Mind"interefering with the listeniing prayer process. Put your mind 'on the shelf' - observing but not interfering.

Now find how you reacted to this event: 

1.  Feelings

Ask Jesus about the trauma: what happened and how you felt.  How you felt is the first part of your identity in this event.  This is who you were and still is part of who you are now.  Your emotional brain is recording the event and your feelings.  In the future your emotional brain will recreate this feeling when a similar event occurs.  Keep searching until you have exhausted the possibilities.

2.  Beliefs

Every feeling is associated with a truth statement, a sentence, a thought.  Try to discover what is the truth statement behind each feeling.  What belief is generating this feeling?  What thoughts - full sentence please - goes with each feeling. A counsellor / guide helps in discovering these and sometimes may make suggestions.  Pause and relax for a moment if there are any feelings without an associated belief statement.  Ask yourself: "what seems to be true when I am feeling that?"

In listening prayer ask Jesus what you were thinking and believing at that time. Be still and quiet yourself.  Notice thoughts that come to you.  You do not need to hear a voice to 'hear' from God.  Spontaneous thoughts or ideas can contain your answer.  Try writing down some ideas.

3.  Life Choices

Christian prayer therapists realize that we make decisions in traumatic situations.  These fixed decisions have been called "inner vows."  They become stuck points - fixed ways of reacting to life.  These will act like unalterable programming unless recognized and healed by Christ's touch.

Listening Prayer Intervention

1.  Healing Feelings

Psychologists believe that feelings are generated by beliefs.  They are right.  In most cases feelings clear up when the traumatic beliefs clear up.  

The special cases when feelings do not clear up require what I call "gentle deliverance."

2.  Healing Beliefs

Beliefs lodged in a traumatic memory are resistant to talk therapy.  Just talking about the trauma, even immediately after the event, does not dislodge the deeply lodged "trauma belief."  So ordinary 'talk therapy' is not enough.

Psychologists use a variety of methods to deal with trauma.  CBT - cognitive behavioural therapy - would attempt to counteract the false belief with rational beliefs.  Because the approach is focussed on the belief system it is somewhat effective.  Because the cognitive brain cannot override the emotional brain it would be a slow laborous process.  In situations similar to the trauma the emotional brain can take over and override the cognitive brain. So cognitive behavioral therapy may take a long time.  It appears that head knowledge operating in the cognitive brain does not quickly rewrite "trauma beliefs" in the emotional brain (limbic system). 

In Listening Prayer Therapy (a component of Life Transformation Therapy) God's truth is called upon to confront the "trauma belief."  In this method we simply remember the trauma belief and then ask for God's truth.  A revelation of God's truth by the Holy Spirit is known to be powerful. Revelation is more than head knowledge of God's truth.  It penetrates beyond the analytic brain to the heart or emotional brain.  This is what we need.  God's truth is found to be very effective in  removing the "trauma belief."

The prayer may go like this: "Jesus In this event I believed - "the trauma belief" - but to be healed I need to know Your Truth.  What is your perspective?  What is Your Word for me?"

Now listen for His Truth. His Truth may come as a scripture verse remembered.  It may come as a song.  You may sense a different feeling.  You (visualizers) may see Jesus face and His emotional response.  It helps to be working with a guide or counselor to bring this out.

Listen to what he says. Listening requires your mind to stop active thinking and analyzing. Be in a listening mode. Look, listen, sense what is going on inside you. Note what comes spontaneously.

When you believe that you sense or hear His truth of feel His comfort and peace, write it down. Then take time to let your heart receive his truth and peace. Let the message and the good feeling sink into your heart.  Let your heart (emotional brain) receive.  Let God's truth sink in.

 Thank God for His healing truth and how you feel.

Return to the memory of the trauma and see how it feels. Ask Jesus to reveal if there are other beliefs to be dealt with and repeat the process with the other beliefs.

Listening Prayer therapy continued.  There is more to the process but best to keep this simple.  You need to know how let Jesus deal with inner vows and do gentle deliverance for feelings that will not leave.  Lets leave some of this to the professionals.

Note that self-help prayer is a simplification of professional Listening Prayer Therapy. A professional will continue the process with greater depth and thoroughness. Working with a confident and prayerful professional often is essential to make the whole process work for most people.

Don't be discouraged. God calls the Body of Christ to pray with and for one another; to confess our faults to one another. God wants us to work together on these things. Ask God to find someone that you can work with or e-mail or phone me and I will work with you on this on a reasonable fee for time basis.

"Listening Prayer Therapy" is a term for one of the unique methods that I have developed and made part of Life Transformation Therapy.  The insight that beliefs must be the focus of inner and emotional healing and that a revelation of God's word is effective in dealing with these we owe to John Regier and Dr. Ed Smith.

 The self-help listening prayer therapy tools were developed to provide you and others the means of setting up a life healing encounter with God. I take final responsibility for the tools posted on HealMyLife.com, presented in the HealMyLife Seminars. 

Use wisdom in your use of these self help tools. Be humble. Not everything will get resolved through self-help prayer. There is wisdom in getting professional help. Be wise.


Sources of Listening Prayer Therapy

When someone reexperiences a traumatic event, remembers and relives it, they feel like they are in a dark room. The instant that God's truth is heard and received, it feels like the lights just went on.

One of the innovators of listening prayer therapy - Dr. Ed Smith uses the term "TheoPhostic" to refer to the methods he developed. "Theo" refers to "God;" "Phostic" refers to light. When God's truth comes in, the unbelief leaves. When a light goes on darkness exits at the speed of light!

However, only if one follows Dr. Ed Smith's methods completely and exclusively does one use the term TheoPhostic or theophostics. I incorporated in modified form some of Dr. Smith's insights while avoiding others. I incorporate some principles and methods from John Regier, Leanne Payne and John and Paula Sandford. I honor, acknowledge and thank those who have gone before me. But I also modify and build upon their work from my own insights and experience.

I hope my presentation of Listening Prayer Therapy has been useful to you. Please let me know your findings and experience.

George <><


The self help prayers teach you how to pray for inner healing. These are Christian listening prayers. You will discover faith of the heart when you hear God's voice. You will learn the truth and the truth will set you free.

Thankfully we don't need to become vulnerable, emotionally distraught or retraumatized to bring about inner healing of trauma memories. Just the opposite. To the extent that we are successful in bring in God's truth, life and healing the less we are vulnerable to Post Traumatic Effects.

The above instructions are written as if you can remember what your thoughts and beliefs were at the time of the trauma. If you do not remember, then an additional step is to ask God: "What did I believe?"