Christians face countless worldly worries and doubts when they live in the secular world. There are several realistic problems about work, life, and family. When brothers and sisters talk about these problems with church people, they would mostly receive advice like these:
“You should pray.”
“I will pray for you.”
“God will help you.”
“You have to be tolerant and patient”…
Although these spiritual exhortations are quite relevant, they may not solve the practical problems believers face.
Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17) Spiritual solutions can solve spiritual problems, but they are not always appropriate to solve earthly problems. There’s a passage from James in the Bible: “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, ‘Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:15-17)
Those who believe in Jesus Christ do not immediately return to the Father’s paradise but still live on earth to fulfill God’s will, so they cannot avoid facing a worldly life. Since there is no way to avoid realistic problems, we must find ways to solve them.
That’s why there are many counseling courses in the secular world. Family counseling, marriage counseling, parent-child education counseling, Bible counseling, and other courses are now quite popular.
Mr. Xu is a national second-class psychology consultant who has been dedicated to training and counseling for ten years with more than 6000 working hours. At the same time, as a Christian, he has helped many troubled Christians using biblical methods.
When he was a child, Mr. Xu and his mother once worshiped ghosts, and also suffered a fire. He moved to a remote mountain area in order to live a peaceful life. The presence of several young believers in that area gradually influenced Xu into accepting Christ and rejecting evil spirits. In 2008, he was still working as a preacher. His first access to counseling was in a theology class. After that, Xu worked as a tutor using the approach introduced by “Gaotai EQ”, a counseling system created by an indigenous Christian counselor, for two years. In the process of being a tutor, he gradually found that a person’s inner world is very rich and complex.
He confessed, “When you evaluate a person, you can not only look at his/her outer appearance. You should get to know the unrecognized inner world behind the person’s behavior.” However, Mr. Xu’s findings did not play a role in helping brothers and sisters solve their problems when they asked him for help.
In 2010, Mr. Xu had the chance to attended a tutorial training called “Simple Biblical Counseling Method”, also known as “Prayer Resolution Method”, in Zhengzhou, and began to practice and promote this guidance method.
In a recent interview with Christian Times, a Shanghai-based Chinese Christian newspaper, Xu shared how biblical counseling could contribute to the cuhrch.
Christian Times: Why do you think Christians need the “Simple Biblical Counseling Method”?
Mr. Xu: For thousands of years, the church has attached great importance to preaching. At the same time, the church is also advancing with the times, and the church’s ministry also adapts with the needs of the times. For example, there is the ministry for senior citizens, which helps to take care of the elderly and help them enjoy their later life.
There are many alarming problems in this era, both in the church and in the secular world - marital breakdowns, teenage rebellion, depression, various forms of suicide, and self-harm. We may be deluding ourselves to think that believing in Jesus would prevent us from having these problems. Christians have the same problems, but less often than the people in the secular world. And these problems can’t be solved by just relying on the Bible and preaching. After all, the problems of life are complicated.
For example, one sister wants to know what she could do about her child’s adolescent rebellion. In our traditional way, we would reply, “You can pray faithfully”, “I will pray for you”, “You should repent. You cannot teach your child the way you want, but as God wants you to”, etc. – These are all good answers, but they also provide no practical help to the sister. If you use the “Prayer Guidance Method”, you can have a good talk with the sister and her child to understand the real situation between them, the child’s situation, the causes of the child’s rebellion, and so on. After fully understanding these, we can pray together to solve the problem.
Another example is if a sister says she wants a divorce, simply telling her that the Bible does not allow for divorce and giving her relevant biblical texts may not be helpful either; because she is probably already familiar with these common scriptures. We should sit down and talk to her about why she wants a divorce, what recently happened, the conflicts between the couple, any difference in the children’s education or personality conflict, etc. We should find out the specific reasons why she wants a divorce, and then try to help her solve the problem.
Some people may ask, “Is it wrong for us to tell him the scriptures and pray for him?” No, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just not deep enough, not targeted enough, and not professional enough. When we don’t understand why the child rebels or why the sister wants a divorce, how can we help them? How can we pray when we don’t know enough about the actual stories and details?
The Prayer Resolution is also known as the “Simple Biblical Counseling Method”. It is a kind of more targeted prayer that takes about 30-60 minutes with a full understanding of the situation and the individual’s emotions and feelings. This method is suitable for the church to carry out targeted and individual pastoral care. Just like when Jesus was shepherding the sheep, he would sometimes hold the lambs.
I hope the church people, especially the pastors, turn their attention to the weakest lambs. In the face of today’s social situation, we need to be sensitive to God’s will and quickly respond to reality.
Christian Times: So, what is “Prayer Resolution” (PR)?
Mr. Xu: The Prayer Resolution comes from a couple who are two North American missionaries and translators from the Wycliffe Bible Translators International in the United States. They are Richard & Connie Smith, holding Ph. D. in Translator Linguistics. When they were on foreign missions and working as Bible translators, they found that the people they worked with encountered a lot of real-life confusion and doubts. This couple prayed and searched before God to help them deal with their real-life problems, and finally founded a Bible-based counseling method while translating the Bible.
This is a simple way to help people solve their problems by praying step by step with a few key points. It is also called the “Prayer Resolution”.
The tutorial process of Prayer Resolution can be divided into two halves. Let’s take “I’ve recently been very anxious” as an example to show the tutorial steps of Prayer Resolution.
The first half begins with a simple prayer. Take anxiety as the center, and start a specific, detailed and all-round discussion for 30-60 minutes, covering all aspects. The contents of the discussion can include the degree and time of anxiety, the immediate and distant causes of anxiety, personal feelings, personal character, the impact of anxiety, personal responsibilities and the responsibilities of others, etc. The most important thing in this process is not to ignore the person’s responsibility. Tutors should also not give advice or quote the scriptures without understanding all aspects of the problem.
Then the following second half shall constitute a prayer lasting 30-60 minutes. Through the discussion during the first half, we already have a clear understanding of the whole issue. At this time, through prayers, the counselor can help the person bring to God his/her questions, emotions, grievances, sadness, anger, confusion, pain, sin, etc., and what they owe to others and God.
After praying, God will respond through the work of the Holy Spirit or help people change their minds and solve their problems.
Christian Times: What do you think are the similarities and differences between Prayer Resolution and psychological counseling in the secular world?
Mr. Xu: Personally, I think there are three things in common between Prayer Resolution and psychological counseling in the secular world: the adoption of counseling, the purpose of helping people in real life, and the need for formal training. We should be careful not to become the three friends of Job in the Bible, whom Job described as useless doctors who had only passion but could not help and comfort Job in his afflictions.
On the other hand, there are three major differences between Prayer Resolution and psychological counseling in the secular world:
1. Difference in origins: The Prayer Resolution is based on the Bible. It is centered on God and Christ, and guided by biblical truths, while psychological counseling is about some psychological laws, principles, and methods.
2. Difference in approaches: Psychological counseling involves the ways and methods used to solve problems summed up by various schools of psychology. The Prayer Resolution uses a method that all Christians agree on - prayer.
3. Difference in footholds: Psychological counseling is more about being a victim. Even if you choose to forgive others, it’s still the forgiveness from a victim. But as a Christian, there is no room for self-pity and self-love. The Christian cannot just be a victim but must come to the real victim, Jesus Christ - the Lamb of God. The Prayer Resolution lets us see that we may be victims, but we are sinful victims, and only Christ hanging on the cross is the truly innocent victim.
Christian Times: In recent years, many different kinds of psychology in society have had a certain impact on the church. How do you think of this phenomenon? Do you have any advice for the church on how to deal with this situation?
Mr. Xu: In this era, people are no longer struggling with basic necessities. People’s living standards have improved, and their spiritual needs have also begun to increase. In this context, psychological counseling is now an inevitable demand, which has brought a certain impact on the church. It is also a good phenomenon, which urges us forward.
Rather than oppose it, the Church should first examine itself: Why does psychological counseling lure away believers? Is there a loophole in the pastoral care of the church? Are the needs of some believers being ignored? What is the better way to shepherd believers?
Some people may say, “Believe in Jesus and you can have eternal life. What else do they want!”. Just imagine believing that Jesus can bring us eternal life, all while some people may still be hungry; those two things are completely different. If we can get someone to believe in Jesus and also help them professionally with their marital problems, psychological counseling won’t be as appealing to them.
The mind is God’s creation, and all of God’s creation has rules. Psychology refers to the rules of the mind, including the rules of human thought, emotion, will, and so on. The most famous psychologists in modern history are almost all nonbelievers, and in this respect, Christians have lagged far behind.
Therefore, I recommend that we Christians establish a Christian counseling system based on the Bible. Since many people find psychological counseling helpful, we need to build a Christian counseling system to help replace or even transcend psychological counseling and bring people back to the Bible and to God.
Especially in emerging urban churches, there are many church groups made up of intellectuals. Their spiritual needs have surpassed those of other groups. Urban churches need to take the lead in developing Bible-based counseling and set an example and then lead rural and grassroots churches to fully develop Christian counseling systems that are our own, without secular roots (psychological counseling).
In addition, it is necessary to establish the counseling ministry within the church to provide in-depth counseling for the complicated and changeable minds of modern people.
Psychological counseling in the secular world is done by nonbelievers, and it is not based on the Bible. Thus, sometimes there will be some misguidance. Therefore, it is of great importance to establish a guidance system based on Christian truth. Otherwise, some problems will become bigger when we miss the prime time to deal with them.
The first step is to start by serving the believers in the church. The second step, after accumulating considerable experience, is to serve the community.
I hope that the church will respond in this regard by establishing and developing a Christian counseling ministry.
- Translated by Nicolas Cao