Basic Principles of Theophostic Prayer Ministry
Note: These principles are continually evolving and improving with time and work. Though their basic concepts are consistent they are being continually refined as we learn more and better ways to apply them in ministry.
What follows is a concise, but truncated summary of the basic principles of Theophostic Prayer Ministry. These principles are NOT the "how to" for applying the process, but rather the foundational stones that support what is done in a ministry session.
NOTE: This section is a truncated and summarized portion taken from the 2007 edition of the Theophostic Prayer Ministry Basic training Manual. It only contains a small part of the total context from which it was lifted. Please know that you are not getting a full explanation of each of these principles and may come to an inaccurate conclusion without reading the fuller section. You are invited to purchase the Basic training seminar risk free (13 DVD sessions and the Basic Training Manual) . If you are dissatisfied for any reason return it in resalable condition within 30 days for a full refund.
Principle One: Our Present Situation Is Rarely the True Cause of Our Ongoing Emotional Pain
It is easy and even logical for us to believe that our ongoing emotional pain is connected to what is happening in our present situation. However, if we blame our present situation for emotional pain that is rooted in lies we harbor, we will be trapped in an irresolvable cycle of distress and defeat. Believing that other people or circumstances are the cause of our present emotional upheaval empowers them to control us emotionally until they change. For if it is true that other people or circumstance is the reason we feel bad then we cannot feel different until the person or situation changes.
When we find freedom from the lie-based thinking held in our memories, we will no longer be stirred up by it and can walk in peace in those places. In relational conflict it is common for each person to assume that the other is causing the pain they feel. Of course, real pain can be caused by others in the present, and this is not an excuse for their poor behavior. Nevertheless, even when another person has acted inappropriately, our emotional response is often out of proportion to the offense because the event triggers lie-based pain. From the outside, much of what we feel from time to time seems not to fit with the current situation. I can recall feeling intense anger one day over another driver rushing in ahead of me and "stealing" my parking place at the shopping center. I might have been justified in being a little annoyed, but I wanted to smash his headlights. What should have been mild irritation was a boiling inner rage. Trying to resolve present conflicts without resolving our historical woundedness will give us only temporary relief; at some point the lies will be triggered again and the pain will resurface. However, if our thinking is renewed with truth, we can redeem the present.
However, if I feel bad because I have sinned; this is good, for I should. Bad feelings should follow those who are convicted by the Holy Spirit for doing wrongly. If I sin and do not feel bad then there is something wrong.
Principle Two: There Is a "Dual Mental Process" Going On in Each of Us.
When we react negatively to a new experience, it is nearly always because of a prior experience. Our minds are designed to interpret every event with the beliefs we have acquired earlier. Our brains automatically transfer the feelings stored in the memory of an original experience to this present moment. This neurological process of association continually provides input as to how to respond to a current situation based on our response to similar events in the past. This automatic superimposing of past emotional responses onto later situations has great bearing on our behavior, because we tend to act out the way we feel. God has designed our minds to connect current and past events, almost outside of our awareness. A dual mental process is constantly at work in each of us as we associate what is happening currently with what has already occurred, while staying focused on the present moment. Our minds use information from related or similar experiences from our past to make decisions or judgment calls. Without historical data to draw from, we would not know how to respond to our current life situations. For example, if I did not have a "mean dog" experience in my mind and one day a pit bulldog lunged at me, I might pet his head, losing my hand in the process. However, if I remember my poodle snapping at my finger when I was a little boy, a "beware until you know if it's friendly" thought will immediately stir up within me and give me a sense of caution. I use the phrase dual mental process, as opposed to conscious and subconscious, because this process is not actually hidden from our conscious awareness. Although it is not particularly noticed in every day life, we can choose to consciously observe it. I can sit in front of my computer and focus completely on what I am doing, oblivious to the ruckus all around me. However, when I choose to "tune in," I realize that I have at some level been aware of all that is happening, but simply not "noticing" it. The same thing happens for those who drive each day. Have you ever passed through several traffic lights and suddenly realize that you have no conscious memory of them because you were daydreaming? Although you were mentally somewhere else, you were also driving your car. When something occurs in daily life, our minds search through our accumulated memories for similarly perceived experiences and then use them to provide interpretations and emotions so we can respond accordingly. We do not "notice" where the reactive information has come from; we just feel the emotion and come to conclusions based upon our experiential beliefs. This divinely designed mechanism serves us well when our experiences are truth-based. Then we are able to respond with the wisdom that we have learned and with the peace of Christ. We can consciously initiate this process in a ministry session to help people make the connection between their present pain and their lie-based thinking. Once they are willing to let go of their current circumstances and seek the original memory source of their lie-based pain, have them close their eyes in a prayerful state and just feel whatever emotion has been identified. Initially, you want them to focus on the feeling without being concerned with its source. Ministry recipients know where this historical event linked to their emotional pain is located, even if they initially cannot consciously connect with it. However, as we encourage them to "notice" this natural association process, their mind is able to surface the memory linked to their feelings. This is nothing mystical, strange, or New Age; it's a normal, natural process.
Principle Three: People Can Hold Two or More Opposing Beliefs at the Same Time.
Knowing the Scripture is no guarantee of victory in my day-to-day walk. This is because what we believe to be true cognitively and logically may not necessarily match what we believe to be true experientially. Most of the time we don't live our lives based on our logical beliefs, but rather on what we have learned experientially and emotionally. For example, if I truly believe God is my shield and protector, I should never live in fear; if I believe God will supply all my needs, I should never be anxious about finances; and, if I believe God is in control of my life, I would never worry about what might happen to me next. However, if I live in fear, worry and have anxiety, then I believe something contrary to God's Word. What I feel in any given moment indicates what I truly believe at the experiential level. My emotions expose my true core-belief system because I feel what I believe. Furthermore, I may find it very difficult to change my core beliefs simply by choosing to think otherwise, or by adding more logical truth to the mix. The fact is that renewal and transformation is a work of the Holy Spirit.
Principle Four: Feelings Are Important Indicators of Our True Belief.
Some people believe we should not trust our emotions. Some suggest we should deny what we feel and just choose to do the right thing. It is true that when our emotions run contrary to the truth we should choose to obey God's Word in spite of how we feel. However, our emotions can be trusted to expose what we experientially believe. I can say that I believe God will supply all of my needs but if I live in worry and fear about my daily provision then what I actually believe is being expressed through what I am feeling.
Emotions are indicators of what we experientially believe. They do not necessarily indicate the truth, but they reveal our core beliefs, true or false. Unless we acknowledge our emotions and recognize how they expose what we believe and cease trying to suppress and deny them, we are doomed to a cycle of suppression. Emotion flows from belief (whether truth or lies); we feel whatever we believe. God has designed us this way. We will feel whatever we hold as truth. If I genuinely believe that I am loved by God, then I should feel loved by God. If I believe that He is the supplier of my needs, then I should feel worry-free and secure. If I believe that He is coming soon to usher me into eternity, I should feel hopeful. However, if I feel emotion that is contrary to the truth, then something is wrong.
The answer is not to try harder to believe, but rather to discover what runs contrary to His truth and find release from the lies that are producing my negative emotion. This contrary emotion will be rooted in experiential lie-based thinking. The Holy Spirit desires to give us truth in our innermost parts. When I know His truth experientially, my emotions will line up with the truth. Then I will feel what I believe.
Principle Five: IF I Believe a Lie the Consequences Will Be Much the Same as if It Were True
Our experiential beliefs dictate our emotional response and status in any given moment, and thus affect our behavior. If we believe something, we will feel corresponding emotion and will tend to make choices based on this condition. These choices can create a perpetual cycle of bondage, giving the enemy a foothold in our lives. If we believe a lie to be true, it will play itself out in our lives as though it were true. This gives lies enormous power to dictate much of our present reality. Our emotional state is a pointer to our true belief system. Even if what we believe is false, it will have much the same outcome as if it were true. If I believe that God abandoned me when I was being abused, hurt or overlooked as a child, then when I am in need later as an adult, I might find that though I have memorized Scripture and choose to believe the truth that God is watching out for me, I still "feel" all alone and unprotected. Some might say that this was simply unbelief. Unbelief is not the absence of belief, but rather holding a belief that is contrary to God's truth. Recognizing these contrary beliefs is an important step towards freedom.
Principle Six: To Be Free of the Lies We Believe, We Must Own Them Rather Than Deny Them
Our natural inclination is to deny that we believe lies and to bury the pain they are producing. If we do this, however, we will maintain a cycle of perpetual defeat in our lives. As long as lies remain embedded in our minds, they will continue to surface as pain every time we are in situations similar to when they were originally implanted. Freedom requires honestly acknowledging our emotional pain and taking responsibility for its corresponding belief. We must choose to lay down our feeble defenses and attempts to project the pain onto others or onto life circumstances before God will release us from what has held us bound. God does not reward pretension. He rewards honesty and humility by making His strength perfect in our weakness. When our negative emotions expose our lie-infested wounds, it provides opportunities for mind renewal. God either allows or orchestrates our surroundings to bring us under pressure, which will expose our true core belief system. It requires little effort to perform at a high level of "spirituality" when things are going well with us. However, when trouble comes, whatever is on the inside comes out. The falsehoods that we believe will express themselves through our emotional state and consequent behavior. If we choose to follow the "smoke trail" of our stirred-up emotions back to their original memory source, we can usually discover the lie-based belief causing the emotional pain. It is here that we can find freedom from the emotional pain produced by these lies, as we receive truth from the Holy Spirit.
Principle Seven: Sinful Behavior Is Often a Vain Attempt to Manage Our Emotional Pain
I believe that many of the sinful choices we make are motivated by vain attempts to manage our emotional pain. It is easier to act out sinfully than to address the reasons we are emotionally stirred up. We feel depressed, angry, stressed, fearful, alone, etc., so we eat when we are not hungry, please ourselves with sex or entertainment, and find other distractions rather than attend to the bad feelings. When our lie-based thinking is triggered, our present situation is flooded with emotions from the past. The stronger the emotion, the more it tends to influence our present behavior. However, as our thinking changes, our life does, too. When our false thinking is divinely replaced with experiential truth, our painful emotions transform into perfect peace, and therefore the temptation to sin becomes much less powerful. When we have negative feelings, we can still try to act appropriately. The problem is that we're not able to do that most of the time (unless, of course, our minds have been genuinely renewed). So, when we feel pain, we usually "act on it" by giving the same back to others, pulling away or ignoring and internalizing the pain – which leads to problems such as self-hate, depression, anxiety, physical illness, and so on. When we act out our triggered emotions in any of these ways, we sin and "fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). A driving force behind most addictions, if not all, is emotional pain. Most adulterous relationships are also rooted in painful emotions that we are hoping someone outside our marriage can eliminate. So, as we strive against sin, we must also address the pain factor that often motivates our sinful responses or we may remain in an endless loop of battle with controlled behavior and defeat. A person suffering from bulimia usually manifests a predictable thought pattern before acting out on her compulsion. Something triggers her lie-based thinking with feelings of unrest, anxiety, depression, abandonment, fear, or some other inner turmoil. Regardless of whether she is consciously aware of these feelings, they prompt her to shift into the pain-managing routine she has developed, eating until the emotions subside. But after she has completely gorged herself, her feelings change to self-loathing and shame for the binge. These prompt her to act out another pain-managing routine, and she purges herself of the food.
Principle Eight: Performance-Based Spirituality Is Not True Spirituality
Prior to this ministry, I only knew how to deny pain and "claim victory" by faith. I experienced temporary victory, as long as I expended great effort. The truth is that my bad feelings were exposing the flaws in my belief structure. Only as I am willing to acknowledge what I feel and expose my false thinking, am I able to know a more consistent victory. For most of my Christian life I have been instructed by others to just believe God, stand on the truth and act contrary to my feelings. Today, this is exactly what I try to do except for the feeling part. I no longer see denial of what I feel as some measure of victory or spirituality. Even lost people can deny feelings and many do as good if not better than most believers. Denial and suppression of emotion is not spiritual, it is merely controlled behavior. Years ago when I would counsel people about their emotional crisis I made statements such as, "Don't trust your emotions," "Deny what you feel and act on the truth," and "Act your way into a new way of feeling." The problem with this line of thinking is that it denies why we feel what we feel and thus keeps out lie-based thinking in place. Those who are able to discipline themselves into acting against their feelings (usually not the most deeply wounded) are often regarded as "spiritual." But performance-based spirituality is not true spirituality. True spirituality is experiencing God's power in us and being able to act appropriately in any present moment, because our minds are at rest as a consequence of what Jesus has done. We can walk in perfect peace in chaotic circumstances when our old, tormenting lies have been replaced with God's truth and the indwelling Christ is freely operating within us. I believe that we can know His joy and peace in every circumstance when we know His truth experientially. The Apostle Paul told us to rejoice in the Lord, always and at all times (Philippians 4:4) and "May the Lord of peace Himself grant you peace in every circumstance" (2 Thessalonians 3:16). It is often suggested that these passages teach obedient choice in the face of contrary emotion. We should simply choose to be joyful even when we do not feel joy, and calm when we do not feel calm. Some people teach that if you keep doing this in the face of emotional opposition, at some point the contrary emotion will lay down in defeat and transform into something more pleasant. Obedience entails pushing through the bad feelings you really feel in the moment and making yourself feel something else. However, choosing to rejoice is not the same as feeling joyful. The joy of the Lord is not a choice I make, but rather what I have when I walk experientially in His truth. We cannot make ourselves feel joyful. Either we have joy or we don't. If we don't then there is a problem. I want to suggest that the problem often is found in what we believe. The problem is that joy and peace are both fruits of the Holy Spirit, and we cannot produce either on our own. I would say that they are both outcomes of our experiential belief, naturally flowing by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. If they are not flowing, it is probable that lies are stifling them.
Principle Nine: When We Receive Truth from God in Memories Where We Harbored Lie-Based Thoughts, We Can Walk in Effortless Victory in These Areas
I sometimes use the phrases "maintenance-free victory" and "effortless victory." This principle is sometimes misunderstood. I am not saying that if we have a session or two of TPM we will suddenly be free of all difficulties. Our Christian life is filled with struggles and we will only reach sinless perfection in eternity. But when we know His truth experientially where lies were harbored, the pain that those particular lies produced can be completely eradicated. Lies are dispelled one-by-one, memory-by-memory. Every believer can know a victory that is fully empowered by the indwelling presence of Christ, free of striving and accomplished through resting in Him in specific areas where true renewal has occurred. When the Spirit of Christ brings truth into my thinking, He replaces the lie with truth, and I find genuine release and peace where I once only knew pain. When the pain produced by these lies is resolved, any behavior that this pain motivated can also cease. The areas of our minds that are renewed with truth will no longer be stirred up with lie-based pain. Since our emotional pain is a primary motivator for our inappropriate behavior, we should be able to walk in a more consistent victory in these specific places. Experiencing the truth frees us to walk in "newness of life" (Romans 6:4) so that we might experientially agree with the Apostle Paul who declared, "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness [the very thing we tend to do when emotionally stirred up and in pain]; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God [which is effortless when we are walking in the truth and peace of the Holy Spirit]" (Romans 6:12-13, bracketed words mine).
Principle Ten: Only an Encounter with the Presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit Can Free Us from the Lies We Believe
God desires that we come to Him dependent and devoid of any hope of self-deliverance. The Apostle Paul declared, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20). Much of what we call spirituality or Christian maturity is behavior that any lost person could probably achieve if he just set his mind to it. Of course, we should desire to live out what is pleasing to God. Yet the victory God most desires is accomplished by Him in us as we willingly submit to him and rely on Him to bring it about. When we try to live in victory through self-effort and hard work, we will eventually fail. Christ in us, not self-effort, is our power to overcome. As we experience the emotional pain in memories, we realize that we are helpless, trapped in our emotional bondage, and cannot make the pain go away. This is how people in the New Testament were when Jesus healed them physically: needy and helpless. It is how Paul found himself when Jesus spoke truth into his painful circumstance: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Paul then stated, "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Theophostic Prayer Ministry simply encourages people to listen as the Lord reveals His truth to their hearts and minds. Of course, bible study, teaching and preaching are important, but apart from the intervention of the Holy Spirit we cannot fully know truth. Jesus said that when "the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). There is a vast difference between learning about God cognitively and encountering him relationally. Both are important, but one without the other will fall short. Head knowledge has little or no impact on a person unless the Holy Spirit delivers it to the heart. In 2 Timothy 2:24-26, the Apostle Paul advised: "The Lord's bond-servant must … be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will."
Principle Eleven: We Are in Emotional Bondage Due to Two Basic Factors – Belief and Choice
Belief and choice are foundational to everything we do. People tend to make choices based on what they really believe, not on what they wish they believed or say they believe. The belief system that has us stuck is primarily rooted in our experiences. What we learn from experience is much more influential in our decision making than what we have learned passively through study or instruction. It is impossible to fully and wholeheartedly embrace a belief that is contrary to our experience. We will struggle to the degree that our experiential knowledge conflicts with our logical truth. Even if we choose to act contrary to this belief, there will be an element of doubt. Behaving the truth by sheer will may slowly erode negative experiential beliefs we hold and result in a measure of victory. The concept of "acting your way into a new way of thinking" may have some merit, because the new experience based on truth will offset the old experience to some degree and gradually renew our minds in this area. However, it is even more blessed to intentionally revisit a painful memory where we have embraced falsehood, receive a personalized word from the Lord, and have the old belief entirely removed in a single moment. God has chosen to limit Himself when it comes to the human will. What often stands between us and the good things God offers us is what we believe and the choices we make based on that belief. Here we have a conflict. We may want to be free of the emotional pain in our lives and say that we will take responsibility for it and go wherever we need to in order to find freedom. However, the difference between saying something and doing it has everything to do with our will. What we will is what we do. Often people declare with all their heart, "God, I want to be free! I am willing to feel the pain and know the truth of what happened to me" and yet they cannot get there. They will say with complete sincerity that they want to move forward but they feel blocked. They honestly do not know what to do to change the situation, consciously speaking. Although they want to be free and are choosing to go as far as they have come, they are also making a choice not to go any further. They want to be free but are unwilling to go through the pain. It has been my experience that when people get "stuck" in the ministry process and later move forward to freedom, it is because they eventually made the choice to do so. No matter what was involved in their blockage (demons, dissociation, anger, amnesia, repression, etc.) it is always their choice that moves them forward. I know what it feels like to want to break through in my own personal times of ministry, but to hit a wall. I have desired to be free, to feel, and to know, without being able to go forward. Nevertheless, in every case when I chose to, I was able to find my way clear. Nothing can keep people from moving toward freedom other than their own choosing. Choice is always resting on belief; we choose based upon what we believe. There is an entire chapter dedicated to this principle in the 2007 Basic Seminar Manual.
Principle Twelve: The Written Word of God is the Standard for Validating What Occurs in Ministry
Theophostic Prayer Ministry is a system for doing ministry based upon specific biblical principles, and we use the written Word of God to validate what people hear from the Lord. It is my personal belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). It is timeless and relevant for all circumstances and the fullness of God's divine inspired revelation to man. What happens in a Theophostic Prayer Ministry session has the potential of going astray just as in any other counseling or ministry setting. Therefore, the ministry facilitator should be well-equipped in "rightly handling the Word of truth" and identifying what is consistent with the Bible and that which is not. The facilitator should draw attention to any false messages.
Principle Thirteen: Lie-based pain can only be removed as lies are replaced with truth, whereas the only remedy for sin-based pain is the cross of Jesus Christ.
All people are born into sin as a corporate consequence of Adam's sin: "Sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned" (Romans 5:12 NRSV). All people make conscious, willful choices to sin at some point in their lives, which separate them from God: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 NRSV). Apart from the cross of Christ there is no remedy for sin: "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin" (Hebrews 9:22 NRSV). People do not overcome sin by their hard work, but by appropriating the completed work of Christ on the cross: "Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you to be perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3 NRSV). Any effort to escape sin apart from relying on Christ is self-righteousness. Sin is dealt with through several basic steps. God's Word exposes our wrongdoing through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and our right response is to confess, or agree with God (1 John 1:9) that what we have done is indeed sinful and unbecoming of a saint (Ephesians 5:3). God then may grant us repentance (change of thinking) (2 Timothy 2:25) so we can turn toward God, submit to Him, and experience His indwelling power to live rightly.
Principle Fourteen: Mind Renewal Is a Lifelong Process
I have never met anyone who seems to be walking in perfect knowledge and understanding of God's truth. We all have a distance to go in terms of mind renewal, and total release of all lie-based thinking is not even possible within our lifetime. All of us have many lies harbored in our minds and pick up additional lies along the way. If we choose not to cooperate with what God is doing through exposing our false beliefs and seeking His truth, we will remain in bondage. The truth is, we will complete this mind-renewal journey at one of two places; either when we die or when the Lord returns. Keep in mind that Theophostic Prayer Ministry is not based on a formula but on principles and techniques that are to be applied in the Lord's timing as He guides each ministry session. Your skill in administering the Theophostic Prayer Ministry process will depend upon your understanding of these principles, your ability to apply the techniques you will learn, and upon the amount of experience you gain in applying them.