As biblical counselors our very title reminds us of our role: we are to counsel people, relying primarily on the Bible for wisdom and truth.
We are biblical counselors, so of course that’s what we do! We love the Word of God, and we seek to incorporate it into our conversations with counselees, our prayers for them, as well as their homework assignments.
As we faithfully seek to apply the Bible to the daily lives of our counselees, how thoughtful are we about the Holy Spirit’s role in this important work?
I love the wording in our Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Confessional Statement regarding the importance of the Holy Spirit in biblical counseling:
We believe that both genuine change of heart and transformation of lifestyle depend upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-16:16; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
Biblical counselors know that it is impossible to speak wisely and lovingly to bring about true and lasting change apart from the decisive, compassionate, and convicting work of the Spirit in the counselor and the counselee.
We acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the One who illuminates our understanding of the Word and empowers its application in everyday life.
Our confessional statement affirms that any transformation we undergo as believers is dependent upon the Spirit. The Spirit is “decisive, compassionate, and convicting; the One who illuminates our understanding of the Word and empowers its application.” Furthermore, it’s “impossible to speak wisely and lovingly” as biblical counselors apart from the help of the Spirit.
In other words, any biblical counseling we seek to accomplish apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit might as well be a clanging cymbal.
Forgetting Who We Minister With
Yet, as counselors, don’t we oftentimes forget that the Holy Spirit is the real heart-changer in the lives of our counselees?
We push and pull at our counselees—trying to speak the right words at the right time that will free them from their misery, fear, worry, or addictions—you name it! While it’s right that fight for our counselees’ growth in Christ, we must never forget who the real heavy-weight is behind all those words that we speak. Indeed He is the same heavy-weight bringing power to the very words of Scripture that we hold so dear.
It’s the Spirit of God who changes hearts and transforms lifestyles.
Of course, deep down, we KNOW we aren’t the actual “Helper” that Jesus speaks of before His grand ascension to His throne in heaven: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you,” said Jesus to his followers (John 14:26).
Helper. Teacher. Reminder. Yes, it’s the Holy Spirit who illuminates our understanding of God’s Word and empowers its application to our lives—just like our BCC Confessional Statement affirms.
We know it in our heads: “I, Hayley Satrom [or insert your name], am not the Holy Spirit.” But we can forget this in our hearts, can’t we? We can rely on our own methods and words; we forget that while we may be instruments of grace in our counselees’ lives, there is only One who brings forth the good fruit we long to see.
A Conscious Reliance
How can we fight this temptation to substitute our own striving for the work of the Holy Spirit?
For one, we can look for red flags of self-reliance. Are we feeling burnt out in counseling? Frustrated with our clients? Frustrated with ourselves? Guilt when our counselees are not progressing, or pride when they show fruit? These are all potential markers of forgetting that we counselors are not in control of the hearts that we minister to each day. Instead, we should remind ourselves that it is the Spirit who most effectively cares for the people placed into our counseling load.
For me, this starts with taking time to genuinely pray for my counselees. Before an appointment I ask the Spirit to prepare the person’s heart for whatever God wishes to accomplish. Afterward I prayerfully entrust the counselee to the Spirit’s control until we meet again. This is essentially a prayer of blessing—that the Holy Spirit would minister to my counselee not only during counseling sessions, but outside as well.
Praying in this manner blesses my counselees, and it blesses me, too. I am reminded that I am not in control of anyone’s life or growth. It is God’s Spirit that will work in His people and create the changes needed at the heart level.
Here are some other ways I have intentionally relied upon the Holy Spirit in counseling:
- Fasting along with prayer for some of my hardest counseling situations
- Suggesting healing prayer ministry to counselees who are interested in it (something akin to this)
- Acknowledging spiritual warfare in some counseling situations and boldly praying with Scripture against the Evil One (both in a counselee’s presence and apart from him or her)
- Not only praying for counselees during their sessions, but occasionally allowing them to have the opportunity to pray—for themselves, for their spouses, for the Spirit’s help in whatever way is needed
- Assigning prayer homework to my counselees (i.e. praying through a Scripture passage, practicing the spiritual discipline of confession, or asking a married couple to pray together nightly for one particular aspect of their marriage)
Join the Conversation
Do you have other ideas for leaning into the Holy Spirit in your counseling relationships? How do you incorporate prayer and surrender into your counseling?