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Healing Past Hurts

Offered to the body of Jesus Christ, 2003-2012
by David W. Eckman at lordslaw.com


Basic Concepts

What kind of hurts are we talking about?

Healing past hurts or emotional wounds has been referred to by a number of names: "inner healing", "healing of memories" and "soul healing". Regardless of what you call it, this lesson addresses those hurts, those emotional wounds, that result from events in our lives such as rejection, abandonment, abuse, neglect, violence, insecurity and being embarrassed, shamed, terrorized, scared, manipulated or otherwise controlled. Our concern is with hurts, wounds and pain that remain long after the events that caused them, hurts that have not healed and therefore disrupt people's lives. Calling such hurts "scars" is inappropriate: A scar indicates healing of a wound, and the tissue of a scar is typically stronger than the tissue around it. Unhealed hurts are open wounds that continue to fester and flare up, causing emotional pain and suffering, sometimes physical discomfort and illness, sometimes even serious disruption.

When dealing with such hurts, it helps greatly to recognize that a spiritual background attends and in fact permeates them. With that recognition, we can both receive and minister healing much more effectively. For one thing, such hurts almost invariably arise from the work of the enemy, the spirit or spirits that oppose YHWH* and the wholeness YHWH intends for all of us to enjoy. Therefore, healing past hurts or emotional wounds typically requires dealing with what the enemy has done. Luke 13:11-16 tells of a woman who had been bent double by "a spirit" until Jesus freed her from her bondage. Jesus attributes her bondage to Satan. The account does not indicate that she suffered a physical injury or illness that Jesus healed or from which he made her well or whole. He freed her from bondage. And the bondage had spiritual roots. Although we are not told that the spirit's affliction attended a past hurt, that record illustrates some of what healing past hurts is about. And the experience of many Christians who serve Jesus by helping others receive such healing confirms the healing's power and demonstrates that YHWH, who created us, is also our healer. Although he has made us self-healing, he stands ready to help that process when we need it.

When I see phrases like "let go of", "move on from" or "get over" the past or hear people talk about having trouble letting go of their past, moving on in their lives or getting over something that's happened to them, I recognize a need for healing of past hurts. People cannot "let go" of their past, nor should they try. They might be able to "move on", but the pain of the past remains. And telling people to "get over it" only adds more pain. The pain of past hurts creates a form of bondage. What these folks really need is freedom from the hurts, the psychological wounds, the painful memories, the "broken heart", the emotional baggage, that interferes with enjoying their lives. The events that produced those hurts and memories may constitute a very small part of people's past, but the hurts and memories have an inordinate impact on their present. When Jesus heals those past hurts, he transforms the memories, removing the pain. He also enables the person to begin remembering and enjoying the more pleasant memories of the past. I can testify to this from my own experience and the experience of others with whom my wife and I have prayed. Instead of letting go of the past, therefore, I encourage everyone suffering from past hurts to reclaim the past by getting those hurts and the emotional pain healed.


Where do the hurts reside?

When the past hurt or wound addressed in this lesson results from a broken relationship, people often call it a broken heart, no doubt from the physical pain people typically experience in their chest. But hearts do not break, nor do they harbor such hurts or wounds or even the emotional pain. Such hurts reside in our memories and affect the way we think, the choices or decisions we make, the emotions we feel, and inner and outward reactions to other people and what they say, as well as both pleasant and painful events. The people who recorded the Bible referred to the place where such activity occurs with a number of words and phrases, some of which we translate as "heart", "soul", "mind", "spirit", "innermost being" and "inward parts". Today, many, if not most, of us who minister in this type of healing refer to that place simply as the soul (psyche in Greek), which generally encompasses what we might call personality or individuality: thoughts, will, memories, and emotions. Even when the hurts have been thoroughly suppressed and no longer infect the conscious memory, they can remain open wounds and affect the quality of our lives.


Why bother with past hurts?

If allowed to remain unhealed, such hurts can lead to many types of problems, some quite serious. For example, psychologists inform us that depression often results from anger that has not been released or resolved. The anger arises from a particular hurt, which for various reasons, the person feeling it is not able or allowed to express constructively but stuffs down inside. Sometimes depression results from fear and anxieties that people suppress and do not discuss, leaving a feeling of hopelessness, what some describe as having no control. In some people that depression can lead to suicide or acts that harm other persons, including close family members. Other people experience what medicine calls psychosomatic illnesses, actual physical illnesses that have psychological roots. Sometimes people with such unhealed hurts withdraw into a shell, while others may exhibit various forms of rage or an inability to relate to others in a healthy way. Some with such hurts inflict on others the same acts that produced the hurts in them, particularly in abuse cases.

From personal experience and that of others, I would say that everyone has past hurts that want healing, some much less serious than others. Everyone can benefit from healing those hurts. To use one woman's imagery, as we grow up from childhood and suffer various hurts that are not resolved or healed, we are like houses in which the garbage (the unresolved, unhealed hurt) is thrown into the basement and after a few years, the entire house begins to stink. To borrow from Jesus' image of a person delivered from the spirit which then wanders in waterless places only to return with seven buddies to make the person's condition worse than it was originally (Matt. 12:43-45, Luke 11:24-26), we are like houses that have broken windows and doors and have begun to decay from abuse and neglect, and the spirits that cause us to miss YHWH's mark for us are like bums who move in and out of the house, trashing it at will but not always present.

Healing past hurts helps, for example, when a person feels particularly anxious or insecure, becomes addicted, is easily angered or hurt, frequently feels resentful, bitter or depressed, finds it difficult to hold or enjoy a job, or cannot maintain healthy relationships with others. A person should consider healing past hurts when suffering anxiety attacks, autoimmune conditions and similar conditions or diseases. Such conditions often arise when people suppress and do not express the emotions they feel while undergoing negative and painful experiences, whether physical, verbal, or psychological. The normal reaction to such experiences is 'fight or flight', to respond aggressively or to escape. Unfortunately, too many victims do neither but merely endure the hurts and 'stuff' the emotions into some internal closet. And for some people, when a person does that over a long period, suffering repeated hurts that don't heal, the body begins to react in harmful ways. Too often, the victim has forgotten the deep, unhealed wound of such accumulated hurts after having gotten away from the source for several years. But the wound remains and festers. And the physical reaction appears later in life and may contribute to serious illnesses, such as autoimmune conditions, some forms of arthritis or cancer. Even a small measure of healing for such past hurts can help when a person suffers from a physical problem that does not have a clearly discernable external, physical cause (and maybe even when it does).

From observing and knowing several people diagnosed with mental illness, I have begun to believe that such illnesses are spiritually related. But not all mental or emotional problems are: some may be caused by injury or physical problems. A spiritually related problem may begin in prior generations, making it a generational problem, or it may develop from things an individual has done. Most past hurts, however, seem to be wounds (not scars) from childhood, perhaps some trauma, some event incorrectly perceived, some unfilled emotional or physical need, or some other cause. Whatever caused them, past hurts typically seem to stunt an individual's maturity and growth and sometimes even reverse it.


How do we know when healing happens?

A healthy soul is one that is mature, whole, unblemished in YHWH's eyes. Jesus lives in it, and it lives in Jesus, becoming presentable to YHWH by receiving the sanctification that enables it to see him (see Heb. 12:14-15). In a healthy soul, we see an ability to love unconditionally, understand deeply and act and react appropriately and consistently with YHWH's word. Healing past hurts or emotional wounds helps a person toward that maturity.

Regular study of the Bible over many years has taught me that YHWH wants us to progress from being totally self-centered, our condition in infancy, to being God- and other-centered, from primary concern for what we want or need to concern for what YHWH wants and others need, becoming true instruments of YHWH's peace in a troubled and selfish world. That is true maturity, true holiness, real manhood and real womanhood. For too many people, religious rituals and practices focus on self-- how to manipulate a higher power to produce a benefit for the supplicant. True Christianity, on the other hand, expects us to leave self behind, while remaining in control of what we do-- a remarkable feat that is totally beyond all human ability. That, I believe, is why YHWH gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Now, lest anyone misunderstand, being God- and other-centered does not mean neglecting our own needs. On the contrary, it requires meeting our needs so that we can serve YHWH and others without our needs interfering. In other words, our primary concern should not be ourselves, but we should take care of ourselves. In addition, we must recognize that desires are not needs. To confuse them is a sign that we need greater maturity.


How do we get the healing?

If you'd like to try this by yourself, you can ask YHWH to heal you from something that's been bothering you. But finish studying this entire lesson first. Knowing what happens during such sessions helps if you seek your own healing. For example, when YHWH revealed that I suffered from insecurity that had contributed greatly to outbursts of anger, I asked YHWH to take me to the memory that he would heal to remove it. One by one, he reminded me of three incidents that happened when I was 6 years old. Because of the shame their memory carried, I had never told anyone about them. As I recalled each of them in sequence, seeing them in my mind's eye, he appeared in them with me. In the most shameful one, he sat with me, not saying a word, not even putting his arm around me, just accepting me as I was. I did not associate the memories with my insecurity, and at the time, I was not aware of any change. But about a year later, I realized that I was no longer worrying as much as I had and that I no longer got angry as often or as easily as I had. Still later, I realized that he had transformed the memories, so that now when I recall them, he is a part of them, and I feel no shame. In fact, I am now able to tell about them freely.

When I went to YHWH for that healing, I already had some experience praying with folks for healing of their past hurts and had done quite a lot of reading about the subject, so I knew that YHWH often heals a past hurt by appearing in the memory of it. In fact, that seems to be the most common method of healing, but for folks who have trouble visualizing, especially if the memory involves a lot of pain, he uses other methods. In fact, if the variety encountered by my wife and me in praying with others is any indication, he has an infinite variety of ways he helps people receive healing from past hurts. As Christians, how we deal with past hurts and receive YHWH's healing depends largely on him and our willingness to trust him with our welfare. From my own experience, I know our part is not easy, because humans throw up obstacles and barricades to protect themselves from further wounding. It often takes time to let him inside those protective barriers. Pain or shame, for example, may attend recall of a painful memory, so we tend to avoid recalling it. Therefore, I encourage you not to give up if your first venture into such healing seems fruitless. Persevere. As I heard John Wimber say, "Be an animal." Get your healing and don't surrender to discouragement.

If you seek healing of a past hurt on your own, read through the following instructions for prayer ministers to familiarize yourself with the process and the scriptures I've provided. Your goal is to receive whatever YHWH chooses to give you. So find a place without distractions and relax. Take a few deep breaths to help you relax. Then you might want to read the verses in Psalm 103 that I have highlighted or some other scripture that will put you in a receiving mode. Try to relax your mind if you find it dwelling on anything. Then simply ask YHWH to heal. You might ask him, as I did, to heal whatever memory is causing a problem. Don't be concerned if he takes you to a memory that does not seem very significant. When I went to YHWH for my healing, he chose memories that I had already prayed for him to heal. I expected him to take me to a memory of one of my most traumatic childhood experiences, one that I knew caused a lot of insecurity. He didn't do it then, and even when I've gone back for further healing, he never has. Take whatever he gives you and let him process it and redeem you from it.

If you try to receive the healing yourself and do not think it's happening, you may find it helpful to seek out a prayer minister who has experience with healing of past hurts. You may even have the good fortune to find one who has a gift for such healing. But regardless of whom you select, remember that YHWH does the healing when he wants, the way he wants and at the speed he wants, so don't start with expectations of instant healing.



Instructions for Prayer Ministers

Fundamentals

In the following instructions, I will refer to the person who is praying for another as the prayer minister and the person being prayed for as the prayer subject. When we pray for someone to be healed from past hurts, we are escorting them through an experience with YHWH. The nature of that experience is YHWH's, so we have to leave the results entirely to him. Maintain high hopes and low expectations. Don't be discouraged by having an expectation of what will or should happen; don't miss what YHWH is doing by having a preconceived idea of how the healing should proceed.

It is helpful but not necessary if the prayer minister has experienced healing from a past hurt. But not having experienced such healing should not deter you from helping someone else. Just take an early opportunity to receive it.

The prayer subject must recognize the need for healing and truly desire it. Forcing or urging prayer on someone doesn't work and may cause harm.

For best results, a prayer subject usually should commit to several prayer sessions, or until the prayer minister senses that the minister's involvement with that subject is finished or praying with that subject has hit a wall. The prayer subject may not be finished but may need another prayer minister to continue the prayer. There is also a danger that the prayer subject may become dependent or begin fulfilling a social need, rather than focus on healing.

YHWH does the healing. Beware feelings of discouragement: They mean that something personal in you has hooked into the process. such as enmeshment in the prayer subject's problems, collecting trophies or notching one's gun, or identification with the prayer subject.

Compassion and objectivity are not mutually exclusive: Beware emotional involvement but also recognize the possibility that some emotion you feel may point to an emotional barrier in the prayer subject or may be a word of knowledge from YHWH.

I prefer healing the soul rather than deliverance. They often have the same results, but healing tends to be more permanent. Broken doors and windows through which ungodly spirits operate are repaired and closed by healing. The basement is cleared of garbage. Deliverance does not necessarily achieve that.

Deliverance may be needed, however, so be prepared, and if it is, ask for YHWH's anointing, because deliverance is best done under YHWH's anointing. Since Jesus gave no reason for those who abide in him to fear anything during deliverance, do not be afraid to do it when it is needed. Just try not to alarm or scare the prayer subject. For example, a loud voice adds nothing. I minister deliverance in a soft but firm voice. If the prayer minister knows his authority in Jesus, the oppressing spirits will too, and they must obey when commanded to leave. And the prayer minister need not fear what the spirits will do any more than Jesus and his apostles did.

Do no harm. The person prayed for should feel loved, even if nothing else seems to happen. And we should not be a source of more pain.

Make the Bible your primary source of information. Test every other writing or teaching, including mine, against the scripture, in prayer. What fits, keep; what conflicts, reject; what remains in question, shelve for better understanding and knowledge. Following are some of the scriptures that I find helpful. I offer them in no particular order. Familiarize yourself with them and watch for others as you study the Bible.


Biblical examples of healings in the soul or spirit


A few of the numerous passages that may help prayer subjects receive healing


Preliminaries

Choose peaceful, quiet, warm, friendly, restful surroundings for prayer sessions. Have comfortable places for everyone to sit. Straight, slightly padded chairs (not reclining) are best. Overly soft, squishy chairs do not support the pelvis and back and cause pain, which distracts. Encourage the prayer subject to get comfortable (discomfort distracts). Have Kleenex at hand and visible, so that the prayer subject feels free to cry.

If at all possible, have someone pray with you. Married couples or male/female teams can pray with men or women. But generally, men should pray with men, and women should pray with women. Pray in the spirit. Several people can be more powerful but also more intimidating. There is no magic in any of this. Follow YHWH's lead.

Be aware that medications and physical problems can cause certain effects. You may want to explore those, but never, ever tell someone to discontinue medications.


Beginning the session

Before beginning prayer for healing of past hurts, read some of the scriptures that show YHWH intends it. Refer to the list above and any others you like. Personally, I like to start with the portions of Psalms 103 and 139 listed above.

Pray at the start of the session (after the scripture usually). Always ask YHWH to heal and lead to the source of pain or the place where he wants to work. There are no magic words. The key is to follow YHWH's lead. Jesus said he did what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19).

Interview the prayer subject: get enough information to make sense of what the prayer subject thinks is wrong and what the prayer subject wants prayer for, but don't counsel or dwell long on past events or hurts. Expressions of understanding and comfort are helpful, but they must come from the heart. Compassion is what's needed, so ask YHWH for it. Also ask for wisdom and guidance from YHWH, so that he stays in charge.

Prayer subjects should be instructed to experience and should be told specifically not to pray. We will pray for them. Praying focuses the prayer subjects on their own prayer and not on what YHWH is doing. We want them to focus on what he is doing and report that. Folks with control issues may have trouble doing that, but with time and practice, they can learn to do it.

Generally, ask prayer subjects to tell you what they're experiencing, thinking, imaging, or sensing-- any kind of impression, even those that seem like nonsense. Then ask YHWH what it means or where to go from there: If any leading is to be offered to the prayer subject, let it be from words of knowledge or wisdom, but offer them gently, because sometimes the thought you have may be your own, not from YHWH. Even if YHWH did impart it, the person may not accept it: It often helps to tell the prayer subject what you saw or thought and ask if it makes sense or fits somewhere in the prayer subject's experience or understanding.


During the session

IMPORTANT: Let YHWH do the work and take the responsibility. Let him control. Be as sensitive as possible to what he's doing and join it. Don't follow a pattern of any kind. In recent years, all prayer sessions to heal past hurts that I have participated in have been different from beginning to end.

Remember that your only job is to pray and follow where Jesus leads; let him produce the results. You are not collecting trophies, so don't try to force a healing that you can then chalk up in some kind of tally or report to someone. If you attempt to control the outcome, you will be acting out of your own power and skill, and healing may not occur or something worse may befall the prayer subject. Unless YHWH builds the house, the workers labor in vain (Ps. 127:1).


Thanksgiving and praise

Nothing helps us to receive YHWH's blessings like giving thanks and praising. Many scriptures (e.g., 1 Pet. 2:24) reveal that YHWH intends us to be whole (saved, healed), so that we can serve him effectively. But receiving anything is almost impossible when our soul and spirit are closed to what he is doing. Just as a man cannot receive something being handed to him when he keep his fists clenched, a closed spirit or soul prevents receiving from YHWH. Thanksgiving and praise help prayer subjects open their souls and spirits to receive. A radio cannot receive anything unless it's turned on, and even then, the volume has to be turned up for us to enjoy what it receives. Just so, thanksgiving and praise turn on and tune up our ability to receive from YHWH. See, for example, 1 Thes. 5:18 and James 1:2. During a prayer session, the prayer minister should voice regular thanks and praise. Even if you cannot discern anything, you can give thanks for who YHWH is, what he did through Jesus, what he's doing that we cannot see and what he's already done for us. You can bless and praise what he's doing, because you know he's sending his healing, just like a radio station transmits its signal even when radios are not turned on.


Words of knowledge and wisdom

Words of knowledge are mental impressions from YHWH, such as images, words and phrases or a certainty about something that seems to concern the subject. Such impressions represent knowledge you did not otherwise possess. Words of wisdom, on the other hand, are gifts from YHWH that inform or lead you to do something or do it in a certain way. Both are valuable gifts in this type of healing, so seek them. For more on this subject, read Hearing God: YHWH Still Speaks.

Be sensitive to possible words of knowledge or wisdom, especially if you or the prayer subject are stuck and can't seem to move forward. A single word or phrase may keep coming to mind. Or a particular image may flash across your mind without your calling it up. Any of those may be a word of knowledge or wisdom. Ask YHWH for help in understanding them, but beware of pronouncing an interpretation unless YHWH very clearly tells you what it means: There is too much danger that your own stuff may get overlaid and hurt the prayer subject. Instead ask the prayer subject if it makes sense or fits.


Manifestations of the Spirit

As you pray, watch for manifestations of YHWH's presence in or on the person: eyes moving, sweat, changes in skin color, heat, tingling, vibration or shaking of a part of the body that was not present before prayer started. The prayer subject should be encouraged to report any of these. We don't need to know what they mean. Thank and bless YHWH for what he is doing.


Pain and depression

Healing past hurts or emotional wounds sometimes involves pain. YHWH may have to do "heart surgery" to break through a prayer subject's self-imposed protective barrier. Be ready for tears and resistance to visit a painful memory. Don't force anything. If you know about a painful memory, it often helps to warn that healing past hurts is sometimes YHWH's heart surgery and that the prayer subject may experience temporary pain on the way to a permanent healing. If the prayer subject allows YHWH to close the wound, the pain will have been worthwhile.

For severe or persistent depression, try standing behind the prayer subject, lay hands on the subject's head and pray in the spirit. Agnes Sanford used this technique and found it effective. I have done this many times now and seen for myself how effective this can be. For those in severe depression, no words can comfort, and the typical spoken prayer (as opposed to praying quietly in the spirit) usually doesn't work. Severely depressed people often feel as if they are in a deep pit or well, in utter darkness, and words (even if well meant) can add to the person's suffering. Give time for YHWH to lead them out of the darkness into the light. Depression often follows prolonged repression of anger, an anger that follows some hurt or series of hurts, which is what we are trying to help the prayer subject receive healing for. Depression may also accompany anxiety and fear, bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. Sometimes those feelings are subconscious but evident in the prayer subject's behavior, words or tone of voice. Unfortunately, we have learned that some people have suppressed a memory or series of memories so thoroughly that they cannot remember incidents that contributed to feeling depressed. Fortunately, we have also learned that YHWH heals despite that. In ways we don't have to understand, his Holy Spirit "burrows" down to the root of the problem and does what Jesus did during his earthly walk and promised by his command to heal (Matt. 10:1,8).


Dreams

Dreams may be a springboard for the prayer subject. Pray that the subject may have them and encourage the prayer subject to ask YHWH for them. Also encourage the prayer subject to record and report them. Not all are from YHWH, but some are clearly from him and contain useful information or helpful guidance.

YHWH should interpret the prayer subject's dreams but may do so through us. Ask first if the prayer subject has an understanding of the dream. Then ask YHWH to confirm or explain. Then ask for any understanding YHWH might want to impart through you.

With dreams and words of knowledge, don't declare any impression you have as God's word unless there is no question of its source (be sure it's not inconsistent with scripture). I prefer to ask the prayer subject if something fits or makes sense or suggests something.


Other Suggestions and observations

Following are several suggestions and observations about what to do and what you may encounter during prayer for healing of past hurts:


At the end of the session

At the end of a prayer session, always encourage the prayer subject that YHWH will continue to work. He always has from my experience, at least when the person wants it.

Give followup instructions: Listen to YHWH. Don't be mechanical. Some may need more prayer, some need fellowship, some need scripture, some need work to do, some need all that and more.

If possible, get a commitment for the next prayer session, but don't force anything. Jesus never forced anyone to get healed.

If a prayer subject is on medication, tell the subject to continue until the treating physician says stop, even though the subject may feel better.

When done right, YHWH leads, not us. He's in charge, not us. YHWH heals, not us.

[This lesson was originally presented to Prayer for Healing ministers at my church in October 1999.]

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*YHWH or YHVH is the English representation of the four Hebrew letters that spell the name of the God of the Bible, the one true, living God worshipped by Jews and Christians. YHWH was the name by which he identified himself to Moses in Ex. 3:14. According to references that I've read, the exact pronunciation of YHWH's name was lost in antiquity. I prefer to pronounce the name "Yah-o-wah" (the "h" being aspirated as in "hay"), but the generally accepted pronounciation in common English is "Yah-weh" or "Yah-way". Some translations of the Bible, such as the KJV and NASB, substitute "the LORD" for his name, following a practice begun before Jesus' birth.

YHWH revealed himself in various ways to the children of Israel in the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. He also revealed himself in and through his son Jesus Christ and acts, among other ways, in and through Christians by the Holy Spirit. Because the word "God" is being used today to designate all kinds of human inventions, although accepted for centuries in English as a name for YHWH, I prefer to use the name that YHWH chose for himself rather than "God" or "the LORD" as I did in early versions of my writings. Please read The Name of the One True, Living God for a fuller discussion.

Remember who He is and whose you are

7.Jul.2003, last rev. 5.Nov.2012