I served on a crisis intervention team for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Urbana 12, a 16,000-delegate conference, last month. There were 7 of us, all therapists, and we intervened when we got calls about anyone dealing with extreme anxiety or other emotional upheaval. We also interacted with the prayer ministers, who prayed for a whopping 2,500 people over the course of the conference! I was so impressed with the model that InterVarsity has developed for this team to interface with the ministry of inner healing prayer. Those doing prayer ministry were introduced to the crisis team and were instructed to call us into their prayer sessions with folks if the person had experienced certain kinds of trauma, if they felt the person might need counseling, or if they were just confused by the person’s presentation.
Having experience coming from both perspectives, I appreciate this type of interface. At conferences like this, it isn’t unusual for students coming for prayer ministry to be confessing long-held secrets for the first time; sexual trauma, damaging choices, and abuse are often brought into the open with a prayer minister before they are confessed to anyone else. This critical first discussion, at its best, is a tender confession that is deeply healing for the recipients as they experience both human and Divine reception of their stories. But obviously, for many, should the journey end there, the processing needed for integrating the past wound into their current understanding and behavior would be cut short. For dozens of students who received prayer at Urbana this year, they also received a consultation with one of the crisis team individuals about how therapy could benefit them, and that the spiritual and psychological process could work together.
Another wonderful part of this cooperation was catching some complicating potential diagnoses that confused the prayer ministers. For example, one student had alarmed her prayer minister by sharing recurring thought of hitting/hurting people, including her prayer minister. When I was called over to consult, I was able to suggest the student get an evaluation for OCD, which sometimes manifests in obsessive thoughts about harming another individual. The student nearly melted with relief, as her own explanations had been much more sinister.
I’m hoping that many organizations are and will follow this model at huge conferences like this when young people are far from home. When inner healing prayer and psychotherapy can come together, we all benefit from a more holistic paradigm for healing and transformation.