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Is TPM Biblical


Is Theophostic Prayer Ministry Unbiblical?

Let's discuss that question. Here is a short definition of Theophostic Prayer Ministry: It is intentional and focused prayer with the desired outcome of an authentic encounter with the presence of Christ, resulting in mind renewal and a subsequent transformed life (Theophostic Basic Seminar Manual 2007, p. 2.) It is predicated on how the brain works in the human being in the biology of the created order and on how the Lord works in the human being in the reality of the spiritual realm.

The Brain in the Created Order

Let's look at the brain in the human being in the biology of the created order. The brain is a physical entity. God placed natural biological functions in place for the brain to work. The main brain function is that it works by association. It quickly seeks to go on "automatic." Emotions and behaviors in the present tense are governed unconsciously by similar experiences in the past tense that resemble the event in the present tense. Let's look at this more closely. Take the example of learning how to drive. When you first sat behind the wheel of a car, all of your actions were painstakingly thought out and deliberate. All was new which stimulated your brain to develop neurological circuits for each of your actions. At your current age when you sit behind the wheel, do you even think about what to do? You just do it. Why? Because your brain moved quickly to go on automatic to free itself up for other tasks as they came up as you lived your life. The additive quantity of all the functions you perform in life cannot be thought out each time or the brain would burst. It has to put as much as possible from the past tense on the "hard drive" beneath the surface so the software on the screen of our life can play out in the present tense. Take the example of employment. Your boss asks you in a non-condemning manner to retype a memo because it has a few errors. You stumble and stammer, apologize all over the place and feel great shame. Why? What causes such intense emotion in response to a simple, legitimate request from one's boss? Association. Unconsciously, your brain grabs what seems like a similar situation in the past. Perhaps a parent called you stupid and a failure when you made even the smallest mistakes as a child. The brain registered the belief back then that: "I have to be perfect or I am worthless." The brain accesses that past tense event and the associated belief and superimposes it on the current event. Since we feel what we believe, you feel shame over your worthlessness when you make a mistake in the present tense employment situation. The present tense emotion happened because of the past tense experience and belief. This is how God wired our brains. You also feel helpless over the emergence of your shame in that situation and no amount of "self-effort" can prevent the emotional reaction. Praying harder won't work.

The Lord in the Spiritual Realm

In a devotional I was studying, the author made the statement: "Be not anxious because of your helplessness." (Pilgrimage of the Heart, Catherine Martin, p. 172). The Bible says: "Do not be anxious about anything."(Phil. 4:6). How do we hold that up against what we know about how He created our brains? Is He giving us an expectation that is unreachable on the surface, which sincere, focused, and intense behavior and prayer cannot change? Why doesn't God tell us in the Bible how to go back to the experience the mind is grabbing and instruct us in how to end its negative influence in our lives? He doesn't give us the specific instruction book, but He has graciously given us the template. The devotional writer gave a hint. "Helplessness is the real secret and the impelling power of prayer. For it is only when we are helpless that we open our hearts to Jesus and let Him help us in our distress according to His grace and mercy."

Here is an important backdrop. Science and the study of the world around us were birthed in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation. People were freed up to study the Scripture by themselves and uncover the rules of the universe that God had placed in motion. Superstition ended as the primary explanation for the way the world works. The birth of the scientific method in biology, chemistry, psychology, neurology and so forth sprang forth. Law, the humanities, and art flourished. The Bible does not give us the vast volumes of knowledge, data, and reality that the volumes of scientific discovery give, but it gives us the template. Highlights of the template is that God is a God of order, reason, truth, logic, and laws, all of which He created. He tells us to take dominion over the earth and subdue it and tend it. He tells us that we are to search out the mysteries of creation and live according to the rules that He has set in place. This is the biblical template. Without Protestant Christianity and the Bible, advances in science and the arts would not have occurred. However, due to the Fall, our sinful nature distorts what God called good, resulting in mistakes in the subduing and tending of our material world, such as pollution, mismanagement of natural resources, nuclear energy for destruction rather than a neutral power source and the like. In the bodily realm we abuse our bodies by smoking, chemicals, obesity, poor food choices and the like. Also, in the emotional realm, we are also affected by lies we believe as children coming from our own mistakes in logic, negative labeling of us by important people in our lives, and the lies from the enemy. These lies register in the lower parts of the brain that are hidden from our conscious awareness and influence what we believe, feel and do. Nonetheless, despite our fallen world, we can use the template from the Bible and the trillions of details in his magnificent Creation for our own betterment as human beings. We can search out how things work by the use of our minds created in the image of God. We can search out reasons why the universe works, study the universe, and advance our welfare as people created by God by implementing what we discover.

Interplay of the Brain and the Spiritual

Let's return to the brain. Neuroscience uncovers the remarkable complexity and wonder of the human brain. MRI's, CAT scans, surgical discoveries, SPECT scans, all reveal the former mysteries of the brain. The brain is the CEO of our body, mind and emotions. Our brain has rules by which it functions to produce emotions and behaviors and to record experiences and beliefs. It is not un-biblical to minister to others in the emotional realm when they are experiencing emotional pain. This is based on the template of the Bible in the context of brain functions that neuroscience has uncovered. Let's consider an example of the above template from the perspective of the body. The heart functions according to set rules. The electrical energy that regulates the heartbeat, the presence of blood flow in vessels to nourish the heart and the closing and opening of the valves, all work together according to God's rules in Creation. If the rules are violated there are problems. Too much plaque: a heart attack. Erratic electrical stimulation: tachycardia. People trained in how the heart works with the basic template of the Bible in place, can make interventions to advance our welfare on which the Bible is silent (encourage diet change, install a pacemaker, recommend bypass surgery, prescribe medication.) Unbiblical? No. Faithful to the template? Yes.

Let's return once again to the brain. Neurology has discovered that the brain works by association, grabbing a similar experience in the past tense that resembles a present tense experience, causing us to act and feel in the present situation from that past tense perspective. Remember, the brain sets up neurological circuits to go on automatic. The brain does not want to laboriously decide in each circumstance how to feel in the present tense. The past tense can be accessed swiftly without our conscious awareness and a similar reaction occurs in the present tense emotionally and behaviorally. People trained in how the brain works, with the basic template of the Bible in place, can make interventions for painful emotional states on which the Bible is silent to advance our welfare (feel the present tense emotion, connect with the past tense experience the brain is grabbing, identify the lie in the past tense experience, and ask Jesus to reveal his truth.) Unbiblical? No. Faithful to the template? Yes.

Applying one set of understandings to the physical body (it has God given rules for functioning), and another set of understandings to the physical brain (it runs only according to spiritual rules) is an irrational dichotomy. The dichotomy is sometimes supported by misinterpretations of Scripture, such as Philippians 3:13, that we are to "put the past behind us." This misinterpretation defies God's created rules for the brain and places suffering people into denial. People ignore the emotional pain, stuff it down, and try to move forward through performance-based spirituality. The context of Philippians is that Paul is putting his performance based spirituality and self-efforts to achieve righteousness as a "Pharisee of the Pharisees" behind him. It is not a commentary on how to handle painful emotions. It is a commentary on abandoning works based salvation efforts.

 Illogical, Unbiblical Beliefs Side by Side

When we venture into the "spiritual performance rules and prayer only" as the cure for emotional woundedness, we are entering into the cultic realm of Christian Science. This religious perspective believes that evil is all a state of mind, as are physical/mental problems. If the individual just had enough faith he/she would be healed. Hence, medical intervention is not sought for physical problems, blood transfusions are refused, and the person and family work on believing hard and praying the individual out of their state. Some in the Christian community have developed a syncretistic relationship with Christian Science. What does this mean? On the one hand many Christians subscribe to the medical interventions in the bodily realm, participating in prayer for physical healing directed at asking God to act through the wisdom of the physicians and medical science or by a miraculous healing from His hand. In this bodily realm the Lord chooses most often to heal through the means He has provided through our knowledge of how He made the body to work. We don't expect miraculous healing as the norm, although it does occur. However, in the emotional realm, many Christians subscribe to the Christian Science approach of just "pray harder, believe more deeply." They don't subscribe to the interventions in the emotional realm using knowledge of how the brain works. They stay in prayer way above the surface, not accessing the lower brain realms where misinterpretations reside that produce emotional problems. In the emotional realm the Lord chooses to heal through the means He has provided through our knowledge of how He made the brain to work. However, unlike the bodily realm, syncretistic "Christian" Christian Scientists expect miraculous healing as the norm, distrusting the knowledge base of neuroscience. It is a double standard. The original question was: Is Theophostic Prayer Ministry unbiblical? Do you have an answer after our discussion?

Julie Zuehlke MS, RN, CS Clinical Nurse Specialist in Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health Credentialed for Christian Ministry in the local church 2/25/09


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Theophostic Prayer Ministry