Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills (seminar)

I recently had the privilege of co-leading a seminar at Covenant Life Church with my friend Beth Riddlesburger. It was titled Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills for Life and Ministry.

I taught on “Biblical Foundations of Care,” which you can listen to here.

Beth taught on Skills For Drawing People Out and What Are We Listening For? - both of which you can listen to on Covenant Life’s website.

Navigating Our Emotions (seminar)

On January 28th, I led a Saturday morning seminar:

seminar.jpeg

Navigating Our Emotions

WHAT HELPS, WHAT HINDERS, AND WHAT MATTERS

This workshop provides practical, biblical guidance in these areas:

  • a practical theology of emotions
  • what to do about how you feel 
  • the critical role of emotions in a life of faith 
  • how to handle the emotions of others

Audio

Here is the first 30 minutes of the seminar:

Outline

This is the full outline of my slides:

Song: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Objectives

  • Theology of emotions
  • What not to do
  • What to do
  • Dealing with the emotions of others

I had help!

  • David Powlison
  • Alasdair Groves
  • Winston Smith
  • Sam Williams
  • Brian Borgman
  • Todd Stryd
  • John Piper
  • Tim Keller
  • Jonathan Edwards
  • Mike Emlet
  • My counselees

Definition

Emotion: a fully personal (involving thoughts, beliefs, and judgments made about the environment and oneself) and somatic response to an internal and/or external experience of significant concern, experienced as some variety of feeling and which prepares the body and mind for action.
— Sam Williams

What’s your theology of emotions?

  • Our understanding about emotions can make responding to them harder.
  • We feel bad about feeling bad.

Two lists

  • Fear    
  • Anger    
  • Sadness    
  • Shame    
  • Happiness
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Contentment

Emotional capacity: part of our pre-fall state – “very good”

God’s emotions

  • Loves and delights in Jesus - Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)
  • Delights in justice and righteousness - He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. (Psalm 33:5)
  • Rejoices in people - I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. (Jeremiah 32:39-41)
  • Experiences anger, wrath and detestation - The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. (Psalm 5:5-6) God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. (Psalm 7:11)
  • Compassionate - As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13)
  • Loving - The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3)

We’re instructed to

  • Hate sin,
  • Rejoice always,
  • Delight and be glad in the Lord,
  • Weep with those who weep,
  • Grieve like those with hope,
  • Fear God

God commands us

  • To rejoice and be glad (Psalms 100:2)
  • To fear Him (Romans 11:20)
  • Not to fear people (Joshua 1:9)
  • Or persecution (Luke 12: 4-5)
  • Not to worry (Matthew 7:7-11)
  • To grieve and mourn with others and for our sins (Psalms 51:17, James 4:9)
  • To let peace rule in our hearts (Col. 3:15)
  • To be kind, tenderhearted and compassionate (Ephesians 4:32)
  • To hate evil (Psalms 97:10)

God cares about our emotions

  • God of all comfort who comforts us in our afflictions (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
  • God of encouragement (Rom 15:5)
  • We are to cast our anxieties on Him because he cares for us (1 Pet 5:7)
  • We need not fear evil b/c his rod and staff comfort us (Ps. 23)
  • Puts all our tears in His bottle    (Is.56:8)
  • “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
God gives emotions for a specific purpose. They are necessary to know and relate to and glorify God.
— Sam Williams

Necessary for us to properly relate to God

Facilitates the 2 great commandments – love God with all we have - love others as readily as we love ourselves.

Full spectrum of emotions

  • Loneliness: “I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalm 25:16)
  • Love: “I love you, O Lord, my strength” (Psalm 18:1)
  • Awe: “Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him” (Psalm 33:8)
  • Sorrow: “My life is spent with sorrow” (Psalm 31:10)
  • Regret: “I am sorry for my sin” (Psalm 38:18)
  • Contrition: “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17)
  • Discouragement and turmoil: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 42:5)
  • Shame: “Shame has covered my face” (Psalm 44:15)
  • Exultation: “In your salvation how greatly he exults” (Psalm 21:1)
  • Marveling: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23)
  • Delight: “His delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:2)
  • Joy: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound” (Psalm 4:7)
  • Gladness: “I will be glad and exult in you” (Psalm 9:2)
  • Fear: “Serve the Lord with fear” (Psalm 2:11)
  • Anger: “Be angry, and do not sin” (Psalm 4:4)
  • Peace: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep” (Psalm 4:8)
  • Grief: “My eye wastes away because of grief” (Psalm 6:7)
  • Desire: “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted” (Psalm 10:17)
  • Hope: “Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalm 33:22)
  • Brokenheartedness: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18)
  • Gratitude: “I will thank you in the great congregation” (Psalm 35:18)
  • Zeal: “Zeal for your house has consumed me” (Psalm 69:9)
  • Pain: “I am afflicted and in pain” (Psalm 69:29)
  • Confidence: “Though war arise against me, yet I will be confident” (Psalm 27:3)
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.
Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him.
— Paul in Philippians 2

 

Love is the guiding principle. Why?

  • Made in His image
  • Roadmap to what we care about
  • Emotions follow your treasure
  • What you love shapes what you feel
- Alasdair Groves

Our emotions: fallen and distorted, like everything else

Two Ditches

“Feelings are everything”

  • Culture: Authenticity!
  • Church: Mountaintop!
  • Grain of truth? – Emotions matter

“Stiff upper lip”

  • Deny/dismiss 
  • “Lack of faith”
  • Grain of Truth: we’re not slaves to emotion / feeling bad is right - it can stir us to act

A middle way

  • Good sorrow and bad happiness are possible
  • Bad treasures
  • Embodied souls

- Alasdair Groves

It is true of course that people sometimes ‘follow their feelings” rather than thinking responsibly. But it is also the case that people sometimes follow rationalistic schemes that run contrary to what they know in their “ guts” (feelings) to be true. God gives us multiple faculties to serve as a set of internal system of checks and balances.
Sometimes reason saves us from emotional craziness, but emotions can also check the extravagant pretenses of reason….. {sometimes} feeling guides my reflection; my reflection refines my feelings.Those refined feelings provoke additional reflection and so on.
— John Frame

Reason – Redemption

In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3)

Conscience

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:14)

Emotions and affections 

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:7-8)
  • Emotions are an overflow of what we love
  • We can have bad emotions for a good reason
  • Wan have good emotions for wrong reason
  • Emotions can become self serving
  • Our loves can become distorted
  • We seek happiness in what cannot last

Table Talk

  • Are you aware of any of your own rules or beliefs about emotions ?
  • What points of the theology of emotions are most helpful for you to hear and why?

Goals

Engage, not embrace, avoid, change, fix, vent

Some Don’ts

  • Stew
  • Vent (speak in a way that makes the bad in your heart worse)
  • Blow up/clam up
  • Emotions are reality
  • Succumb or deny
  • Repress and repent

What can we do?

  • Notice!
  • Quiet ourselves, no technology
  • Identifying emotions
  • Listen To Your Thoughts and Daydreams
  • Identify Your “Little and Unimportant Hurts”
  • Record What Makes You Feel Strongly For Two Months

Memories That Won’t Go Away

Look at your most uncontrollable emotions… look for your idols at the bottom of your most painful emotions, especially those that never seem to lift and that drive you to do things you know are wrong. If you are angry, ask, “is there something here too important to me, something I must have at all costs?” Do the same with strong fear or despair or guilt.

Ask yourself “Am I so scared because something in my life is being threatened that I think is a necessity when it is not? Am I so down on myself because I have lost or failed at something that I think is a necessity when it is not?” When you ask questions like that, when you “pull your emotions up by the roots,” as it were, you will often find your idols clinging to them.
— Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods

 

  • Name it
  • Feelings wheel
  • Travel in packs
  • Brain based reasons

Begin to speak to God

Trust in Him at all times, you people, pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge Ps 62:8

What does God, in Christ , say to us here ?

Example: Self-condemnation

The lies… and the truth

  • I’m not wanted – You are wanted (Romans 8) 
  • I’m an idiot – you are a child of God (John 1:12, John 3)
  • You are an outcast – you are invited & belong (…for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:20)

Begin to hear

  • Deliverance comes from the voice of God, not our voice
  • Psalms
  • Crying out to God: I cry aloud… I pour out my complaint… I tell my trouble….
  • Asking for help: turn, deliver, save, answer, vindicate me, wash me,
  • Responding in trust and praise: but I have trusted in your steadfast love, my heart shall rejoice in your salvation, I will sing to the Lord for he has dealt bountifully with me

Practical Things

  • Take body / biology seriously.
  • Turn down streams of bad.
  • Don’t stew - dwell on emotion, derail.
  • Don’t vent- talk that reinforces the bad in your heart.

Self examine / repent

Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. 
- Jonathan Edwards, July 4, and 13, 1723

Engaging with God

Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton’s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119.
- Jonathan Edwards, July 26, Aug 10, Aug 17, 1723

Repentance

  • Don’t start there
  • Understand first
  • Heart that produced emotion, not healing the emotion
  • Recognize you need help
  • Medicating emotions

Hot, Cold, and Just Right

Surface waters

Limitations

Talk

  • To God
  • To self – why so downcast oh my soul? "But this I call to mind…" (Lamentations)
  • To others
Self aware, engaging
Other aware, engaging
God aware, God engaging
- Ken Sande

Engage

  • Engage the emotion
  • Engage the Living God - turn and listen
  • Psalms as playbook

Table talk

  • Which parts of this material are most inviting or helpful for you ?
  • What practical things    do you do that helps with your emotions?
  • (If there’s time) What have other people done or said that has not been helpful for you in dealing with emotions ?

Dealing with Others

  • Remember 2 great commands
  • Enter in: Essence of love
  • What is it like for them? (Not you)
  • Connect: let them know you have heard
  • Keep it simple

Avoid

  • Fixing
  • Changing
  • Invalidating when trying to encourage
  • Consider timing very carefully – Romans 8:28, true but not always helpful
  • Show the love of God, rather than just telling them about the love of God

Want to bring this to your group?

I'd love to bring this seminar (or another) to your church or group. Check out my Training page to learn about some of the topics I've taught on. Contact me through the form on that page - I'd love to talk with you about your group's needs and interests!

Loving Wisely (seminar)

I had the privilege of leading a seminar a few weeks ago:

Loving Wisely

Sharpening Your Relational Skills for Life and Ministry

This workshop provides practical, biblical guidance on how and why to:

  • assess your own style
  • be a better listener
  • strengthen your interpersonal skills
  • care wisely and biblically for others
  • encourage others
  • confront with grace and truth

We want to care well for others, but we are often hampered by our default modes of relating. Come learn some practical ways to strengthen your interpersonal skills to love others in a way that helps them flourish.

Audio

Here is the first 20 minutes of the seminar:

Outline

This is the full outline of my slides:

"And this is my prayer, that your love would abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight." (Philippians 1:9_

  • Telling people that God is good VS. showing them the love and goodness of God in how you treat them...
  • Wired to influence

  • Relationships are key 

  • Blindness
  • Grace
  • Dwelling deeply with God - bearing His image 
  • Heart more than skills

We want relationships that satisfy our personal wants and fears

  • Desires
  • Expectations
  • Demands
  • Punishment

Fundamental beliefs of manipulation

  • “I need you.”
  • “You are the problem.”
  • “That doesn’t work.”

Fundamental beliefs of honoring

  • “You belong to God, not me.”
  • “How can I build you up?”
  • “How can I learn from you?”

We want the relationship to change BUT God wants to change us through relationships

The two great commandments: to fail to love others well is a failure to love God well

Who are we?

  • Saint
  • Sinner
  • Sufferer

We can speak and act to…

  • Confirm our identity
  • Console and comfort afflicted people
  • Confront ways in which we do not live true to Gods character

Know your ditches!

  • Pride / Despair 
  • What are things that are hard for you in dealing with others? 
  • What kind of situations, things they say,  types of people or statements are you unsure how to respond to well? 

Eph. 4 :1-5

  • Vs 1 - Setting a godly example – vs 1
  • Vs 2 - Humility
  • Vs 2 - gentleness
  • Vs 2 - patience 
  • Vs 3-6 - harmony 

“With everlasting love, I will have compassion on you, says the Lord your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:8)

Compassion

  • “to suffer together”
  • Deep concern, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate that suffering
  • Consolation- “be with the lonely one" – action to alleviate or lessen grief, sorrow or disappointment

What’s it like? 

  • Hears us, inclines Himself toward us, present and available, so….
  • We listen, incline ourselves to others, be present and available with our ears, hearts, minds

EMPATHY

  • E- Enlist all faculties
  • M- move in physically, verbally and emotionally
  • P- Pray for discernment
  • A-Ask caring questions
  • T- think deliberately
  • H- help in meaningful ways
  • Y- yield your convenience, pride, resources

(Ken Sande)

  • What hinders your compassion? 
  • What actions have helped to lessen your grief, sorrow or disappointment? 
  • What helps you from others in times of any need or suffering? 
  • What is not helpful?  

The power of listening

  • Making a conscious effort to hear, absorb, pay attention to 
  • Other focused
  • Antonyms: ignore, disregard, forget, slight
  • Must listen to minister!
  • "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.: (Ephesians 4:29)

Advice

The best advice comes from people:

  • Who can say I don’t know
  • Who care
  • Who are slow to give advice

(Alasdair Groves)

“We live in a broken world where everything calls us to selfishness and despair. Sin steals joy, our bodies break down, our plans falter, our dreams die, our resolves weaken, our perspective dims. We are promised suffering, persecution and trials of various kinds.” (Garrett Kell)

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)

“And we urge you brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

Encouragement

  • Lift someone’s heart toward God
  • Bigger picture
  • Words that spur them on to :
  • Faith, love, hope, strength, unity, fruitfulness, perseverance
  • Build on the good that is already there

Be Intentional

  • Look at fears
  • Have a venue 
  • Daily goals
  • Be specific- not trite or generic
  • Don’t get discouraged

Using Scripture to encourage? 

Table Talk : When has someone used Scripture in a way that wasn’t helpful?

What made it not helpful? 

Listen

  • Empathetic presence 
  • Entry gates – how they are experiencing problem 
  • Listen well
  • Ask good questions
  • Affirm
  • Normalize 
  • Reframe
  • Summarize
  • Pray with and for 
  • What else? 

Confront

"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."  (Galatians 6:1)

  • Ask questions
  • Remind/ Exhort
  • Express concern
  • Warn and plead
  • Simple as you can 
  • Not to solve your problem of being annoyed with them

(Alasdair Groves)

Constancy

  • A biblical friend remains true and faithful through times of adversity. Trials have a way of sifting out the fickle from the faithful. A faithful friend is one who sticks with you and is, therefore, a treasure.
  • "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17).
  • "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24)
  • "Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?" (Proverbs 20:6).

Candor

  • A biblical friend speaks with frankness and honesty. There is no “secret love” in a true friend.
  • "Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy" (Proverbs 27:5-6).
  • "Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue" (Proverbs 28:23).
  • The New Testament affirms that a biblical friend is a true brother in Christ who loves enough to speak the truth in love (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1-3; Ephesians 4:15-16).

Carefulness

  • A biblical friend is one who exercises care in the relationship. He is careful in three areas:
  • Careful in his speech (Proverbs 25:20).
  • Careful in his timing (Proverbs 27:14; 25:17). “An uncareful friend does not know the inner topography of his friend’s heart.” (Tim Keller)
  • Careful in his stewardship (Proverbs 11:13).

Counsel

  • A true, biblical friend is one who gives faithful counsel to his friend for his ultimate good and God’s glory. He speaks what his friend needs to hear in order to be obedient to God’s Word. He speaks the truth, not merely what will “keep” a superficial relationship.
  • "Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed: (Proverbs 15:22).
  • "…for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory" (Proverbs 24:6).
  • "Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel" (Proverbs 27:9).
  • "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17)

(Jonathan Holmes)

Covenant & Commitment

Biblical friends demonstrate a loyalty to each other that transcends the world’s superficial commitment to spending time together solely because of mutual interests.

  1.     Time & Talk: Biblical friends spend time together, which includes heart-to-heart conversation.
  2.     Meals & Mingling: In the Bible, sharing a meal with someone is a means of showing them honor. Biblical friends honor one another with mingling over meal times together.
  3.     Intentionality & Pursuit: Biblical friendships do not develop through happenstance, but intentional relationship development.
  4.     Sacrifice & Service: Biblical friends sacrifice for each other and serve one another.
  5.     Prayer & Petition: Biblical friends pray for their friends, about their friends, and with their friends.
  6.     Asking & Inviting: If we want a biblical friend then we must ask someone for this friendship and invite them into our life.
  7.     Confrontation & Caring: A true friend speaks truth into his friend’s life, but does so with compassion. A biblical friend cares enough to confront his friends in love.

(Jonathan Holmes)

What’s ruling us?

  • Do people see His grace in my life and are drawn to Him because of it?
  • Listening, humility, and thoughtful questions – get you 75% of the way there!
  • Small things make a big difference!

Want to bring this to your group?

I'd love to bring this seminar (or another) to your church or group. Check out my Training page to learn about some of the topics I've taught on. Contact me through the form on that page - I'd love to talk with you about your group's needs and interests!

CCEF Live - Free online seminars

On the first four Tuesdays of August at 3pm EDT, CCEF will host live, one-hour, online workshops on a variety of topics relevant to personal ministry, relationships, and Christian growth. Utilizing a web conferencing service called Zoom, attendees will be able to hear and see CCEF speakers live, and will be able to chat in questions live during a moderated time of Q&A.

These online workshops are free of charge, and are meant to equip and encourage those who attend with biblically rich and practically helpful training. You can read more about and register for any of the online workshops below. Registration will include a bundle of free CCEF resources and session slides that will be emailed to you after the workshop. If you are unable to attend a session but want to watch it later, video will be available online after it airs at ccef.org/live.

Five Ways to Improve Communication in Daily Ministry

Tuesday August 9th | 3pm EDT

 

Emotional Rehab 101

Tuesday August 23rd | 3pm EDT

 

You Are a Priest: Considering an Underused Identity

Tuesday August 2nd | 3pm EDT

 

Teaching Kids about Sex and Personal Safety

Tuesday August 16th | 3pm EDT

Parenting Adult Children (seminar)

  • Are you perplexed or distressed at the choices your adult children make? 
  • Are you confused about who they have become and what your relationship can or should look like now? 
  • Wondering what your role should be as a Christian parent of adults?  

Earlier this year, I held a Saturday-morning seminar on parenting adult children. Topics included:

  • the big picture of God’s purposes for relationships
  • assessing the health and maturity of your relationship
  • exploring how our changing world impactsfamily relationships
  • clarifying goals and priorities
  • what to strive for and what to avoid
  • how to love well in disappointment or pain

Much of the audio contains information that is confidential to the participants, but here are the first 8 minutes, where you can get a feel for the direction of the seminar.

This is a seminar I would love to lead again! You can read some of the participants' feedback on my Training page.

How to Pray With Others: Ideas for Intercessory Prayer

This past weekend I was invited to help train the Prayer Intercessors at Faith Christian Fellowship. They are a volunteer team who are available to pray with people after each Sunday morning worship service at FCF. Here are my notes and the audio recording of my talk, in hopes that it might help you pray with others in a wise and helpful way.

How to Pray With Others

Things to consider

  • Warmly welcome: smile, make eye contact, give your first name, ask theirs.
  • Your purpose is to make the person asking for prayer feel listened to and cared for and prayed for without receiving advice or other forms of counsel.  It’s an opportunity to be with a person where they are at – and take their concerns to the throne of God.
  • All you really need is sincerity, compassion and a conviction about God’s goodness.
  • Use “we” when appropriate to communicate our need is essentially the same – we are not the ‘arrived’ who pray for the ‘needy’ – we are all in need of God’s grace.
  • Do a small amount of listening to get gist. It’s okay to ask them what specifically they might want prayer for in the midst of it.
  • Pray for the external situation and pray for them in the situation …
  • Ask before any touching – sometimes holding hands is okay, or a hug at end.  Use judgment, depending on how well you know person, their comfort level, gender dynamics, etc.
  • It’s okay to take a moment of silence before praying.
  • It’s a conversation with God, so talk as though He is in room (because He is!).
Ask God for what you want, by all means. But also ask God for what you’ll need if he doesn’t give you what you want.
— David Powlison
  • Pray scripture about God’s character, works and promises.
  • Prayers that enable them to live out the two great commandments – loving God and loving others.
  • Consider a structure if helpful, such as the comfort and the call of the gospel.
  • It’s okay to pray in generalities about things you don’t know (like how the trial is affecting them). There is much to pray for that is common to all of us.
  • Consider male / female dynamics, and whether both of you or just one of you will pray.
  • Keep requests confidential.
  • If person discusses anything troubling, ask if they want any follow up from a church leader if appropriate. Ask if you can get back to them after you have spoken with someone.
  • If an issue of safety comes up (like suicide or abuse), get another person involved right away. Ask if someone else can pray too. It’s ok to ask a specific question (like “Are you suicidal right now?”) if you’re not sure.

Things to avoid

  • Counseling God on how specifically to fix the situation.
  • Giving the person specific counsel through your prayer.
  • Imposing your own temptations and challenges into the prayer – they may be responding to the trial differently than you would.
  • Being long-winded or reflexively repetitive.
  • Using a lot of churchy jargon.
  • Don’t show a lot of sympathy; rather, if someone is telling you a hard situation, just show non-verbally that you understand.  It’s okay to say something like “that sounds hard,” then “Okay, well let’s take this to God.”
The older I get, the more I think that to pray with someone is the best gift you can give them.
— Kim Sutter

Resources mentioned

Dealing with Anxiety (audio & handouts)

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of leading a class on anxiety at Faith Christian Fellowship. 

This 4 week class takes us through Psalm 27 as a framework for looking at how anxiety affects us and how we can turn to God for help and hope. Topics include our role and God's role, contentment vs. anxiety, and how to help others who are anxious.