While there are certainly some issues that are related to our past, we are not all traumatized in childhood. We all have issues to deal with from upbringing, but the solution is not always to fester on the past and dig for the one moment where everything went array. This is a myopic approach to healing. To pigeonhole the work of healing by only focusing on the past, runs the risk of causing someone to ruminate on their wounds and a prayer life that only looks inward. Moreover, it is a modern version of Gnosticism because it is trying to find that one secret memory that will bring about healing/salvation.
This approach to healing does not inherently lead someone outside of himself or herself, which is a central tenet of JPII’s thought. As many of you well know, JPII often quotes from Gaudium et Spes, 24:3, where it says that “man… cannot fully find himself except through the sincere gift of himself.” The Program for Priestly Formation (80) states that human formation is a three-fold process of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and self-gift. Nowhere does the late Holy Father or the USCCCB speak about staring at your wounds as the primary source of divine healing. Yes, we need to reflect on our past but that is different than constantly digging and hoping to find that one memory that will unlock it all. To overly focus on it is erroneous and disregards the mystery of the person and God’s salvific work in their soul. I believe that the methods adopted in these types of healing prayer ministries overly focus on the first of the aforementioned three-fold process of human formation and fails to take into account the fuller picture of human growth. Yet, by confusing the fundamentalist Christian approach of “inner healing” for the fullness of truth, it leads to hurt, confusion and manipulation of the recipients of these methods. In other words, there needs to be more balance and focus on the growth of virtue and self-gift; which is where man comes to discover who he truly is and the realization of his full potential.
Furthermore, I know that these methods are branded as “just prayer,” but I do not find this to be the case; rather I believe that they are psychotherapeutic interventions. To just pray for someone’s healing is simply that, offering an intercessory prayer to the Lord, petitioning him, yet leaving room for his response. Benedict XVI does a far better job at articulating this type of petitionary prayer for healing in his book, A School of Prayer (p312). Explicitly guiding someone through their personal memories crosses a line and is an intervention that requires skilled hands. We must be clear with our terms; Inner Healing Prayer is more akin to a guided meditation of memories than “just praying” for someone.