How To Pray When You’re Feeling Depressed

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

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Prayer is hard at the best of times, but it’s hardest during anxious or depressed times. During such seasons, most of us find it hard to concentrate, we feel God is far away, and we despair of God hearing or helping us. All of this makes prayer so difficult and discouraging.

How can we make prayer easier and more encouraging to us in such dark and disturbing times? Here are five words I give to people to help them with the HOW of prayer when they are anxious or depressed:

  • Short: Better one minute of real, concentrated prayer than fifteen minutes of distracted, wandering prayer.
  • Frequent: Try to pray these short prayers throughout the day to keep you in contact with God. Perhaps set an hourly timer on your phone.
  • Simple: Pray like a hurting child to a loving father. You don’t need complex theological compositions.
  • Scriptural: When you can’t find any words of your own, use the words God has provided in the psalms, in the Lord’s Prayer, or in Paul’s prayers.
  • Together: Ask someone to pray with you when you can’t pray for yourself. Perhaps they can pray over the phone with you and you can piggy-back to the throne of grace on their words.


Five phrases to guide you when praying

If these five words help us with the HOW of prayer, let me give you five phrases to guide you in the WHAT of prayer.

You Are

You are sovereign, Lord. You are good, wise, strong, gracious, and faithful. You are my rock, my shepherd, my peace.

Depression and anxiety turn us in upon ourselves so that we get self-centered and sometimes self-obsessed. We see all our lacks and hurts. Prayer helps us to put God at the center of our lives instead, which not only gives us something better to look at than ourselves but also helps us to see everything else better, including ourselves.

That’s why we want to start prayer with worship, reminding ourselves of who God is and what God has done. We praise him using descriptions of his attributes and biblical images of his character. This changes what we see and how we see, giving us a God-centered view of our world and ourselves. That in itself is an encouraging and calming perspective.

I Am

I am the opposite of who you are, Lord. I am sad, anxious, and weak. I feel hopeless, helpless, and lonely. At times I don’t want to live. I know this is wrong, and I confess this to you. I am not who I want to be. I am not where I want to be.

Having begun with a God-centered worldview, we can then admit who and what we are and are not. Confession is simply telling God honestly who we are and where we’re at. God already knows, of course, without our telling him, but he still asks us to pour out our hearts to him. It honors God as the sympathizer with weakness and the forgiver of sins.

It is therapeutic for us to hear ourselves describe ourselves in the presence of the God who understands our frailties and who forgives our transgressions. Depression and anxiety bring a ton of guilt upon us (both false and real guilt), an oppressive load that crushes our spirits and closes our lips. Being honest and transparent about it before God begins to shift that load off our shoulders and on to Christ’s.

I Trust

Faithful God, although I don’t feel much faith or confidence in you, I will not be guided by my feelings. I trust you, Lord. I trust your word, your character, your faithfulness. I believe all that the Bible says about you, and I will recall your past faithfulness. I trust you, therefore, that you have not changed, though I have; that you are still here, though I don’t sense you; that you are my God, though I don’t feel like I’m your child. I trust your plan for me, and I rest in you as you carry me through these dark and disturbing days.

As songs like Psalm 42, 43, 37, and 73 demonstrate, expressions of trust build trust. The more we articulate our confidence in God, the stronger that confidence grows. And when we can’t say it with 100% certainty, we can always say, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Perhaps you can recall past times of God’s faithfulness to make your faith fuller.

God is honored and pleased with faith, especially when we are walking in darkness and have no light (Isa. 50:10). Some of my spiritual heroes are Christians who have battled serious mental illness and have held on to God and his word, even with the fingernail of their little finger. That’s far more difficult than trusting God when everything is going well for us, both internally and externally. It’s also more God-glorifying.

God can supply all our needs in the blink of an eye without our asking.

To be continued!

                                                                                                                                                                     Stay blessed!  

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