I remember telling people I suffer from depression. They told me to pray harder. I even read recently that those with Christ in their heart don’t suffer from depression or other mental health problems. Some truly believe that with God and prayer, you won’t suffer physical health problems either. Well, obviously, Christ is not in my heart… or I just simply don’t know how to pray… or I don’t pray enough… or at the right time of day… or with enough faith…
Or perhaps, they just have it all wrong.
Perhaps prayer does not take away every problem in our lives. Perhaps prayer was never meant to do that.
To me, prayer is meant to bring us closer to God. It is our way of communicating with Him. We speak to Him… He speaks to us. It’s a conversation. I don’t go to God simply when I want enough money to cover my bills… with a little left over to buy that new pretty dress. I don’t go to God simply because my child is ill. I don’t go to God expecting him to obey my every whim and desire. I have complete faith that He could make my husband’s health problems go away; and He could cure my father-in-law. Heck, He could even make my parents decent people. But what right do I have to tell Him to do these things? What right do I have to ask anything from Him? What right do I have to EXPECT anything from Him?
Granted, I do still ask for things – I ask for healing. I ask for peace. I ask for comfort. But I also make sure to give Him praise for all He has done in my life. I make sure to just sit in bed at night and talk to Him. I make sure to spend my days loving others as He has done for me and as He guides me to do. I make sure to speak to Him and listen to Him as often as I can (although, I must be honest… I’m much better at speaking than listening).
Sometimes I get mad at Him. Sometimes I thank Him. Sometimes I beg His forgiveness for things I have done wrong – for times I have hurt Him and/or others. Sometimes I plead to Him. Sometimes I simply cry to Him. Sometimes I sing (which I should be asking forgiveness for) and dance in joy for the grace and love He continues to give me. Many times I do some combination of the above.
Martin Luther suggests that one should recite the 10 Commandments, the Creed, and perhaps a few words of Christ as a prayer. I’ve read many others also say to recite memorized prayers and incantations. I’m not strictly against regurgitating words we’ve learned (often as children)… words we’re forced to memorize in our confirmation classes… but I don’t believe this is enough. Memorized texts – whether Creeds, prayers, psalms, Commandments, etc – help bring our focus back to God. This is especially necessary when we feel ourselves growing distant and unable to pray. But then we must take it further. It is not enough to recite these words. We must allow ourselves to feel the words, and believe the words, and then speak to God.
Don’t have the words to speak to Him? Then just focus on Him and open your heart, and let God listen to the silent cry within you. I find myself doing this often when my soul is in turmoil – when I’m blanketed by chaos and darkness and fear – when the words fail to escape for one reason or another.
Another way to pray, which is very similar to reciting what is above, is to sing hymns/songs of God. But like other memorized texts – it isn’t enough to spit out memorized lyrics. You must feel the lyrics, and believe what you’re singing, sing them to the Lord, and then reflect on the lyrics and on God, and speak to Him.
God listens to those who speak to Him from the heart. He does not always give us what we ask for – but we must always remember to give Him praise and thanksgiving for what He does give us. And we must remember not to expect anything from Him – He is not hear to serve our every whim and desire. And we must remember to not only pray when we’re sick or in need. We must converse with Him every chance we get and in every way we can.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the blessings you have bestowed upon me, and which you continue to bestow. Your grace and love and constant presence in my life and by my side gives me strength in my weakest moments, and shines a light on my path during my darkest days. For this and so much more, I praise your name. Please continue to stand with me and be that light and strength and comfort.
In Jesus’ name,