I’ve written about difficult experiences with depression and anxiety before. When you are feeling really low or experiencing panic attacks due to mental illness, it’s easy to feel alone.
No matter what, I want you to know that you are not alone in this battle. You ALWAYS have God. He has promised to always be there for us when we cry out to him for help. You can also reach out to your friends, family and church if you are struggling—they should be there to help you navigate difficult times.
But, today I want to talk about how to pray when you are feeling low or depressed.
Will God Answer My Prayer?
You might feel as if God is far away or won’t hear you. He has promised to listen to his children, though his answer might not be what you are looking for right away.
It would be disingenuous to promise you that he will always change your circumstances if you pray. Sometimes he changes your heart and perspective instead.
He doesn’t always rescue us out of every mire, but he does promise to stay with us through even our darkest moments. He often uses the hardest times to refine us, helping us grow in ways we never would have grown during times of ease and comfort. He does not want his children to feel pain, so you can rest assured that he does care deeply about your hurt or depressive episodes.
The Bible says we should ask him for help.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6
This isn’t telling us to save up our requests for only the “really big things,” but to come to him with everything. At the same time, God isn’t some vending machine in the sky just waiting to grant our wishes—he desires a personal relationship with his children.
Throughout the scriptures, there are many examples of God requiring faith from his people. James explains that the people he is writing to are often ignored because they are either asking with bad motives or not asking at all!
“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” – James 4:2-3, NIV
Even the 12 disciples struggled with this. When they tried to drive out demons, their attempts failed. Jesus told them “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)
How to Pray When You Feel Depressed
There is a power in prayer that might seem far-fetched if you haven’t experienced it. You may feel that prayer is the last thing you need right now and you just don’t have the energy for it. But, I’d like you to see that nothing could be further from the truth.
When you pray to your Heavenly Father, it should be a million times easier than picking up the phone to call your best friend (I know that can be hard too, if you are feeling depressed). But, praying to God only requires two things: humility and genuineness.
Sometimes, you won’t even know what words to use and that is okay too. The Holy Spirit of God often intervenes for us when we are reaching out without the right words or a full grasp for what we need. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8: 26)
Keep it Short
Yes, short prayers can be EXACTLY what you need—especially when you are struggling or experiencing the heaviness of depression. Sometimes, we think our words should be big and meaningful—going on for a long time. But, God has shown us that meaningful prayers are often more about the intent than the delivery.
Keep it Simple
If you haven’t noticed, these three points are nearly the same. But, it is hard for us to break our mentality from the expectation that we are to present something grand to God. How silly we are! What does God need from us? We can’t add anything to him with our words or deeds. So, we should come like children and let go of our pride in his presence.
If your child was hurting, how would they come to you for help? You don’t need complex theological posturing or recited platitudes. In fact, those often get in the way.
Just look at the example of the tax collector and Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14. The tax collector was typically the local thief and oppressor, while the Pharisee was supposed to be the highly religious teacher. While the Pharisee prayed a verbose and self-promoting prayer, the tax collector took a much shorter (and more humble) approach. “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”
It’s SO easy to get distracted and forget our prayer life. Just like anything else important in your life, set reminders to help keep you on track. You may stick Post-It notes around the house with little prompts for every morning and evening. Or, you might put an hourly alarm in your phone. Each time it goes off, stop and pray your short and authentic prayer. These can certainly be walking prayers—you don’t have to be on your knees to reach God.
When you are feeling stuck for words, praying from a Bible verse can be very helpful. The scripture might be one that identifies with your pain and gives you words for your frustration. Or, it might speak of the greatness of God and spark gratitude. All scripture can be used for prayer and reflection. Here are a few examples:
“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11
“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.” – Psalm 130:1-2
“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” – 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9
Avoid any toxic relationships that may make this time harder for you and focus on reaching out to those family members and friends who care deeply for you. Ask them to pray for your mental health, especially if you are struggling to pray for yourself. They may be willing to take your prayer request before God with you over the phone.
What a Prayer for Depression Should Include
There are some really helpful things that you should consider including in each prayer. These aren’t made up by me—they are included in the prayer example that Jesus gives when someone asked how they should pray.
Praise and Worship for God
So often, our feelings of depression and anxiety are strongest when our inner self is fighting for the spotlight. Sometimes, our brain just isn’t working right and we start to feel self-obsessed. Prayer offers an incredible opportunity to put God back into the center of our lives. This doesn’t mean forgetting ourselves, but rather remembering ourselves.
We can focus on gratitude and thanksgiving to help us have a balanced perspective. Putting into perspective who God is can help us remember who we are: his children, whom he loves unconditionally.
“O Lord, all-powerful creator of life…”
“Jesus Christ, savior of the world…”
“Dear Lord, our Father in Heaven…”
Confession of Weakness and Pain
Tell God what hurts. Just like a child comes running right to you with just about every scratch and bump, you should go to God. Nothing is too small to talk to him about. When you get into the habit of taking everything to him, you will find it is easy and natural to find your comfort and answers right there. This often helps the little things from even becoming the big things.
God made us and knows how therapeutic it is to describe our own weaknesses, failures, pains and fears. This helps us move the load off of our own shoulders and into the hands of God.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7
Expressions of Trust
Expressing why you trust God can help you with actually trusting God. If you are struggling with faith, this is a really important thing to ask for. But, he has promised to give us good things—including faith—if we ask for them. So, ask as if God is already giving it to you:
“Thank you for giving me the faith to believe in your power and love.”
Requests Specific to Your Struggle
Ask for what you really want and need! Be honest about what you think that is. And then, I like to pray two prayers to help me stay open to things I haven’t considered:
“If there is anything that I am doing that is adding to my depression, please help me see what it is and stop.”
“If there is anything that I could add to my life to reduce my depression, help me to know what it is and be able to do it.”
I also often ask him to send angels to cover me and bring comfort. I find this energy is very helpful when I am struggling. I’ve also asked him to send angels to guard other loved ones in my life.
Thanksgiving for His Lovingkindness
Depression can make it very hard to see the good in our circumstances. So, make the effort to think of something you are thankful for right now—something that is going right in your life.
In many cases, this won’t take away the hurting, but it can absolutely help us have a healthier perspective. God has done great things for you that might include:
- People or pets in your life
- Music and art you enjoy
- Wild animals you enjoy watching (like the birds or squirrels)
- Sunshine, rainbows, flowers (these sound trite, but aren’t!)
- Promises of hope for the future
- A true and ultimate example of love
You can walk around your home, neighborhood or yard just to gather inspiration. Ask God to help you see what you may be blind to or ungrateful for. Sometimes, we take really wonderful parts of our life for granted.
“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” – Benjamin Franklin
You CAN Heal!
I need to say here: I am a fan of medication when it works.
God has given us amazing medical breakthroughs that we should absolutely use. This is not a substitute for taking medication or seeing a healthcare professional. But medication should be supplemented with healthy lifestyle changes, like diet and prayer.
Many of these things on prayer I share in Remembering Wholeness, which you can order right here.
I highly recommend my oil: I am joyful. This essential oil blend can help shift your brain with a mood lifter that supports positive and energetic feelings.
Through the power of God’s grace, miracles absolutely happen. I believe God requires us to play a big role in our own lives. He rarely just “zaps” a solution—he typically requires us to act.
When you are facing debilitating depression, your brain just isn’t working quite right. You would do physical therapy for a leg that wasn’t working correctly—not just ignore it or cut it off! In the same way, you need to work through your depression, using prayer, modern medicine and therapy for healing.
I hope you will join me in the Carol Tuttle Healing Center and try out my Healing Plan for Depression with your FREE two-week trial. Depression is often a lifestyle, and you likely have a lot of learned behavior around it that you need to change.