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Awareness of mental health disorders has been growing for quite some time. We see more people—celebrities and politicians as well as friends and neighbors—coming out of the darkness to speak about their depression, anxiety, or other internal struggles that they have kept hidden for years.
Rather than rare, the latest statistics indicate that one in five Americans suffers from some form of mental illness in a given year. About half of them also have a substance abuse issue, a co-occurring disorder known as a dual diagnosis.
Mental health problems can be debilitating to a person’s life, to how they manage relationships with others, and it can even be a strong factor if a person thinks their life is worth living. There are many ways to get support for mental health, such as counseling, support groups, therapies, and dual diagnosis rehabilitation centers.
One powerful tool that should not be overlooked is prayer. Whether you are a Christian or not, prayer is an effective tool to find peace even in times of solitude. While it would be foolhardy to expect to cure mental illness or drug addiction purely through petitioning the Lord, it can be an important part of the overall treatment plan.
How can prayer help in my mental health?
1. Prayer works. The power of prayer, the Bible tells us, is that it is a direct communication to God: “And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:15, ESV). As long as our hearts are pure about our prayers, and we are sincere about what we are asking for, God is ready to listen and help us.
This does not mean that God will answer our prayers right away, or that his answer won’t be “No”. However, God can give us the peace we need in order to overcome any challenges that may come our way. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7, ESV).
2. Prayer can communicate things we cannot express in words. Are you at a low point in your life where no words seem suffice to express your feelingsof grief, despair, or hopelessness? Prayer offers the opportunity to seek comfort in God. Prayer need not use words. Sometimes, even a cry or sitting in silence while asking God for help will do.
If you have surrendered your life to Jesus and consider him your Lord and Savior, he gives you his helper called the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit intervenes for us and helps us communicate to God what we cannot put in words. Romans 8:26 (ESV) says: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
3. Prayer helps relieve anxiety. Often, we are anxious about the things that go on in our lives. Whether there is a loss, a sudden change, or just the constant bombardment of difficulties, our hearts and minds can be overwhelmed and we long for peace.
God, however, does not want us to carry these burdens on our own. In fact, He invites us to surrender our anxieties to him—whether big or small. There is nothing too small or large that you can’t present to God, even mental illness or substance abuse. He invites us to cast all our burdens on him: “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7, ESV).
Connect with God and find peace through prayer
Prayer does wonders, not only for your mental health but also for the enrichment of your life. If you don’t know how to start, simply come to God as if you were talking to a friend. With an open and sincere heart, he is listening and he cares. Find peace through prayer and make it a habit to communicate with God daily.