In many Christian circles, regardless of theology, there is
the belief that you can often pray your troubles away. There is a belief that
you can pray away financial troubles, family issues, physical illness, and yes,
mental health issues as well.
While I am very supportive of praying for people who go
through these different types of issues, I
think that it is extraordinarily important for me to use my past experiences
with mental health issues to address the notion that it’s not always as simple
as praying your mental health issues away, or that you are subject to
condemnation if prayer doesn’t take away your mental health issues.
You see, I was once one of those people who believed that if
I prayed long enough and hard enough, any stress or anxiety I felt about my
life would just go away. And honestly, in many of those cases, that was the
However, around the time of my grandpa’s death last fall, I
discovered that suddenly, it wasn’t quite that easy. Far from it. To the
contrary, no matter how much I prayed, I felt like I was sinking more deeply
into an abyss of mental health issues. In response, I prayed all the harder, and
yet I continued to struggle with unwelcome, unpleasant, and upsetting thoughts
and ideas, best known as intrusive
For a time, I suffered in silence—without a doubt the
absolute worst thing I could’ve done at the time. I was worried about condemnation
from others if I told anyone—condemnation for being a freak, for being weird,
for the fact that I didn’t pray hard enough for all of this to go away, for the
fact that I somehow didn’t rely on God enough. The last two of these fears, of
course, relate to this notion that you can just “pray it away” and that there’s
something wrong with you if you are not able to do that.
Thankfully, I was lucky to have a circle of loving family
members and friends (most of whom are Christians, by the way; these people probably
know who they are and these people mean the world to me) who didn’t condemn,
who didn’t subscribe to the aforementioned beliefs about mental health and
prayer. As a result, while my mental health is not always perfect (intrusive
thoughts do make a comeback from time to time, seemingly around times of great
change in my life), it has never reached quite the lows that it did around the
time of my grandpa’s death.
If I want people to learn anything from my story, it would
be that, regardless of whether you believe in the power of prayer (I certainly
do!), sometimes mental health is more complicated than praying the sickness
away, and we are being unjust to ourselves and others if we think it is always as
simple as praying something away. Sometimes, it’s significantly more
complicated than praying and requires support from family and friends,
counseling, and/or therapy. And you know what? That’s okay.
So for anyone out there who is trying to pray the mental health condition away but you feel like you’re failing at it, as I was, just know that you’re not a freak, you’re not condemned, you’re not having issues with “failing to pray hard enough,” and you’re not alone.
I’m a believer in Christ and proud of it. So yes, I am supportive of praying
for people who are going through different varieties of struggles, because I
pray for people going through different struggles all the time!
anyone is wondering what the “blind injustice” is, it’s that there’s a
widespread belief that there is somehow something wrong with you if prayer does
not cure you of your mental health issues.