If there is one key idea behind using prayer to treat depression, it is this: “Let it go.”
Those who have felt the heavy hand of depression know the trapped feeling and the way it seems to smother all attempts to get out of the rut. The original anxieties and sadness that led to the depression become the fuel for the depression itself. Soon, we are wondering, “Will this ever end?”
The usefulness of prayer doesn’t depend on your religious practice. The essential element is a willingness to rely on a power beyond yourself and to pass the burden on.
Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish knight and founder of the Jesuits. Almost 500 years ago he wrote a prayer recited today for depression:
O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.
There are many examples in scripture where hopelessness and helplessness is a motivation to reach out to God. The word “prayer” means a special pleading to the king or lord of the manor. These are exactly the themes we still use, only we pray to that ultimate source of power.
In Proverbs, it reads (12:25), “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.” And this too is a remedy against the hopelessness that comes from depression. Connecting with other believers and asking for help. They can help through prayer and by offering emotional support. Because isolation and separation is another hallmark of depression, seeking support from the community is one way to beat it.
Pastors and priests are also good sources of support. Ask your minister to shepherd you through this time and pray with you. This will open the door to talking about your depression and connect you to other sources of help.
But along with reaching out to others, prayer offers us a direct means of getting support. Even a quick moment to yourself to “offer it up to God” can act as a mental and spiritual break from that hour’s unbearable burden or crisis. And once again we are back to the original premise: “Let go and let God.”