When we pray for the healing of mental illness for ourselves or someone else, there is a divine invitation to join with God in an unfolding story.
We pray for something wonderfully life-transforming. That is of course if you dare to pray that little bit deeper.
You listen to someone tell their story, their deep story. There is a mental illness involved. Complexity meets you and overwhelms any thought that you might have something to offer. Then they ask you to pray for them.
I’ve been in these situations many times and so often I feel like a hapless disciple that yearns to know how to pray.
Second thing, First thing
So often what people want me to pray for are ‘second’ things.
Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things. We never get, say, even the sensual pleasure of food at its best when we are being greedy. C.S. Lewis
- We want relief from the dark depressive cloud whereas God wants us to also know comfort and assurance.
- We want the waves of anxiety to become calm whereas God wants us to also grow in trust of them.
- We want the psychotic voices to go away whereas God wants us also to learn to recognize their voice and to train our brain.
Sometimes people have complained that I didn’t pray the way they wanted me to. They were expecting some magic formula power experience. They wanted hype whereas I prayed hope.
I pray in the context of ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done’ rather than ‘My kingdom, my will be done.’
God has a bigger story going on and we are invited to be part of it.
How to pray
How are we then to pray? Here are some ideas that might lead you.
1. Compelling vision.
Pray for a compelling vision for something greater than mere life working out, a reduction of symptoms, or for a panacea of quick-fix band-aids.
In the series of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, there is the central character of a great Lion called Aslan who is ‘not safe, but is good’.
Aslan is the character of Jesus. There is a beautiful line.
‘They say Aslan is on the move …’
We are to pray within the context and vision of Aslan, the great Lion, being on the move in our lives.
2. Synapses and Neurons
Pray for God to heal the very smallest of the relationships we have within ourselves.
Right where the signals in our brain are transmitted and received. Perhaps those brain cells aren’t talking well to each other so we pray for healing in the synapse.
That the signals passing from neuron to neuron would flow as they were always intended to be.
3. Healing of the subconscious
Pray for the river of our mind that runs deep.
Under all our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are a set of beliefs that we have formed from childhood.
Some are good and healthy while others may well be stealing life from you.
As David Riddell says
‘The chief thief is the belief beneath, the subconscious is always the power behind the decisions we make and the outcomes we experience’
4. Awareness of little by little changes
Pray for an awareness of the little changes that are happening.
We can so easily lose awareness of the good while looking for the great.
The little synaptic changes, the beliefs about life, and the attitudes we hold.
We are moving, with Aslan, but often we don’t recognize the overall movement towards wholeness.
When we become aware of these millimeter changes, we can give thanks and affirm the goodness of God in our life.
5. The ‘Next to them’ community
Pray for those who are the ‘and next to them’ people in the healing journey.
We have others around us all involved in the recovery process.
They may be professionals such as doctors, nurses, therapists, etc.
But predominantly the most influential will be the family, friends, work colleagues, etc. In my book ‘Broken to Built’ I talk about these relationships as the ‘and next to them’ relationships.
6. Strength for the ‘Narrow Path’
Pray for the moment by moment strength to walk what Jesus called the narrow path.
The first people to hear Jesus talk about this path would have seen a path that demands you to squeeze between huge rocks to get through.
A path that requires you to take off some of the baggage you have been carrying.
They are going to need strength beyond themselves to walk this path.
There are many more items to infuse into your prayers. Simply ask God to guide you into how to pray.
Quotes to Consider
- Prayer is openness to God in faith. It is allowing the life of God to flow into and through us. This is the faith that we receive as a gift when we turn in openness and trust to God. David Benner
- Prayer tills the soil of the soul and unearths the clods of stories that lie beneath the surface. Dan Allender
- We are unfinished creatures– longing, reaching, stretching towards fulfillment. We express these desires for completion in prayer. Eugene Peterson
Questions to answer
- What other directions about prayer would you add to this list?
- How do our expectations influence our prayers?
- What stirs within you when you hear the words ‘Alsan is on the move’?