Professional: Do pastors feel prayer alone can fully heal depression?
On the surface, that seems like a difficult question, but it’s actually an impossible one. If you don’t mind, I’m going to side-step this question and come to an answer from a different angle.
First of all, I don’t think that prayer heals anything. Prayer is simply speaking with God, putting our requests before him. I can order my pizza through a app on my phone, but neither the app nor the act of submitting the order makes the pizza appear. Someone on the other end must receive the request and respond.
Prayer is the method by which we bring our requests to God. He then responds according to His will, His plan to bring glory to His name and eternal good to our soul. So, right off the bat, I’d like to make it clear: prayer doesn’t heal anyone of anything.
Now, God can, will, and has healed us of any disease or infirmity that might befall us, but that doesn’t mean that He always will. Knowing this, we must pray, asking God for healing, whatever the need my be, having faith that God loves us, hears us, and will heal us–the time of which is what trips us up. God reserves the right to hold our healing in reserve for the day we cross over into eternity, when our body and soul will receive their resurrection. When this is the case, our response must be clear and can be broken down into three steps:
Prayer is the method by which we bring our requests to God… prayer doesn’t heal anyone of anything.
- Seek godly help in the here and now.
If it is God’s will that our healing should wait, then we must avail ourself of all the wisdom and supports we can in this life, not as a means to get around the will of God but as a way of making it through this life. It strikes me as odd that we talk about stewarding our money, time, and even bodies, but we don’t seem to think that we need to steward our minds. If a parishioner’s body was unwell, we’d encourage them to seek help, to care for the body entrusted to them by God. How is it any different for the mind?
- Explore the source and search for solutions.
What is the source of your depression? Is it the result of negative thought patterns that have been with you for some time? Is it a chemical issue? Are there practical steps, personal care techniques, or other habits you could develop that could help you gain some control over your symptoms? These, of course, are questions that you’ll have to answer in cooperation with loved ones and even medical professionals. It’s highly unlikely that anything, including therapy and medication, will complete remove all of your symptoms. The goal is to bring them under some level of control so that your can live a relatively normal life.
- Be honest.
There’s a lot pressure in the church to pretend that everything works out. Recently, Nabeel Qureshi, the Christian apologist, died of stomach cancer. A month or so earlier, I showed his testimony at church, which ended with him discussing how his conversion had cost him his family. I cannot tell you how frustrated I was with the number of people who came up afterward to ask if his parents had become Christians now. The answer was “no,” and I took that moment to remind them that not everyone’s story ends with a “and we all got saved and lived happily ever after in the suburbs.” The pressure to pretend that all of our prayers are answered and the struggle isn’t real will never go away until we are willing to share our weaknesses.
My name is Phil Schneider, and I’ve suffered from mild depression and anxiety for years. I spoke about it at my church just under a year ago, and since then, I’ve heard from many that they, too, suffer and were afraid to admit it. This is a sad statement of affairs, as we are the Church, the family of God, where we all stand equally before the cross, fully acknowledging our equal need for a Savior. We are all spiritually destitute and dead. Where’s the shame in admitting that we are otherwise in need?
If I can return to the original thought at the beginning of this overly long article, I want to reiterate that we should bring all of our needs, fears, and concerns to God in prayer. We may not see the answer we are seeking in this life, but let’s let God judge the timing and the manner of His response. Ours is not to filter our requests by likelihood of His “yes” but to offer them up, and in so doing, remind ourselves of out utter dependence upon Him.