Monday, January 6, 2014

12 Steps to Defeat Depression: Spirituality and Prayer Part 3

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray,...” Luke 11:1
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Prayer.

It’s the lifeblood of every believer—every follower of Jesus Christ.

It’s the lifeblood of every person who has a devotion to God.

It’s even the last resort for every agnostic fence sitter who hasn’t, can’t or won’t make a decision about what they believe or Who they believe in.

Jesus’ disciples ask Him a lot of questions, like what do his parables mean where is He going and why is He doing certain things, but it is His praying that seems to really grab their attention.

We don’t know why—whether it’s the way He prays, the power of His prayers, or how often He prayers—but prayer obviously grabbed the disciples’ attention, and they wanted Jesus to teach them how to pray.

Jesus doesn’t respond by giving them a lengthy, academic discourse on why they should pray or the benefits of prayer. What He says is: “When you pray, say:” and then launches right into what is famously known as The Lord’s Prayer,” but what is really a model prayer for his followers. (His personal prayer, recorded in the Book of John doesn’t look anything like this simple, get-right-to-the-point-and-cover-all-the-bases prayer recorded in the Book of Luke.)

Immediately Jesus takes the position that, 1) Prayer is important, (we can glean that from how often he prays); and 2) He assumes His disciples pray.

His disciples prayed then, and they should be praying now.

Just how important is prayer? One look at the Bible tells you. The Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) is filled with the beseeching, praising prayers of the Old Testament saints. The New Testament is full of powerful examples of them too. James, the brother of Jesus and author of the Book of James, was called “Old Camel Knees” because he was said to have spent so much time on his knees in prayer.

Martin Luther is thought to have said: I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.  

In his first epistle to the Thessalonica church, Paul instructs the believers to “pray without ceasing.”

And it’s worth noting that research indicates that people who pray have happier, healthier lives, and they are more likely to survive catastrophic events and illnesses, and live longer. (If you’d like a fascinating read on this subject, get the book, The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life, by Ben Sherwood.)

I think you get the point. Prayer makes a difference in your life.

*But what exactly is prayer? It’s a reasoning-together between a Father and His child, a Lord and His follower; a deep, heartfelt conversation between two friends.

When you’re deep in depression, it may feel to you as if nothing will make a difference in your life. Everything is so bad that nothing is going to fix it. Not even prayer. Nothing looks good to you, outside or within. You’re unhappy, miserable, dejected. You feel as if the entire world is against you and you’re going nowhere. And, often, you don’t care about the going-nowhere-part, because you don’t possess enough energy to care.

It’s at this point that you may need one of the most beautiful, effective prayers ever recorded in the Bible. It’s the one Peter says, (actually, he probably screamed), when he starts walking across the water, takes his eyes off Jesus and gets a good look at and earful of the howling wind and begins to sink.

It’s dramatic, and a little humorous. Peter gets right to the point. “Lord, save me,” he yells. And Jesus immediately stretches out His hand and catches Peter, to keep him from drowning. But Jesus gets in a lesson when He does it. He says to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

And that is often the crux of our depression problem.

Doubt.

Doubt in others. Doubt in ourselves. And, yes, even doubt in God.

Things happen, and the world doesn’t revolve exactly the way we think it should, or our life doesn’t go according to our plan. We get thrown horribly off-balance and don’t make the right adjustments, don’t think rightly about our situation.

In the end, we fall into the trap of judging our current situation—and then projecting the outcome of it—by our own limitations, and often forget about God—who has none. Or we simply project our limitations upon Him, thinking or believing He really can’t do any more than we have done to change the situation.

Before I go on, let me insert here that I do not believe for a second that all illness, including mental illness like depression, is caused by sin in someone’s life. I think to believe that is to blatantly ignore Jesus’ own comment on the subject, and to disregard the story of Job. Certainly all sin, illness, physical, mental, material and spiritual deterioration and death entered the world through one man, Adam. But constantly telling ourselves, or listening to someone else tell us, that we’re sick or depressed because of our own sin—or someone else’s—actually causes us to wallow in self-pity, denies the lifesaving power of the cross, and forfeits the redeeming, saving work Christ did there! *(See footnote at bottom of page.)

Again and again, especially when I am suffering the most, I remind myself of what Paul says to the young pastor, Timothy: “For God has not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (My emphasis.)

If I believe that verse, then I must reason that something, or someone, has stolen my (spiritual) power and sound mind from me—or I’ve let them have it—and I want to do everything in my power to recover them!

Whether we admit it or not, recognize it or not, pay heed to it or not, we are all involved in a raging spiritual warfare, with hidden land mines planted everywhere, so I shouldn’t be surprised when those mines explode and send my life helter-skelter. And when it happens, I should instinctively know what I must do to fight on to win.

Pray.

For I believe it is through the magnificent, healing power of prayer that you and I can gain victory over depression and debilitating grief.

I believe praying is the single most important activity you do in your life, after accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, because it is the most life-changing activity. Praying, more than anything else, has the power to alter and restore your life! 

And right now some of you may be asking, “Andrea, what is prayer? What does it look like?" The short answer is: It’s a reasoning-together between a Father and His child, a Lord and His follower; a deep, heartfelt conversation between two friends.

Next week we’ll get more specific. I’ll cover what I believe are the most effective prayer strategies and why I believe them to be the most effective. But if you want to get started right now, begin by opening up your Bible and researching the subject. Find some of those powerful prayers uttered by the saints. Go through Psalms and see what David and the other psalmists had to say in their prayers. If you have a concordance, start with a word search.

And if you’re really struggling in depression and sadness, and find strength and motivation in extremely short supply, you can always follow Peter’s example.

“Lord, save me!”

If you do, you can be assured that He will!

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Until next week,

Thanks or joining me!

Blessings,

Andrea  

* Depression has a myriad of causes. And as I’ve pointed out in the past, one of the causes is due to a chemical imbalance, which is sometimes so severe that it warrants medication. If you need the medication, TAKE IT, but make sure you are simultaneously working through other avenues to recover.