The Way to Mental Health
IF YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE PEACE instead of anxiety, courage instead of fear, a sense of well-being instead of shame, hope instead of despair, and joy in place of the blues there is a way. It isn’t a one-time solution; it really needs to be applied regularly to work. And, as with physical health, this way to mental health takes effort. But don’t worry; you will get daily reminders that the effort is needed. You will know it is needed every time you feel anxious, fearful, ashamed, despairing and blue. And God will regularly schedule these things because he so much wants you to habitually come to him. So, that should give the secret away.
Prayer, done well, is the way to mental health. I’ve no doubt that we may need other helps at times (counselors and medicine) but the heart of mental health is God himself and he is found in the practice of prayer done well. Jesus taught us how to do that when he gave us the “Lord’s Prayer”. After 24 years of praying almost daily according to its themes and priorities I can vouch that it will quite consistently bring you in mere minutes from a bad place to a good place. Every theme in the Lord’s Prayer is good for mental health. That is not the main reason for praying (a relationship with God is) but it is a happy by-product.
For example, when we pray the theme “Our Father” we are acknowledging to God the relationship we have with him, what that means to us and how we feel about it. (This presupposes we have come to trust and follow Jesus and so received power to become God’s children. It won’t work otherwise.) As we do so in the face of something difficult, the Spirit of God communicates to our souls an assurance that it is true and that brings joy, peace, and a sense of security. When we pray the theme “in heaven” we are acknowledging to our “Father” his absolute sovereignty and many perfections, what they mean to us and how we feel about them. Our lives are in his control and he is working in everything for our good. Again, the Spirit of God will affirm our confession to our souls so that we know it is true. When we pray the first petition as our first priority – “hallowed be your name,” (may you be known, enjoyed, and honored for your perfections) – the Spirit of God helps us to care more for his honor than anything and so we are mercifully enabled to let go of things we otherwise feel a desperation to hold on to. So much worry and fear go away with that.
In a word, prayer done rightly creates faith. You become confident in God’s love so you feel secure. You are sure that his love is backed by his power and wisdom and so nothing intimidates. You put him and his honor first and so you escape the desperate clinging to things that causes fear and frustration. He wants our mental health and so he will help us pray when we make the effort. May you be blessed with joy and peace as you follow the only prayer model ever commanded by Jesus (Matthew 6:9ff), the “Lord’s Prayer.”