On Prayer


Credit: Arina Krasnikova, Pexels

Priscilla Doran, Contributing Writer, Hixson TN

When mental health is discussed, many professionals bring up options like therapy, self care, and counseling.* However, those aren’t the only choices when it comes to dealing with mental health.

If you are spiritual, Prayer is a good way to sort out your thoughts. One of the best parts? It’s just you and God. No appointments, tests, or payment needed. With God, you can be more yourself than with anyone else, for he already knows you. And you can talk anytime, anywhere.

So what is prayer?

Prayer is an act of belief. Anyone who prays must believe someone listens. That is all you truly need.

When you do, it becomes, to use a phrase, “deep dialogue with the divine.”

How do I pray?

Prayer is diverse, from heartfelt confession to silent cries to rituals.

Check the end of this article for a list of methods from each major religion.

Not religious? Prayer is still for you. Once again, belief is all you need.

So how will this help me?

Other beneficial parts of prayer, when it comes to mental health, is it helps you distinguish between what you can do something about, and what you must accept.

Habitual prayer has results, too. “One large population study, led by Harvard Professor Tyler VanderWeele, found that young adults who prayed daily tended to have fewer depressive symptoms, and higher levels of life satisfaction, self-esteem, and positive affect, in comparison to those who never prayed.” (Psychology Today).

Prayer reminds us life is about more than what we can see. Belief may sound foolish, but our lives are based on it. The belief that school will happen tomorrow, that you will not die tonight, that your aunt who lives in England, whom you cannot see, is real. If we believed nothing, why would we do anything?

Belief is central to life, and prayer reminds us of it. 

One of the worst parts of mental illness is being trapped in your mind. Prayer lets someone in, so you aren’t alone.

Is it always easy?

From my experience, nothing good is always easy–whatever it is.

If it’s hard to confront a friend or talk to a counselor about your problems, it’s also hard to face them on your own in prayer! I remember a time this summer where I was full of grief–great doubt about my life, worth, goodness–if I was redeemable at all. Going to God in prayer was honestly the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t want to acknowledge that I felt this, let alone confess to God.

But I did. Did I want to? No! This was a place of suffering. But through prayer, I healed. I knew: someone heard me. Someone listened. Someone cared. And I rose from the floor with peace; an unexplainable peace.

Resources on Prayer:

Christian. Being Christian, I know most about this type of prayer. Christian prayer advocates for direct communication with God–no rituals, no recitations (unless you want them); just you and God. Christianity states that because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we can come to God and confess everything, any time. (Heb. 4:14-16).

Different types of prayer exist within Christian prayer. Personally, I journal to God–it’s literally a diary entry, but to him. Like a letter. Others use the Lord’s Prayer, meditation, or prayer walks. I suggest trying all of these!

Nonreligious. Are you interested in prayer, but not religious? Honestly, I have been here myself. Institutionalized religion has negative associations for many.

But don’t let that hold you back. If you’re not religious, prayer is still for you–all you need is to believe someone listens. Voicing yourself to anyone or anything good can be much the same as prayer.

If you believe someone listens, anything goes. As with Christian prayer, I recommend journaling, quiet times of speaking, or meditation to listen. If you feel called, I would explore researching their character (through any source you wish) to understand them better–all without having to call yourself religious.

Islamic. Prayer is considered one of the five canonical pillars of Islam. You can say them individually if you are unable to go to a mosque. The first prayer is performed before sunrise, the second just after noon, the third in the late afternoon, the fourth immediately after sunset, and the fifth before retiring to bed. Verses from the Koran may be recited during these prayers. Most famous form of prayer is called the Salah.

A helpful article for getting started in Islamic prayer can be found here, which distinguishes between different types of prayer and how to start. There is also a resource for the recitation of Islamic prayers created by members of its faith, which I found here. Other insights on Islam can be found in its text, the Koran.

Buddhist prayer varies. In Tibetan Buddhism, for example, people craft prayer flags. Much of Buddhist prayer is related to meditation. If you are interested in this, I suggest researching Buddhist philosophy, and its relation to yoga/meditation. It is heavily mantra based and directed towards Buddhist gods. Sometimes mala, or prayer beads, are used.

Hindu prayer focuses on the chanting of mantras, and includes yoga and meditation. Hindu prayer is very individualistic with some chanting mantras and others performing invocations for popular gods and goddesses. Meditation is a very common form of prayer in Hinduism.

*(Note: If you are dealing with a severe mental health issue, seek help from others as well).