A Counsellor’s Prayer
In our walk with God, prayer is one of the essential tools. For more than two thousand years, prayer has taken many forms, such as praying in tongues, praying with our breath, praying for healing, thanksgiving or salvation, and others. In a clinical environment, however, prayers are often used as a coping mechanism.
We will discuss how counsellors can use prayer to help clients and how pastors can foster mental health.
Statistics of Prayer in Counselling
A journal article that ran in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality in 2011 titled National Trends in Prayer Use as a Coping Mechanism for Health Concerns: Changes From 2002 to 2007 looked at how often prayer was used as a coping skill when an individual had a health problem and if it is something that can be used in a counselling session. This quote is from the paper:
In the United States, the use of prayer to improve one’s health has been widespread (43%) over the past 12 months. Prayer (including prayer for self, others, and participation in a prayer group) is the third most frequently utilized alternative medicine practice (Barnes, Powell-Griner, McFann, & Nahin, 2004). Prayer is also widely used to address health concerns by individuals with various physical and mental conditions (Saydah & Eberhardt, 2006). There are several positive forms of religious coping, including seeking spiritual support, increasing spiritual connection, asking for forgiveness from God, and collaborating with your religious community (Pargament, Smith, Koenig, & Perez, 1998). Positive religious coping procedures, such as prayer, generally improve perceived mental and physical well-being and objectively measured outcomes (Pargament et al., 2004; Wachholtz and Pargament, 2005, 2008).
National Trends in Prayer Use as a Coping Mechanism for Health Concerns: Changes From 2002 to 2007. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. 2011, Vol. 3, No. 2. p. 67-68
It discusses how individuals can improve locus of control and self-regulate one’s thoughts and emotions in crises. Later, the report reads, “Increased prayer use was linked to both improvement and decline in health status, suggesting that individuals who experience a progressive disease that creates a decline in health status or who experience an acute health change are more likely to use prayer to cope with their changing circumstances than are stable health individuals. This instability and uncertainty may influence prayer frequency, given that people are more likely to use prayer in times of stress and uncertainty (Ai, Tice, Peterson, & Huang, 2005; Ironson, Stuetzle, & Fletcher, 2006).
Nevertheless, we knew all of this already, right? Prayer is the link between God and us. We find ourselves talking with God when we are humble, dependent on God, and not sitting in our pride of sin. During these moments, we are often moved to seek Him. No matter how good or bad our life is, we must make a regular commitment to speak with God. However, we cannot ignore that in pain and strife, we seek prayer more consistently.
When Jonah is running from God, he doesn’t pray because he is not with God. However, what happens when Jonah is trapped in the giant fish? Jonah is on his knees praying (Jonah 2:2–9). When Saul was hunting him, David would repeatedly go to God in prayer (Psalm 3). Moreover, Samuel, one of the greatest Old Testament prophets, came after Hannah prayed (1 Samuel 1:11).
How Pastors Can Use Prayer for Mental Health
I do not expect pastors to go beyond the scope of their expertise and learn about loci of control, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or any other form of counselling. However, you are the experts on prayer, and you must take part in this process.
So how can you help?
Teach people to pray. And then have them use it often.
Beginning where Jesus starts has always been my favourite approach. The Gospels record a teaching session to His disciples on praying, so you do not need to recreate it.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. However, when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your unseen Father. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Moreover, when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Furthermore, forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
From here, surround the individual with love and grace. If they need professional counselling, help them find a place to go. If they need resources, look to see how far you can help them.
Continue to bring them back to prayer.