Prayer does not cure us from mental illness. Prayer shines a light of hope into the shadows of mental illness. Prayer connects us in a golden chain of lights to one another and to God when symptoms of mental health challenges threaten to isolate us and disconnect us. We can take comfort in knowing that God is with us, even when we cannot see God. God desires to remain with us, even when we don’t want to be with ourselves.
Prayer protects us from spiritual despair, the feeling that there is nothing good in the universe. When depression, anxiety, and trauma drag us into the depths of the pit, prayer links us with the golden chain of lights to lift us from the shadows. Prayer lifts our spirits towards hope’s golden light.
Prayer guards our hearts from the toxic brew of anger and resentment towards things outside of our control. When stress piles up, tempers blow, and patience runs out, prayer reminds us of another way, the way of love. Spiritually speaking, praying in the midst of an episode shines a light on what can feel like, especially during a time of acute crisis, a death-dealing situation. Prayer is a golden chain of lights that a connects persons in crisis with hope.
This is why we need the saints to pray for people living with mental illness and their loved ones. This is why we need to break the silence of mental illness in the church. God uses prayer to connect us in a golden chain of lights to one another and to God. The prayers of the saints have the power to shine the golden light of hope into the shadows of mental illness.
We don’t pray instead of taking antidepressants. We pray so that we can take our antidepressants. We pray so that we can go to the therapist. We pray so that we can go to inpatient treatment. We pray so that we can go to our support groups. We pray so we can call the suicide prevention hotline. We pray so that we can live with mental illness.
We pray because we are blessed, each one of us, with this gift of a golden chain of lights that connect us in love to God. Prayer is that golden chain of lights. God answers our prayers through connection. Choose to be part of the golden chain of lights. Pray for people living with mental illness and their loved ones. Pray for connection, pray for hope, pray for that golden chain of light for each and everyone.
Rev. Dr. Sarah Lund (she/her/hers) serves on the national staff of the United Church of Christ as Minister for Disabilities and Mental Health Justice. She also serves as senior pastor of First Congregational UCC of Indianapolis, IN. Sarah is the author of the acclaimed and best selling books “Blessed Are The Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family and the Church“ (Chalice Press, 2014) and “Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness and Marriage (Chalice Press, 2021). She blogs at www.sarahgriffithlund.com.