We have been under tremendous pressure lately. Lockdown after lockdown, overwhelmingly negative news, home schooling, working from home or loosing work, loss of loved ones, missed opportunities gave a real shock to the system. Looking on the bright side, a lot of people all around the world decided to step up and offered to do their part in finding a way forward and supporting others along the way. I am sure you would be able to name people you know personally or through media and social media, whose smile and many good advice kept you going and helped you through some dark and difficult days.
The importance of our mental health has been in the limelight for quite some time now. It has become more accepted if not trendy to talk about mental health issues, anxiety, depression and so on. A huge collection of articles and other resources are available online, regarding self care and mental health care. We can learn different breathing techniques through apps or listen to calming bedtime stories on demand.
So, I thought I would put in my two pennies worth and talk a bit about my own personal experience with prayer, and specifically with prayer journaling and its effect on my own mental health.
If you want to know more about the results of different scientific research on prayer and it’s connection to mental health and health in general, I highly recommend you to do your own research and look it up online. I have found some fascinating information about how prayer has been proven to positively affect mental and even physical health, but in this post I rather tell you about my own experience.
I have been through many traumatic event in the past and dealing with chronic stress is an ongoing project for me. I have tried and tested many ways and methods to help me cope with my anxiety and to get my emotional life under control. Some of them failed miserably, others have really helped me and made a difference, like deep breathing, exercise and a healthy diet. But my ultimate winner and now go to mental health tool is prayer and specifically prayer journaling.
It may sound weird to you to call prayer journaling a mental health tool, but I promise you, it doesn’t make prayer less holy or less serious. I believe that God takes our mental health very seriously.
We find many verses throughout the Bible that shows God’s love for the brokenhearted and his commitment to heal, restore and empower those who seek him and run to him for help.(Proverbs 18:10, Psalm 34:18, Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18)
So, what do I mean exactly by prayer journaling? Prayer journaling to me is a way to process less or more significant events of my life and deal with the effects and emotions they may trigger. Most of the prayers I write in my journal are not eloquent or well structured, beautifully written prayers. Sometimes they are just jumbled words. Or maybe they start like that and as I write down random words that are on my mind, and I start to organise them and process them, they may somehow take the shape of a sentence, a paragraph and so on. There is only one rule in prayer journaling and it’s honesty. When you pray, when you write, you must open up your heart, your mind, your emotions and there is no safer place to do this than the presence of God.
Then I just write, and write some more… I write down everything that’s on my mind and on my heart. As I write, I constantly address God. I write to him. I tell him how I feel, or when I feel numb and empty or utterly confused, I tell him that. I tell him about events that happened, memories I remembered, things I have learnt about that day or that week and so on. I thank him for all the good things, I acknowledge his power and presence over the difficult things.
Also, I always pray with my Bible open. Prayer was never meant to be a monologue, it’s always a dialogue with God’s Word. You tell God about something, or you come to him with a question, a problem, a concern, whatever it may be, you will always find something in the Bible that will tap into that situation and speak to your heart. I can promise you that! This is an other reason why I like to encourage everybody to study and learn the Bible because when we feel overwhelmed by questions or difficulties, we need to know where to look in the Bible and where to find corresponding Scripture verses or stories.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”Hebrews 4:12
As you honestly and openly engage with God’s Word (i.e. you pray), it has the power to search you and shape you, to transform your thoughts, to help you regulate your emotions, to bring peace and healing to your heart. As I talk to God openly and honestly about everything that concerns me, about everything that makes me anxious or makes my heart sing, he gives me peace in his presence and he gives me guidance and clarity through his Word. His Word helps me breath easier in the moment and it gives me hope for the future. And this is why I prayer journal.
There is a lot more to say about this topic and I plan to write about it again very soon. In the meantime, if you have any questions at all or you would like to share your own personal experience regarding prayer and mental health connection, please do get in touch, I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or PM me any time.
Never forget how loved you are!