When you're depressed, you may discover that the shadows and tempests of that depression alter the way you look at God and the way you believe God looks at you. When you pray, you may be unable to sit still or to keep your mind focused for more than a few moments. Everything may appear to be a huge gaping hole of silence--all so useless. God may seem to be mocking your attempts to pray.
People have gone three, five, ten years without "praying," though they were faithful to setting time aside for prayer regardless of its seeming uselessness. In the haunting darkness where all communication had gone silent, they found loneliness, boredom, frustration, anger. Were they praying? Yes.
If this is happening to you, try these forms of prayer and contemplative love:
- Find a quiet place....Put on some soothing music. Keep it soft and gentle. Take a few deep breaths, holding each one for a few seconds and then slowly exhaling. Relax. Feel the chair you're sitting on, your feet on the floor. Smell the scents in the room. Imagine Jesus coming toward you with a smile on his face. Tell him how you are feeling right now-anxious, uncomfortable, fidgety, distracted, wanting to focus. Tell him what things are like for you today. Open your heart to him. Feel his presence very close to you. Let his love into your heart. Thank him for this gift.
- Go for a walk....Take some pleasant music with you. As you go, notice the sky, feel the season. Recognize what is around you. Feel at home right now. Offer your heart to Jesus, even if your pain is deep. Though you may be alone on your walk, Jesus is in your heart. Tell him what you see...the beauty around you. Tell him how you feel...even if it is dark. Remember he wants you to tell him everything in your life...joys and pains.
- Remember others who are hurting....Call to mind someone else you know who is hurting or sick. Focus for a few minutes on what that person may be feeling, and on what you would like to say to him or her. Lift this person up by name to Jesus and ask his blessing on them.
- Hold on to a cross....Hold a cross or crucifix in your hands. Close your eyes and think of Jesus in agony. Join your sufferings to his in his act of redemption.
- Hold onto God's Word....If you're feeling low, go to a quiet place and hold your Bible. Read Psalm 130 or focus on a phrase of it. Embrace how you feel, even if it's uncomfortable. Know that God is loving you through these moments of darkness.
- Open yourself to God....When you are unable to focus because your mind is racing, try to remember and pray the words, "My God, I love you." Open yourself to God's love.
- Reflect on Jesus' cry....Turn on soft music. Read this Bible verse over and over while thinking about it: "My God, my God, why have you forgotten me?" (cf. Mk 15:34). This is Jesus' own prayer of emptiness and abandonment.
- Repeat the name of Jesus....If you can't get up, lie still and repeat the name of Jesus over, and over, and over. His love catches these words and he embraces you with love.
Resource: How to Pray When You are Depressed, by Kathryn J. Hermes, F.S.P.