How to Encourage a Depressed Friend through Prayer
What does it mean to be depressed?
Linda’s story: The early morning sun is hiding behind the clouds . . . again. It’s a gray, dreary day and my mood seems to match. I’m depressed and have no energy or motivation, and I want to stay curled up in my bed and sleep. What can I do to lift my spirits? My eyelids droop and the next time I look at the clock, it reads 10 am. Good thing I don’t have anywhere to go this morning. I can’t believe I slept in again. As I fight my way out of the covers, my thoughts pull me further down. How could I sleep so much? I am so irresponsible and wasting time. I probably won’t get anything done today. Can anyone help me? I don’t even know how to pray for myself.
Debbie’s story: I don’t know what to do for my friend, Linda. She has been really down lately and has not shown up to several get-togethers with our small group. Yesterday I saw her in the church parking lot. She looked like she’d been crying and rushed to her car instead of responding to my hello. Does she need to push herself harder to get over what’s bothering her? Is she overreacting? She must know her friends miss her. Or, maybe she’s struggling with something a little more serious than simply wanting to stay home. What can I do for her? Would she be embarrassed if I offered to help? How can I pray for her?
Depression, whether clinical or situational, can cause despair and hopelessness if not acknowledged and addressed. Symptoms of depression include low energy, lack of motivation, disinterest in activities we used to enjoy, overeating or not eating, sleeping too much or too little. In more extreme cases, it can involve hurting ourselves or having suicidal thoughts. Major Depressive Disorder is one of the more common mental illnesses and does not go away on its own. Working through the healing and recovery process usually includes a combination of medication, therapy, and support. Sometimes we need help and many times we’re afraid to ask.
Blog Series: Top Ten Tips for Encouraging a Depressed Friend
In my biweekly blog posts over the next six months, I will share the top 10 ways we can encourage our depressed friends from a faith-based perspective. We can apply these suggestions to any number of situations where an individual needs our support and help. The most important thing to remember is that we are offering comfort through our acts. We cannot fix someone else’s problems while, at the same time, we do not want to enable them to continue in an unhealthy lifestyle. We must find a healthy balance between serving them and motivating them to care for themselves. It is essential to set appropriate boundaries for ourselves so we will not neglect our own mental health. Simply letting our depressed friends know we care is a powerful approach to providing encouragement.
The ten tips for encouraging a depressed friend are: (1) pray, (2) be available, (3) spend one-on-one time together, (4) offer occasional help with daily chores, (5) encourage participation in life, (6) be a good listener, (7) share concerns honestly, (8) offer to be an accountability partner, (9) be patient, and (10) show unconditional love.
Tip # 1 – Pray
Prayer draws us closer to God. He envelopes us with His presence and shows us a glimpse of His glory as we cry out our praise and thanksgiving. God invites us to lift up prayers for others and ourselves. God pours down forgiveness when we repent and express a desire to turn from our sin. He listens when we are feeling depressed and hopeless, and reminds us of the hope he offers in His Son, Jesus. Spending time with God in prayer is a privilege and a blessing.
I suggest the following ways to pray for those who need prayer for depression. Ask God to bring them comfort, peace, and healing. Pray that God will give them energy and motivation to push through the desire to isolate and avoid others. Ask God to pour out his Spirit and power for greater perseverance. Pray for guidance on how you can help them.
A Sample Prayer
The apostle Paul prayed for his friends and fellow believers on a regular basis. We are blessed to have many of his prayers recorded in his letters; prayers that reveal how we should pray for our friends. One important aspect of the following prayer is the emphasis on our spiritual condition. Spiritual, physical, and mental health work together for a healthier, more productive life. Paul gives us a reminder that we have God’s power to help us overcome. The same power that raised Christ from the dead.
“Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called—His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.” (Ephesians 1:15-21, NLT)
The power of prayer
Jesus wants us to come to Him to experience His power. We rely on His power to give us wisdom and strength when we reach out to those in need. His power motivates us to serve our depressed friend. God’s power can pull an individual from depression to hope, despair to a sense of purpose.
An added blessing of prayer is that as you pray for your friends, God will increase your love for them. God can even lead you in the best way to pray.