How I Prayed for Emotional Healing
Once I started walking with God I felt like my life had been a waste. I cried to the Lord saying, “Oh God, I’ve ruined everything. These past 29 years have been a total waste. My life is shattered in a million pieces that can never be put back together again. Oh, Lord, I’m grateful that You’ve given me hope and peace and eternal life, but as far as my life ever amounting to anything, how can it happen?
In the midst of my utter distress I heard God speak to my heart words of comfort: “I am a Redeemer. I redeem all things I make all things new. Whatever you’ve lost I will restore. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter what’s happened to you. I can take all the hurt, the pain, and the scars. Not only can I heal them, but I can make them count for something.”
My tears flowed without end. I wondered how could God ever accomplish all that, even though I sincerely believed that all things were possible with Him, because His Word said so. “God, I surrender my life to You. Don’t let me ever be in the wrong place again,” I prayed.
Until this moment I had only received His life. But now I full surrendered mine to Him. As I viewed the failure and rubble of my past, I knew I couldn’t navigate on my own anymore. I wanted God to take my life and do with it what He wanted. He would certainly do a better job than I had done.
I gradually discovered that while receiving Jesus as my personal Savior and being born into the kingdom of God was instant, allowing Him to become Lord over my life was a process. I let Him have more and more of me as I went along, but each time I thought I had given Him my all, I discovered I had only given all I could. If I wanted to live in peace, enjoying God’s full measure of blessing, I had to obey God’s Word — not in the strict, legalistic sense, but with an attitude that says, “Show me what to do, Lord, and help me to do it.” In order to live in obedience to God’s Word, I needed to find out what His Word said. So I bought a large, heavy Bible that had four different translations in it. I read the Bible from beginning to end in one translation, then began all over in another. People who saw me lugging that huge Bible to church must have thought me exceedingly spiritual. I wasn’t. Just exceptionally hungry. As my hunger for God’s Word grew, so did my desire for more teaching. Attending church once a week was not enough, so I added Wednesday and Sunday evenings to my schedule. This also opened up possibilities for making more new friends, and I found associating with them a significant source of strength and encouragement.
I met my husband on a record session, but we didn’t start seriously seeing each other until we met again in church after I had become a believer. We were married about a year later and soon realized that we had neglected to take one very important step of obedience – that of being baptized in water. Jesus Himself was baptized in order to do what was right, and He commanded us all to do the same. Still cautious about doing something that was merely a religious ritual as opposed to taking a step of obedience with understanding, I studied further. I found out that baptism in water was an act of obedience by which the lordship of Jesus in your life is declared. The past is washed away in the water and you come up cleansed while it remains buried. There was nothing magical about the water itself. The power is not in the water, but in being obedient to the Word of God whether you understand it fully or not. All steps of obedience, and this one especially, carried with it the opportunity for deliverance, freedom, and wholeness, and I desired everything that God had for me. After discussing it with Michael one afternoon, we were baptized together that same night. I didn’t feel any different after ward, except that I had the joy and confidence that comes from knowing you’ve obeyed God.
Still, through all the growth, I continued to struggle with depression. Oddly enough, my depression seemed to be growing in intensity. Every morning when I awoke I was plagued with thoughts of suicide. It was like a bad habit I couldn’t break. However, I wasn’t shy about asking for help at church. I was so convinced that Jesus was the answer to every need that I regularly visited the counseling office. The counsel I received always helped, but the problem of depression was never completely eliminated.
I could not understand why. I had the gift of eternal life and total forgiveness from Jesus. I had a loving pastor who taught me much about God and the Bible. I had a wonderful husband and financial security, so I no longer had to work to survive. Yet I still felt like I had nothing to live for. What was the matter with me? Was a part of me missing, just like with my mother? I was still afraid that I would end up crazy like her. If I had much to be happy about and yet remained depressed, if I had everything to live for and still wanted to die, then what hope was there for me? I was certain that Jesus was the answer to my every need, and if He couldn’t help me, then nothing could.
As the suicidal feelings increased, Michael urged me to call the counseling office again. I was embarrassed at the frequency with which I made appointments there, but the staff didn’t seem discouraged by this. They ushered me into the assistant pastor’s office and I told him about the length and severity of this depression, plus the suicidal feelings that weren’t letting up. He thought a moment, then said, “I think you’d better see Mary Anne.”
Mary Anne turned out to be a pastor’s wife and a member of the regular counseling staff at the church. She was steeped in the Word of God and had great faith to pray for and see people set free from emotional pain. She was highly knowledgeable about people with my kind of problem and was one of the most powerful ministers of God I’ve ever met.
I entered her office and sat in the chair across the desk from her. She looked up from her papers and gave me a big smile. She had a beautiful face of intelligence, understanding, and warmth, and I felt comfortable in confessing my problems and past to her. She listened for a long time, nodding thoughtfully and seeming not the least bit shocked by anything I said. “You need deliverance,” she stated matter-of-factly when I had finished talking. “Do you know what deliverance is?”
I shook my head. I had heard the term but didn’t understand it. It sounded like a strange activity involving red-eyed demons and whirlwinds, but I could tell by her calm demeanor that this was not what she meant.
“Don’t let the word ‘deliverance’ frighten you,” Mary Anne explained. “It’s a process of becoming everything God made you to be. Deliverance removes all the past brokenness and bondage from a person’s life so that the real you can come forth. A lot of people are afraid of deliverance because they think it will change them. But deliverance doesn’t change you; it releases you. “I’m talking about oppression and not possession,” she continued. “There are spirits that attach themselves to you. They can come into anyone’s life through the work of the devil, who has been allowed to influence our lives through our own sin. Our responsibility is to pray for deliverance from whatever oppression is tormenting you, whether fear or suicidal thoughts or whatever. Second Corinthians 1:10 says that Jesus will continue to deliver you. Deliverance is like salvation in that we don’t earn it. It is God’s gift to us.”
Mary Anne had me go home and fast and pray for 3 days and when I came back to her office again she and another pastor’s wife prayed for me to be free from depression and suicidal thoughts. I felt it lift. The next morning I awoke without any feelings of depression whatsoever — no thought of suicide, no heaviness in my chest, no fearful anticipation of the future. I waited all day for it to return, but it didn’t.
Day after day it was the same. I never again experienced those feelings, nor the paralysis that accompanied them. I had gone into that counseling office knowing Jesus as Savior, but I came out knowing Him also as my Deliverer.
How I started Praying for my Children
Because I was painfully aware that I didn’t have a positive parenting experience to imitate, I was nervous and anxious when my first child was born. I feared I would do to him what had been done to me. I read every book available on the subject of parenting and attended each Christian child-rearing seminar I could find. I tried to do my best with all this good and helpful information, but it was never enough. I had countless agonizing concerns for my son’s social, spiritual, emotional, and mental growth, but most compelling of all, I feared that something bad might happen to him. Kidnapping, drowning, disfiguring accidents, irreparable injuries, diseases, sexual molestation, abuse, rape, or death all played across my mind as possibilities for his future. As much as I tried not to be an overreacting parent, every newspaper, magazine article, or TV newscast on crime made me more concerned for his welfare. Plus we lived in Los Angeles, a city where crime was rampant. It was more than I could handle.
One day in prayer I cried out to God, saying, “Lord, this is too much for me. I can’t keep a twenty-four hours-a-day, moment-by-moment watch on my son. How can I ever have peace?”
Over the next few weeks the Lord spoke to my heart about entrusting Christopher to Him. My husband and I had dedicated our son to God in a church service, but God wanted more than that. He wanted us to continue giving Christopher to Him on a daily basis. This didn’t mean that we would now abdicate all responsibility as parents. Rather, we would declare ourselves to be in full partnership with God. He would shoulder the heaviness of the burden and provide wisdom, power, protection, and ability far beyond ourselves. We would do our job to discipline, teach, nurture, and “train up a child in the way he should go” knowing that “when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). We were to depend on God to enable us to raise our child properly, and He would see to it that our child’s life was blessed.
An important part of our job was to keep the details of our child’s life covered in prayer. In doing this, I learned to identify every concern, fear, worry, or possible scenario that came into my mind as a prompting by the Holy Spirit to pray for that particular thing. As I covered Christopher in prayer and released him into God’s hands, God released my mind from that particular concern. This doesn’t mean that once I prayed for something I never prayed about it again, but at least for a time I was relieved of the burden. When it surfaced again, I prayed about it again. God didn’t promise that nothing bad would ever happen to my child, but praying released the power of God to work in his life, and I could enjoy more peace in the process.
I also learned that I should not try to force my own will on my child in prayer. This only leads to frustration and disappointment for all concerned. You know the kind of prayer I mean, because we’re all prone to it:
“God, I pray that Christopher will grow up and marry my best friend’s daughter.” (Her parents would be great in-laws.) Or, “Lord, let Amanda get accepted at this school.” (Then I can feel better about myself.) Of course we may never consciously acknowledge the words in parentheses, but they are there in the back of our mind, subtly inspiring us to impose our will in God’s ear. I have found it’s better to pray more along the lines of “Lord show me how to pray for this child. Help me to raise him Your way, and may Your will be done in his life.”
By the time our daughter, Amanda, was born four and a half years after Christopher, God had taught me what it means to pray in great depth and to really intercede for my child’s life. Over the next twelve years God answered my prayers in many wonderful ways, and today I see the results.
My husband and I recognize the hand of God on our children’s lives, and they readily acknowledge it as well. For it’s the power of God that penetrates a child’s life when a parent prays.
How I started Praying for my Husband
My husband and I had problems in our marriage and at its worst point, I prayed for a miracle. God impressed upon my heart that I was to stop praying my favorite prayer – which was “Change him, Lord!” Instead, I was to pray God’s favorite prayer which is “Change me, Lord.” I was to pray for Michael from a right heart. That meant each time I prayed for him I had to confess my own hardness of heart. I saw how deeply hurt and unforgiving of him I was. I don’t want to pray for him. I only want God to convict him of how cruel he has been, I thought. I had to say over and over, “God, I confess my unforgiveness toward my husband. Deliver me from all of it.”
Little by little, I began to see changes occur in both of us. When Michael became angry, instead of reacting negatively, I prayed for him. I asked God to give me insight into what was causing his rage. He did. I asked Him what I could do to make things better. He showed me. My husband’s anger became less frequent and more quickly soothed. Every day, prayer built something positive. We’re still not perfected, but we’ve come a long way. It hasn’t been easy, yet I’m convinced that God’s way is worth the effort it takes to walk in it. It’s the only way to save a marriage.
A wife’s prayers for her husband have a far greater effect on him than anyone else’s, even his mother’s. (Sorry, Mom.) A mother’s prayers for her child are certainly fervent. But when a man marries, he leaves his father and mother and becomes one with his wife (Matthew 19:5). They are a team, one unit, unified in spirit. The strength of a man and wife joined together in God’s sight is far greater than the sum of the strengths of each of the two individuals. That’s because the Holy Spirit unites them and gives added power to their prayers.
That’s also why there is so much at stake if we don’t pray. Can you imagine praying for the right side of your body and not the left? If the right side is not sustained and protected and it falls, it’s going to bring down the left side with it. The same is true of you and your husband. If you pray for yourself and not him, you will never find the blessings and fulfillment you want. What happens to him happens to you and you can’t get around it.
This oneness gives us a power that the enemy doesn’t like. That’s why he devises ways to weaken it. He gives us whatever we will fall for, whether it be low self-esteem, pride, the need to be right, miscommunication, or the bowing to our own selfish desires. He will tell you lies like, “Nothing will ever change.” “Your failures are irreparable.” “There’s no hope for reconciliation.” “You’d be happier with someone else.” He’ll tell you whatever you will believe, because he knows if he can get you to believe it, there is no future for your marriage. If you believe enough lies, your heart will eventually be hardened against God’s truth.
In every broken marriage, there is at least one person whose heart is hard against God. When a heart becomes hard, there is no vision from God’s perspective. When we’re miserable in a marriage, we feel that anything will be an improvement over what we’re experiencing. But we don’t see the whole picture. We only see the way it is, not the way God wants it to become. When we pray, however, our hearts become soft toward God and we get a vision. We see there is hope. We have faith that He will restore all that has been devoured, destroyed, and eaten away from the marriage. “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). We can trust Him to take away the pain, hopelessness, hardness, and unforgiveness. We are able to envision His ability to resurrect love and life from the deadest of places.
Imagine Mary Magdalene’s joy when she went to Jesus’ tomb the third day after He had been crucified and found that He was not dead after all, but had been raised up by the power of God. The joy of seeing something hopelessly dead brought to life is the greatest joy we can know. The power that resurrected Jesus is the very same power that will resurrect the dead places of your marriage and put life back into it. “God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power” (1 Corinthians 6:14). It’s the only power that can. But it doesn’t happen without a heart for God that is willing to gut it out in prayer, grow through tough times, and wait for love to be resurrected. We have to go through the pain to get to the joy.
We each have to decide if you want your marriage to work, and if we want it badly enough to do whatever is necessary, within healthy parameters, to see it happen. We have to believe the part of your relationship that has been eaten away by pain, indifference, and selfishness can be restored. We have to trust that what has swarmed over us, such as abuse, death of a child, infidelity, poverty, loss, catastrophic illness, or accident, can be relieved of its death grip. We have to determine that everything consuming us and our spouse, such as workaholism, alcoholism, drug abuse, or depression, can be destroyed, We have to know that whatever has crept into our relationship so silently and stealthily as to not even be perceived as a threat until it is clearly present — such as making idols of our career, our dreams, our kids, or our selfish desires — can be removed. We have to trust that God is big enough to accomplish all this and more.
If you wake up one morning with a stranger in your bed and it’s your husband (or wife), if you experience a silent withdrawal from one another’s lives that severs all emotional connection, if you sense a relentless draining away of love and hope, if your relationship is in so bottomless a pit of hurt and anger that every day sends you deeper into despair, if every word spoken drives a wedge further between you until it becomes an impenetrable barrier keeping you miles apart, be assured that none of the above is God’s will for your marriage. God’s will is to break down all these barriers and lift you out of that pit. He can heal the wounds and put love back in your heart. Nothing and no one else can. But you have to rise up and say, “Lord, I pray for an end to this conflict and a breaking of the hold strife has on us. Take away the hurt and the armor we’ve put up to protect ourselves. Lift us out of the pit of unforgiveness. Speak through us so that our words reflect Your love, peace, and reconciliation. Tear down this wall between us and teach us how to walk through it. Enable us to rise up from this paralysis and move into the healing and wholeness You have for us.”
Don’t write off your marriage. Ask God to give you a new husband (or a new wife). He is able to take the one you have and make him (or her) a new creation in Christ. Husbands and wives are not destined to fight, emotionally disconnect, live in marital deadness, be miserable, or divorce. We have God’s power on our side. We don’t have to leave our marriages to chance. We can fight for them in prayer and not give up, because as long as we are praying, there is hope. With God, nothing is ever as dead as it seems. Not even your own feelings.
I learned that the best things for my marriage was for me to have women prayer partners with whom I prayed every week. I now believe this is vital for any marriage. If you can find two or more strong faith-filled people whom you thoroughly trust, and with whom you can share the longings of your heart, set up a weekly prayer time. It will change your life. This doesn’t mean you have to tell your prayer partners everything about your husband (or wife) or expose the private details of his (or her) life. The purpose is to ask God to make your heart right, show you how to be a good wife (or husband), share the burdens of your soul, and seek God’s blessing on your marriage.
How I Learned to Pray for Myself
It doesn’t matter what age you are, what your marital status is, what the condition of your body and soul is, or how long you have or have not been a believer—if you are a woman, this book is for you. I’ve been a devoted follower of the Lord for over 44 years and I have not fallen away from Him in all that time, yet I need this book too. In fact, I wrote it for myself as much as I wrote it for you. That’s because I’m like you. Many days I find life difficult rather than easy, complex rather than simple, potentially dangerous rather than safe, and exhausting rather than exhilarating. Often it’s more like a strong, hot, dry wind than it is a soft, cool, refreshing breeze.
But I have come to know that God can smooth my path, calm the storms, keep me and all I care about safe, and even make my way simple when I ask Him to carry the complexities of life for me. But these things don’t just happen. Not without prayer.
In the midst of our busy lives, too often we don’t pray enough. Or we only pray about the most pressing issues and neglect to take the time to really get close to God, to know Him better, and to share with Him the deepest longings of our heart. In our pray-and-run existence, we shut off the very avenue by which He brings blessings into our lives. And we risk waking up one day with that empty, insecure feeling in the pit of our stomach frightening us with the thought that our foundation may be turning into sand and our protective armor may be becoming as fragile as an eggshell. This is what happened to me.
A number of years ago, I had become so busy with working, taking care of teenagers, trying to be a good wife, running a home, writing books and traveling to promote them, being at all church meetings, helping people who needed it, and trying to make everyone happy, that I neglected the most important thing—my intimate walk with God. It’s not that I stopped walking with Him. To the contrary, I couldn’t make it through a day without Him. It’s not that I stopped praying. Actually, I was praying more than ever about everyone else on the planet. But I didn’t pray about my own walk with Him. It’s not that I didn’t read His Word. I read for hours as I did research in the Scriptures for different projects I was working on and the Bible study classes I was taking. But I didn’t give God time to speak to me personally through it. I was busy doing good and neglected to do what was best. I became Martha instead of Mary without even realizing it (Luke 10:38-42).
I didn’t take enough time for God and me alone, and as a result I became so depleted I couldn’t go on. I felt like that eggshell, as if I could be crushed with very little outside pressure. I knew I needed more of God in my life, and nothing on earth was more important than that. There wasn’t anything else that could satisfy the hunger I felt inside except more of His presence. And I came to realize how important it was for me to guard and protect my personal relationship with God in prayer.
The way to avoid the kind of thing I experienced is to pray about every aspect of our life in such a manner that it will keep us spiritually anchored and reminded of what God’s promises are to us. It will keep us focused on who God is and who He made us to be. It will help us live God’s way and not our own. It will lift our eyes from the temporal to the eternal and show us what is really important. It will give us the ability to distinguish the truth from a lie. It will strengthen our faith and encourage us to believe for the impossible. It will enable us to become the women of God we long to be and believe we can be. Who among us doesn’t need that?
How I started Praying with Others
In the beginning I dreaded these prayer circles we had every service at the church, but it didn’t take long for me to notice how good it felt to be prayed for. So I was willing to endure those uncomfortable moments for the benefits that followed. Eventually, the prayer circles became an important part of my life, and I even began to look forward to them. I planned during the week what I would ask people to pray for me about on Sunday. Once I started seeing answers to those prayers, I was hooked. I realized it was probably the only time anyone on earth was praying for me, and if I had not told the people in my prayer circle about my prayer needs, no one would have known.
On a few very rare occasions when the prayer circles did not happen, I was actually disappointed.
As time went on, I grew more and more attached to the prayer circles. Not only were prayers being answered, but there was also a bonding that was happening between the people. I would see someone in church with whom I had prayed in the previous weeks, and I remembered their names and what their needs were.
“Did you find that job you were looking for, Bill?”
“Are things going smoother for you and your husband, Jenny?”
“Is your daughter doing better in school this week, Katie?”
“Did you get the house you were trying to buy, Frank?”
“Has that depression left like we prayed, Cindy?”
And people I had not known before meeting them in a prayer circle would also come up and ask about me.
“Are you feeling better this week, Stormie?”
“How is your mom? Is there any sign of improvement?”
“Did you get that job we prayed about?”
“Were you able to make your deadline?”
More and more, the faces in the prayer circles became familiar. And it wasn’t just a superficial acquaintance, because we had shared something of our lives, souls, and hearts with one another. There was this personal link, and we had immediate reasons to care about each other. Even if we didn’t remember specifics, we still knew we had spent those few minutes talking and praying, and that was a special thing. We witnessed it knitting us together as a people, and this became more important as the congregation grew larger. It became less and less a congregation of strangers, and more a family of prayer partners.
I began to think, Wouldn’t it be great to have a prayer partner I could call to pray with whenever I needed prayer?
“Who could I pray with on a regular basis, Lord?” I asked.
Immediately a young woman came to mind. Dianne had been my closest friend for years, but we had become distant. We had been into the occult together and were always in unity about spiritual things, so when I received the Lord and stopped all occult practices, she felt that I’d not only lost my mind but had deserted her as well. I had been praying for her to be open to the Lord, and in fact prayed for her often in the prayer circles at church, but she was solidly resistant. However, God not only heard my prayers for Diane’s salvation, but also for a prayer partner. After she received the Lord, we started praying together regularly over the phone at least three times a week. Through the next few years, we saw our prayer times become instrumental in each of us finding the healing and wholeness God had for our lives. From that time on, having a prayer partner became an indispensable necessity I could not afford to be without.
At the Billy Graham Crusade where my I and Suzy and Roz had volunteered to help and my nephews, Derek and Matt, received the Lord. My sister Suzy is on the left and my close friend Roz is on the right.
If you never had someone praying with you when you were growing up, you are not alone. I didn’t have that either. If you don’t have someone praying with you regularly now, don’t worry, because you can pray that God will bring one or more prayer partners into your life. Ask God to send you someone with whom you can agree on a regular basis. Someone with whom you can be mutually accountable in prayer. It could be a person you already know, such as a friend, roommate, or family member. Or someone in your neighborhood, in a class you are taking, or at work. It could even be someone new He brings into your life specifically for that purpose. Someone you may have seen but never thought about in that regard. He will show you who it is.
One word of caution. When you approach a person to ask if they want to be your prayer partner for a season, don’t be upset or feel rejected if they turn you down. That just means they are not the right person for you, or the timing isn’t right for them. I asked my husband if he wanted to be my regular prayer partner, but he wasn’t interested in a set schedule. He just wanted to pray when he felt like it, but that wasn’t enough for me. He likes to pray for the big picture; I like to pray for the details. Though we pray together often, I have prayer partners to pray with me regularly. Don’t become discouraged if it takes awhile to find the right person. Give God time.
When you ask a person to pray with you, don’t be afraid to share any fears you have about praying. Tell them if you are afraid you won’t know what to say, or that you won’t have enough faith, or whatever else concerns you. For example, when I first started to pray with other people, I was afraid God would not answer my prayers, as if all answers to prayer depended entirely on me. I also felt reticent to pray in front of others who had a better command of the language or a greater knowledge of how to pray. I finally came to understand that God wasn’t looking for eloquence, just a faithful and pure heart. Once I realized that my job was to pray, and it was God’s work to answer, I felt more at ease. It wasn’t all up to me. It was up to God. All I had to do was have faith that God answers prayer.
When you start praying regularly with a partner, you will see great things happen. That’s because each of you brings the Holy Spirit in you, and that power increases exponentially. Also, your faith will inspire growth in the other person’s faith, and their faith will increase yours. That produces a snowball effect which enables you to believe for bigger and better things. Once you have a prayer partner, you will see God move with power in your life and you will never want to be without one.