When You Need Help Coping

“…The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

James 5:16

In the minds of some folks, prayer is nothing more than a coping mechanism. They believe that while talking to God is hugely popular and may even be good for you on some level, there’s really no on there on the other end of the conversation.

If we’re honest, even the most sincere believers sometimes feel this way. In spite of the hundreds of answers to prayer we may have experienced over a lifetime giving evidence that God is real and responsive to our prayer, there are times when prayer feels very much like we’re just talking to ourselves. In those moments it seems that the whole thing is just imaginary.

No doubt, the devil has something to do with it when we feel this way. “There’s no one there” is an over-used line that he whispers into the ear of the disillusioned.

Based on what Scripture teaches, however, we should affirm that prayer does actually change things because there is an actual God hearing those prayers and He actually responds to every prayer in a way that is consistent with His character and His big-picture plan (see 2 Cor. 12:7-10). Unlike some of the people you’ve reached out to by email or text recently, God never no-replies. As someone once said, His answer could be “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait,” but never does God just ignore you.

But back to the idea of prayer as a coping mechanism. Turns out, in addition to being a way to influence the outcomes of life, prayer is also an excellent mechanism to help us cope with stress, anxiety, and the rest. More and more, social science research indicates that prayer ranks high as an effective way to cope with hard things and maintain your mental and emotional health.

After an extensive study reported in a book titled The Psychology of Prayer, researchers Bernard Spilka and Kevin Ladd (who, by the way, aren’t necessarily coming from a faith perspective) made this statement:

“Indeed, we show that research supports the hypothesis that prayer assists people in coping with the trials of life.”

There you have it, prayer helps, even from a scientific perspective.

There are many contributing factors, but the bottom line is that those who have a vibrant private prayer life report better mental health outcomes. Who knew?!? Well, for one, God knew and it puts these words from Paul in a whole new light:

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Friend, prayer is so much more than just a coping mechanism, but as a growing body of research reveals, it is indeed that. If you’re feeling like you need some help coping with the challenges of life these days and you’ve never explored prayer, maybe it’s time to take the next step.

Need help getting started? Here you go: “Dear God…” You can take it from there.

It’s a new day with God. Run with it.

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