In prayer there is no stigma

by Susan Williams

While at Mass the other day, I took particular note of all the bowed heads, the closed eyes and folded hands, people in serious and fervent prayers to God.

I began to wonder how many were quietly asking for help with a mental illness with which they or a family member are battling.  People, who in the quiet space of prayer are speaking with great passion and urgency to God for help, for a cure, for patience, for hope.  In prayer there is no stigma; they use the words that are not spoken in public and face their fears and despair.  In this closed time of connection to God, they are free to state what they won’t say out loud. They find great comfort, or at least acceptance, in saying the words, naming the illness and despair that they fight to gloss over when the prayers are complete.  Although, the prayers are never complete.

Then, as the heads rise, there is the exhale of coming back to the community around them.  Of putting on the stoic face that shows everything is under control.

We are now looking at establishing a mental health ministry at our church.  Hopefully, we will take this on and people will find a place of help, hope and community.  But, this may take a long time.  Until then, people’s prayers remain in silence.

The prayers may give comfort, or at least the sense that we are doing something when we feel there is little we can do.  Prayer is so powerful, and it is part of a much bigger equation.  An equation that includes  clinical trials, research, individual roads and most importantly, the intangible essence of hope.

Our prayers may be, “Please, Lord, cure him/her of their mental illness.”  But perhaps we should ask  “help him/her find the strength to seek help and help me provide the right encouragement.”  We ask for them to be cured and for them to wake up whole and well. But the road is long and the mountain tough to climb.  We continue to pray.

“Comfort those who live with the darkness of depression. May we be a light in the darkness for them. Teach us to avoid false cheerfulness, and instead give us wisdom to know how to help our friends and family who struggle in this way to come up for air. To see, again, your goodness. Lord, watch over those who are, even now, contemplating suicide. Stop their hands. Send someone to intervene.

Bring the comfort only you can bring to those who have lost a loved one to mental illness. And use us to bring comfort. May we, your church, be a healing presence, a safe community, a strong advocate for the mentally ill.

Thank you for the assurance that you do not let go. That you are always with us. May we in turn extend that hope to every person we encounter.


Prayer by Deacon Greg Kandra

Susan Williams

INMI Board Member

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.