I am a little hesitant to write on this subject for the obvious reason that prayer is far more than an antidote to selfish concerns. The perspective of prayer is far greater than my personal feelings. However scripture does deal with this concern. Psalm 42:5 asks, "Why are you so downcast O my soul." Psalm 130:1 reads, "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord."
Let me suggest several steps in dealing prayerfully with depression.
1. Pray for deliverance.
I have not faced clinical depression in my own life, but I have dealt with it in others as a pastor. And seeing the magnification of the problem helps me see details more clearly in the depression of my own heart. A major issue of depression is that it defends itself. It may be more accurate to say we defend our depression, but the depression seems to take on a life of its own. When I have told someone to do something that might break their depression they immediately opposed it. So start by briefly asking God to deliver you. Depression may even keep you from praying about it.
2. Turn immediately to praise.
You might think you should start by asking God to change the circumstances that have depressed you. Aren't requests the heart of biblical prayer? They are. But prayer is supported theologically and practically by the glory of God; by the grace of God; by His mighty power; by His love and faithfulness. And nothing works more effectively at lifting our spirits than praise. Secular counselors sometimes try to treat depression with self-affirmation. But that often sets the sufferer up for a fall into deeper depression. Praise gets you clear out of the picture. In fact sustained praise is good and necessary for anyone at any time. Have you ever thought heaven would be boring if we spent all day praising God forever? That ignores the reality of praise. Nothing is more thrilling than connecting intellectually and emotionally with the wonder and glory of God.
3. Confess and forgive.
Praising God should move us into confession and forgiveness. Depression flows from pride. "I don't deserve bad things." Even a statement like "I am no good." is self-focused. Confession breaks pride. It demands a humble and dependent heart. There is relief in being forgiven. At that point God can lift our spirits because we are no longer estranged from Him. It is important to note that Jesus linked confession and forgiveness in the Lord's Prayer. "Forgive us . . . as we forgive. . ." This is so important for dealing with depression. Depression raises its ugly head in the aftermath of anger and continuing resentment. I am amazed that so many people treat anger as some sort of catharsis. We think of having a right to get angry. There is a place for righteous wrath. Jesus certainly modeled it. But anger must be under the control of God or it will destroy the person expressing it. Anger is not a privilege. It is more like a loaded gun.
4. Pray the word of God.
Praying God's word connects to the stability of faith. Much depression is unbelief. Notice I did not say, "simply unbelief." It is complex, but it is unbelief none the less. And it criples our relationship with God. Some of you may object to this, pointing out men like Charles Hadden Spurgeon or William Cowper, spiritual giants who suffered from depression. But many of the glorious sermons of Spurgeon came forth in victory over his occasional depression. And although Cowper's mental illness was more persistent and debilitating than Spurgeon's, it was God's truth and victory that burst out with "God's wonders to perform." Praying God's word ought to bring us naturally into personal promises God has whispered or thundered into your ear.
I think singing is an important part of prayer. It usually helps us praise better than we could without it. Most hymns and choruses are filled with great theology. All of us can pray in song. I do not necessarily believe we have to sing well to glorify God, especially in private prayer. However, an important part of honoring God is seeking to improve our singing for His ears and even for the ears of His children.
6. Continue your prayer in obedience.
Activity is a natural antidote for depression. Praying our plans and God's plans leads us to carrying them out, not after we have prayed, but continuing to pray as we go, as we act, as we step out in faith. "Father, help me, encourage me, keep me going for you." amen