Reading the psalmists words we are taken straight into the mind and daily reality of those who suffer with severe depression leading to despondency. The psalmist helps us to know the thoughts and feelings taking place in that darkness hardly anybody can penetrate. They feel as though God has not only abandoned them, but brought this deep affliction to them. They are wasting away; does God even care? Does He see their misery; the great battle for their life they are in?
Martin Luther often wrote and commented that depression, anxiety, fear, despondency were nothing less than “fiery darts and flaming arrows of the devil himself”. Through these Satan is able to establish a stronghold that cannot be overcome with self-help books, the best counsel, or good thoughts. They will not be destroyed by simply wishing one well and admonishing them to “be happy” but are such that the words of Jesus are applicable here; “These cannot be moved except by prayer and fasting!” Prayer and fasting, not by the afflicted, but by those who care about them! The depressed, anxious, fearful, despondent can hardly lift their head to go about their day, let alone enter into deep prayer or fasting for demolishing the stronghold placed over them by the devil!
Many proverbs say admonishing the sorrowful to praise and sing during their depressions is like pouring vinegar over the teeth! The reception of such counsel is rejected and hated, and can even make the depressed sink lower; rather than received with gladness.
While a joyful heart keeps sorrows away; the deeply depressed must be led gently to praise, and they will as the depression and sorrow lifts through the prayers of others. “Don’t worry, be happy” cannot be the caring counsel they are fed; this will only lead them to greater despair and feelings of doom and inadequacy.
Spend some time in Psalm 88 as you pray for those who are afflicted in such a way. Remember that they need much, daily attending. And do not grow weary of doing good as St. Paul wrote, because in due season we will, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
Be the friend in prayer who sticks close by and do not abandon them as many are apt to do! Write the names of those who are made known to you in a prominent place so you do not forget to pray for them; as out of sight, out of mind can apply to prayer as well. Visit them often, remind them of God’s love and presence and pray for them always!
A prayer for the depressed and despondent from Psalm 88—
O LORD, God of our salvation; we cry out day and night before you on behalf of those who cry out day and night in their great pain of depression, anxiety, fear, and despondency. Let our prayer come before You and incline Your ear to hear our cry!
I pray for the afflicted for their soul is full of troubles and their life draws near to the gates of hell, they are already considered among those who go down into the pit. They are without any strength; like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave (already), like those you remember no more, for they are cut off from Your hand. You have put them in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your wrath lies heavily upon them, and they are overwhelmed with all your waves—the ups and downs of emotions… Selah
They feel as though You have caused their companions to shun them; that you have made them a horror to others. They are shut in so that they cannot escape; their eye grows weary and dim through sorrow. Every day they call upon You, O Lord, they spread out their hands to you. Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up and praise You? Selah
Is Your steadfast loved declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? Are Your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning our prayer comes before you. O Lord, do not cast their soul away” do not hide your face from them! Afflicted and close to death from their youth up, they suffer terrors; they are helpless. Do not let Your wrath sweep over them; do not let dreadful assaults destroy them. They are surrounded like a flood all day long; they close in on them completely. Their beloved family and friends shun them; their companions have become darkness and despair.
O Lord hear my prayer for the suffering and afflicted and depressed and despondent; do not let the grave claim them, do not let them be found alone; but lift them from their miry pit and save them. It is Your glory to bring life from death and give joy where there is only sorrow and sinking.
In the name of our Savior Jesus, who did not stay in the grave but came up triumphantly to reign on high forever and ever. Amen