Mental Illness and Why Prayer Is Not Enough


Imagine a Dad who sits in an arm-chair all day, he never leaves it. He tells his children to come to him, but never goes to them. If he sees them making mistakes he calls them over for discipline, he just waits for them to confess and then he punishes them accordingly.

Imagine this Dad, the dad who never leaves his chair, hearing the cries of his hurt child, he doesn’t get out of his chair, he waits for the child to hobble to him and beg him – over, and over and over again to bandage their wounds. He chooses which child he will heal and which one he will not.

Imagine a  child who desperately wants to learn to ride a bike, but his dad doesn’t leave his chair, so he has to go to his dad and ask him over and over and over again to teach him how to ride a bike, if he is lucky, his dad will give him some verbal pointers –  from his chair.

The idea of a dad bound to his arm-chair, is a very sad thought. 


So, why is it that so many of us see God like this? Why do so many people and churches limit healing and God to prayer? 

I mentioned on my Facebook post the other day, that I was really shaken by this news article in The New York Times, revealing how the severely mentally ill are treated in West Africa. In summary, they chain them to trees in what they call prayer camps, and their treatment is prayer. Please take a moment to watch this short video…

Warning this video is not for children. 


I realize that this video is an extreme (but real) perspective, but can I say that many of us in The Name of Jesus chain our depression,anxiety, illnesses, marriages and other issues to a tree?

Can I say that many churches and church leaders offer hope to families in crisis and then chain people to trees offering prayer as their only answer. 

I am a woman of prayer, and I cling to the tree of life, barely letting go some days. Prayer in my life, has been a life source for me. My personal prayers, corporate prayers, prayer ministry, etc. Without it, I will perish! I truly believe that.

However, when you leave God limited to an arm-chair, you don’t know God.

God Is Not The Dad In The Arm Chair

God is the God who came off his throne and walked with us. God is a God who runs to us, who sees our needs before we even cry out. He is a God who practically sustains us, who provides, who runs along side our wobbly two-wheelers.

Those of us who have struggled with any form of mental illness or emotional turmoil are subjected often to the religious view that prayer is enough, and are often chained to this theology, feeling guilty or unfaithful for seeking alternative treatments. This is a theological tragedy that is hurting many people.


A Prayer Only Theology – Puts God In A Box

Not only does a ‘prayer only’ theology create more bondage, but it puts God in a box. It limits God to yes or no answers. It puts a limit on his father’s heart and it binds him to a throne. 

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

A Prayer Only Theology – Limits God’s Spirit In Us

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

We have heard the phrase we are the hands and feet of Jesus. This includes the doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, ministers, food bank coordinators, mothers, day care workers, janitors, teachers, bloggers :>, and more!

Each one of us, God through us, with us- reaching all nations, healing disease and saving souls.

If we limit God to prayers, then we limit God’s Spirit working through his children. 


I will never forget my doctor, who held my hand in his office,after I confessed how dark my mind had become – he said “even Jesus got weary” and I could feel his compassion. This doctor, a man from God, prayed for me, YES! But he also guided me to therapy, mental health tools, and more. I wouldn’t be whole today if it wasn’t for my doctor’s practical, spiritual, physical and mental care. 

For many of these dying souls in Africa, psychiatric care is an answer to prayer, medication is an answer to prayer, compassion and dignity is an answer to prayer.


READ: Compelled By Love: How to Change the World Through the Simple Power of Love in Action

READ : Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light





5 thoughts on “Mental Illness and Why Prayer Is Not Enough”

  1. The Baby Mama says:

    I live in Africa. In South Africa. And we come face-to-face with this kind of belief system almost daily. It’s not so much the prayer, its more a kind of superstition (like sleeping with children will cure AIDS). Having said that though, the biggest problem is that most people in Africa cannot afford psychiatrists, or medication, or ongoing counselling. I know I can’t afford it, never mind people in impoverished areas. And the governments in most of these countries are not well run to be able to offer these types of services to its people. In South Africa, the government aided programs are not worth their weight in gold, and going to the private sector is the only way to go – we just can’t afford it.

    And that’s why (for me) I am so grateful for blogs like yours, and a host of others who follow God and His word, and speak the truth for mental illness. I know that I have a problem – I battle anxiety. I have panic attacks. And what has helped me is to read, read, read and read some more – to understand. And to trust God to guide me to where I need to be. It takes a lot longer, and you do miss out on pointed guidance to your specific situation, but often battling something out (like Jacob) may be the way that one needs to go. Preferably though, seeing a professional is what needs to be done. I’m just saying that there are other ways to get the help needed if you can’t afford that route. Don’t just sit there waiting – God is an active God, so actively seek out ways to get the help you need.

    P.S. Love your blog. And thank you.

    1. virtuouswomanx says:

      Baby Mama! Thanks so much for your insight and perspective. Even countries like America have a lot of mental ill people on the streets because of a lack of accessible healthcare, and in Canada a psychologist can run up to $150/hour. I think globally this needs to change.

      I admire you so much for having such a fight in you to pursue wholeness, you’re a mama after my own heart.

      1. The Baby Mama says:

        Wow. That’s like about R1 500 – which is pretty much what we pay here. And while I do agree that professionals and doctors should do well and earn the reward for all their hard work and responsibility, there is something seriously wrong with the system when the vast majority of the population can’t afford their services. It almost seems like getting medical care is fast becoming something only the elitists can afford. But, perhaps a blog post for another time??? 🙂

        1. virtuouswomanx says:

          Sounds like we need to write a joint blog post on the topic. lol I do think that this is a considerable issue, that a letter to my government may be in order.

  2. TD Thomas says:

    Amen amen amen.

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