How Does Prayer Help to Heal Us?

by Susannah Baker

When I took an inventory of my soul and relationships at thirty-eight years old, I realized something had to change if I wanted the next four decades of my life to look different than the first; I recognized that the relational patterns I was walking in needed to change. The patterns looked something like this: if someone was unkind or hurtful, my emotions escalated quickly, and I said things I regretted later or withdrew in stoney silence, punishing those around me by withholding love. I either demanded my rights in unhealthy ways through nagging or manipulating or lived life as the walking wounded, feeling sorry for myself.

The patterns and relational dynamics were paths the women in my family had walked for years, even generations. While expressed in different ways through our individual personalities, we were all looking to be satisfied by the love of broken people instead of the Lord’s steadfast love. Because of that, it was difficult to give to others what we had not first received ourselves.

If you are anything like me, at some point, someone has to draw the line. Someone has to say to the enemy of our souls, “Enough!” Someone has to make a decision to stop at the crossroads and walk a different way. Someone has to do the work of Isaiah 58 and rebuild the ancient ruins, raise up the foundations of many generations, and be called “the repairer of the breach” instead of continuing to live in the years-long decay and ruin (Isaiah 58:12).

I decided that would be me. If you have decided that’s you too – if you are there, standing at that crossroads and want to walk toward your Father’s house like the prodigal son, where unconditional love and secure connection are waiting – then beginning to spend consistent time in God’s Word and prayer isn’t optional – it’s necessary.

For many of us, this might sound like an impossible task. It might sound like telling a toddler they have to learn Greek before they can go to kindergarten, but it’s not as complicated as you think. You do not need a Master of Divinity to learn how to pray or read God’s Word. You just need to know how to show up. Here’s the thing about showing up with your Bible and praying: instead of telling your story to your neighbor, your spouse, your parent, or your very best friend, you tell your story to God—with the very same emotions, the very same convictions, and the very same words you would express to the others.

It’s showing up day after day, morning after morning, and night after night. Instead of emotionally unloading on your neighbor, it’s emotionally unloading on God and then waiting for His response. Now, some of us might be showing up to others and telling them our stories, and that’s a good thing. Do not stop if that person is a godly person you can trust. But before you tell your story to a person, you must learn to tell it first to God.

When it comes right down to it, God is the only one you can unload on who has the power to change your story. No one else has access to your heart. No one else has access to your past, your wounds, your traumas, your shame, your triumphs, and your joys. He alone holds that power. He alone is the one you can rely on with absolute certainty to be there for you in the present and future. At some point, even the people we love the most will crumble under the weight of our expectations. God alone can handle all that our human hearts hold and remain steadfast, true, and faithful through the whole process.

Some of us might be so locked up that we keep our stories and emotions and our trauma and pain buried deep within, hidden even from ourselves. While we are in the business of doing all this burying and hiding, keeping our past under lock and key, signs of our pain are springing up everywhere. They manifest in our bodies through chest pain, headaches, backaches, and jaw clenching. They manifest in our relationships: we keep people, even those closest to us, at arms’ length to maintain the appearance that we have it all under control even though we are falling apart on the inside.

Can I tell you something? It is not supposed to be that way. You were never supposed to figure out life on your own. You need the people God has placed in your path today. You need your spouse, you need your kids, and you need friends who walk closely with God. You were never meant to live in isolation but in a beautiful, rich, dependent community.

Some of us might be telling our story to everyone or the same few people repeatedly without seeing any real or lasting change. Every day is Groundhog Day: The same pain and hurt. The same victim lens of rejection or abandonment. The same ups and downs, push and pull dynamics, and overwhelming emotions. Every day you still have to wake up and determine if the people you love the most will be there when you need them the most or if they are as unreliable as you expect or predict they will be.

It is not supposed to be this way either. You were meant to be able to trust the people around you to give you the love and stability you need to function as a healthy, whole human being. You were meant to be able to call out confidently and expectantly to God and the people He has placed around you to receive their love and support in appropriate, secure, and stabilizing ways.

If the thought of opening your mouth and telling your story—even to God—is terrifying, I am so sorry. I want you to know something: God is not like us.  He is not like our flawed, sinful, faithless, broken, human selves.  His character is eternally consistent. He will always be faithful to you; He will never leave you or forsake you. The problems in your life are there to draw you into dependence on Him instead of isolation from Him. He is the God who “waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you” (Isaiah 30:18). Your willingness to admit your weakness, tell Him your needs, and share your story with Him are meant to be your greatest strengths.

So open your heart and tell God your story. Let the waters out of the floodgates. If you continue to hold them in, they will burst in destructive and ruinous ways. If you continue to tell your story constantly without the ability to receive the faithful, steadfast love offered to you from the Lord and people you can trust, the river will overrun its banks and destroy the landscape around you as well. If you will begin to let the waters out before God and before people who can help you process them, they will turn into rivers of healing for your soul.

Let’s start to learn to pray together.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  Matthew 6:5-6

To learn more about prayer, join my husband Jason and I this week as we begin teaching a six week class on Restorative Prayer at our church, Houston’s First Baptist.

For more information on the class and what we will share, click HERE.

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.