Monday, October 8, 2012

Prayer as a Religious Coping Strategy

           Bade and Cook have studied prayer as a religious coping strategy and have found that there are different functions of prayer which describe the purposes for which we pray.[1] Some pray to seek God, others seek understanding and direction, and still others pray to receive things like strength, comfort, or peace. Most have sought prayer for coping at one time or another because they were in need of something. Whether or not they were in need of guidance or wisdom, financial provision, healing, or some other request, the authors note that using prayer as a religious coping strategy is similar to seeking social support from a relationship with God. There is something unique about knowing that God is listening and having the ability to share, connect, and communicate with Him. Participants suggest that prayer calms them, decreases fear, and serves as the channel for communication with God.
            Since there appears to be various purposes of prayer as well as benefits to a person’s emotional disposition from communicating to God, as counselors we must be aware of which forms of prayer are helpful to which clients.[2] One thing is sure: we should be interceding—even if silently—for our clients inside and outside of sessions. When prayer is used as a coping strategy, both the counselee and counselor are aware that can experience intimacy with God, from whom the healing comes. It is my hope that in the counseling profession, when we do not know what to do, our eyes would be upon the Lord, drawing near to Him with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith for He who promised is faithfulThe temptation would be to suggest that God will not show up, but I think we miss the point. God’s faithfulness does not depend on us.
If we believe that those who seek God shall lack no good thing, why do we not seek Him? If our help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, why do we look to things that do not satisfy for help? James encourages those who are troubled to pray, noting that prayers can heal and that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Though these are not new recommendations, I believe the prayerful life brings healing because prayer invites God, the Healer, to work in us and through us. We are told to by joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. There are no special conditions in which those are the specific times we should pray. It does not say, “if we feel like it, we should be faithful in prayer.” The Word simply says to be faithful in prayer, so I encourage readers today to ask the Lord for He gives good gifts to His children who ask. Be faithful in prayer.

[1] Bade, M. K., & Cook, S. W. (2008). Functions of Christian prayer in the coping process. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 47(1), 123-133.

[2] McMinn, M. R. (2011).  Psychology, theology, and spirituality in Christian counseling. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House. 


  1. Joelle,
    I really appreciate that you referenced the promises of God in your third paragraph. I too, have learned recently that this is one way that we can pray to God. Your post has helped me learn that praying the promises of God is specifically helpful in counseling others. When Jesus prays the Lords Prayer in Matthew 6,(a good outline for praying) verse 10 proclaims the promises of God. It brings hope that God is always in control.


    P.s. Your post reminded me of a song that I just had to include. Its "Promises" by Sanctus Reel.

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  4. Joelle,

    What an interesting and encouraging post. You know it is very impactful what you said about knowing the healing effects of prayer and time spent with God but not attending to it. In life I think we are trained to depend on what is tangible for support. Friends, loved ones, and other acquaintances always seem to point us towards bed rest, music, warm baths by candlelight, etc (not that there is anything wrong with these things). And most seem to tack on prayer or scripture reading just to check it off on their invoice of "good advice." Everyone's experience is different , but I feel we seldom usher people into the throne room of grace, mercy, and healing that Christ abides in. The word of God instructs us to run toward His throne. Instead of moving toward God we build our own adulterine thrones that simulate what Christ offers us. After a while it seems that staying a mile high on our cushions is less risky than climbing down and running again toward Him. At any rate, true healing that goes beyond simply coping I think should is the key. We always seem to want to "feel better" about life instead of taking the risk of being healed in life. Our great privilege as counselors seems to be aiding in some way in the doing of the later.

  5. What a good reminder of how each of us might approach prayer from a unique perspective. You are so very right that counselors need to be aware of how a client understands, uses, and needs prayer that are unlike themselves or another client. I think that how and what we pray has the potential to give us much insight into both our view of the relationship we have with God, as well as into our own lives. A prayer that I say might hold a lot of meaning for me, while saying a completely different prayer would be more meaningful for another person. Counselors have a serious responsibility to the client to be following the Holy Spirit's guidance whenever incorporating prayer in a session instead of solely relying on our own way of praying.

  6. You gave a wonderful challenge to always be in a prayerful mindset, especially with regards to intercession for clients. Prayer is definitely powerful because we serve a powerful God. Emphasizing God's faithfulness being apart from us is also a great truth to keep in mind, but at the same time this does not provide an excuse to be able to constantly doubt and not have faith. Instead, it should increase our faith, reliance, trust, and dedication to the Lord. We need to realize that prayer primarily changes us and works in our hearts and keeps us focused on heavenly things and God. Prayer is the communication between God and man whereby man seeks God to respond and while prayer cannot force God to move, the absence of prayer may prevent Him from doing so; not because he needs prayer to act, but because he needs man's willingness. Otherwise, he would violate our free will. Prayer is powerful and essential. Thank you for that reminder Joelle.


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