Mental Illness and Prayer

Standard

My previous post was about a woman we called Flower Queen who probably was schizophrenic. I knew another person who was very close to me, and a believer, who had schizophrenia. Whenever the person stopped taking the prescribed medication, after a few weeks, the voices were back, and we would sometimes have some bad episodes. We would then find some way of motivating the person to take the medicines, and when that was accomplished, relief was almost instantaneous because the person came back to us from the terrifying world of insanity in a matter of hours. The times when the person refused to take medication are similar to the stuff that nightmares are made of. I know that there is a chemical imbalance or something biological that is behind the condition.

Pastor John MacArthur has been criticised for his opinion about most so-called mental illnesses actually being results of sin and treatable by prayer and repentance. We have been reading his books for 20 years now, he has won over our confidence many times over, and I do not think he would have expressed his opinion on this matter without much thought.

I do not know how exactly to reconcile his opinion with my experience, and my little brain cannot begin to understand all the ramifications of either theology or medicine.

This much I know that all our mental states–pleasure, anger, sadness, and so on–result in the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters in our brains. These chemicals are also responsible for cravings and addictions in people. Sinfulness and a lack of faith in God must impact our mental well being profoundly, and such mental illnesses can therefore be relieved by godly counsel.

But if organic and irreversible changes take place in the brain, we probably need to complement our spiritual healing with medicine. After the illness is brought under control by medication, mentally ill people need to be counseled by pastors who are really godly men who base their teachings on the word of God. The ill person may need to continue to take their medication as well. I am sure that counseling from a pastor is absolutely necessary, but I am not sure if medical treatment can be dispensed with in many cases.

Having expressed my doubt about whether it is advisable to avoid psychiatric treatment in many cases, here are some reasons why I, as a believer in Christ based on the infallible word of God, am uncomfortable about going to a psychiatrist:

  • Far too many conditions are being treated as psychological disorders when they could just be psychological problems resulting from bad parenting and so on.
  • Our minds and our spirits are not separate aspects. As a redeemed person, I am a new creation; surely my mind is different in some way now. My interests have changed. My perspective is different. With sanctification comes the renewal of my mind. How can a psychiatrist, who is not a believer, be able to sort through the reasoning of this new species that books on Psychiatry do not even acknowledge?

The conditions that we perceive as mental illness may have various causes; some may be a direct result of sin; some may be the result of sin that has since been forgiven; some may even be demonic; some, like the case I mentioned, may be inherent in the individual and really really need medical intervention; some may be a combination of these causes. In all cases, we must pray first and pray much.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:13-16)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s