Praying the Psalms - Songs During Depression

I battle the darkness of depression. It seems that at all times there is a “low grade fever.” At other times it is the deep dark of a cave when the guide turns the lights off. At such times, nothing comes easy. The weeks between Thanksgiving and January 1 are the weeks when depression is most prevalent. 

While in the grip of what is now called a Major Depressive Disorder, your energy level may be so low that it is impossible to find words for either prayer or praise. It seems to expend your energy to just breath. 

What I've come to call, Songs for the Dark Place, give me words when I have no words. 

Praying While Depressed

Prayer, which is to have meaningful conversation with Jesus, is a necessary part of Christian life. In the Sermon on the Mount, three times in one paragraph Jesus said, “When ye pray . . .”  For a Christian in good times or bad - prayer is not an option. Prayer is healthy. In prayer we can express our complaints, pain and despair - and gratitude to God.

When depressed, the ability to communicate is difficult. I've friends who can sense my frustration at such times and will say, "It's ok, Carlton, take your time." Not only is it hard for a depressed person to muster the energy to pray. It is also difficult to articulate your prayer. Mental processes and speech both slow. 

Have you been there?  It is maddening isn't it?

Be Honest With God - He Already Knows

God has provided resources to help. What I call Songs for the Dark Place are largely drawn from the Psalms. Bill Hybels book Honest to God was a help to me. He noted our tendency to act as though difficult emotions should never be expressed to God are other Christians.

Hybels used Psalms to showcase how often anguish was declared. It is consoling to know God does not close His ears to my despair and anguish. You see the same in Job, in Elijah’s isolation and prayer to die, even Christ’s cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me has the tone of depression. 

Make the Psalms Your Song

There have been seasons of life when I had no prayer. It was not that I was without need. My need was desperate. It was just I had no words. The well-spring of communication was dry. 

My best solution, one now shared with thousands, is using the Psalms as a prayer book. Instead of silently reading the words of the Psalms, I read the words aloud.

Author Eugene Peterson said silent reading was never the intent of the psalmist. He argues that the psalms were written to be read aloud. While reading silently, particularly material with which we are already familiar, our eyes tend to flow over the words without mental engagement.

Something different happens when the same sentences are read aloud. There is physical participation. You speak, but you also hear. Slowly reading the words aloud engages your mind. When reading aloud, the mouth cannot speak unless the brain is fully engaged.

When I read the Psalms aloud, it is only a short time before I encounter a Psalm that expresses my current experience. At that moment, the ancient psalm becomes my present prayer. It has spoken my situation to my Lord. My feelings have been expressed to Him.

Finding Your Song

Every psalm does not resonate. What speaks for me at one moment may not be of help later. That psalm may also not be a benefit to you. But without fail when I begin to read the psalms aloud it is only a short time before what I'm reading becomes mine. The psalm has the right words, the right tone and tune.  

Out of 150 Psalms there are at least 48 that are known as Psalms of Lament. Psalms of Lament can speak your words when you are dealing with depression. You may want to mark these in your Bible. Psalms 6, 13, 18, 23, 25, 27, 31, 32, 34, 37, 38, 39, 40, 42, 43, 46, 51, 55, 57, 62, 63, 69, 71, 73, 77, 84, 86, 90, 91, 94, 95, 103, 104, 107, 110, 116, 118, 121, 123, 1`24, 130, 138, 139, 141, 142, 143, 146, and 147.

Changing my prayer approach is only one of the things I've learned about dealing with depression. This tool to fight back against depression plus over a dozen other options are included in my best-selling book, Light in a Dark Place - Encountering Depression. If you feel this could benefit you take a look at the reviews for the book on Amazon. 

Light in a Dark Place has benefitted thousands. Within the USA we ship for free. The eBook is available for your Kindle app or Kindle reader.

If you get the book from, shipping in the USA is free. I believe 1,000,000 people would benefit from reading every book I've written. I feel this so strongly that every book bought at my website, has an unconditional guarantee. You get a full refund and you get to keep the book for your next yard sale. All you need to do to get a refund is let me know you did not benefit from the material.  

Notice:  If you use any of my links to purchase from Amazon, I'll receive a stipend for having referred you. 


[1] Keen, P. 101.

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