It happens. Negative thoughts can bombard your mind even when you tend to be a positive person. There doesn’t have to be a reason. Suddenly negativity is sabotaging your day by dictating what to fear and how to feel. But those negative thoughts don’t need to have their way with you anymore.
Whether it’s fear, doubt, a critical spirit, anxiety, or just the dreaded case of the what-ifs, there’s a way to close the gate on all of that negativity entering your mind and dragging you down. Prayer is the ultimate stopper. But not just praying after the fact. Here are some ways to use prayer to stop negative thoughts in their tracks before they begin to consume you or affect your attitude.
Pray as if God has already delivered.
The songwriters of long ago knew how to ward off negative thoughts before they took hold in their hearts and minds. Because we have their prayers recorded in scripture, we can learn from them and imitate their progression through prayer.
In Psalm 13, David was in pity, thinking the very worst about his circumstances. He asked: “How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long am I to feel anxious in my soul, with grief in my heart all the day…” (verses 1-2). Talk about giving in to the what-ifs and fears that can bombard us daily. But then David got off of his face and onto his knees in prayer. In verse 3, he prays: “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death….”
As he called to God for perspective and acknowledged God as the One who answers prayer, he gained the confidence to see his situation as if God had already acted on his behalf. He was able to end his prayer on his feet in praise: “But I have trusted in Your faithfulness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because He has looked after me” (verses 5-6).
What took David from being on his face in pity to being on his feet in praise? Being on his knees in prayer. Next time you start to feel hopeless or frightened or even stressed, pray and address God as if He has already delivered you because He has.
Catch and correct negative thoughts through prayer.
Those who fish often practice “catch and release.” But in prayer, you can incorporate a “catch and correct” method, and instead of releasing negative thoughts to keep running wild through your mind, you bind them by correcting them with the truth of God’s Word. Second Corinthians 10:5 instructs us to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
Taking our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ means capturing or binding them with the truth of God’s Word. If your thoughts tell you that you are alone, grab them and correct them with the reality of Hebrews 13:5 that God will never leave you nor forsake you. If your thoughts are telling you to leave your spouse and pursue what you want, capture those thoughts and correct them with the truth of 1 Corinthians 13:8: “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Tell yourself what to think through prayer.
In Psalm 42, the sons of Korah escaped depression and other negative thoughts by telling themselves what to think through prayer. For example, the Psalmist asked himself in verse 5: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” Then he solved his problem by telling himself what to do: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
Pray away the worry with thanksgiving.
Scripture gives us an excellent antidote to worry and negative thoughts. Philippians 4:6-7 is a superb prescription that works if we follow closely: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Worry is simply giving in to those negative thoughts. According to this passage of scripture, we are to worry about nothing and instead pray about everything. When we do, along with telling God what we need and thanking Him for what He is already doing, we will experience God’s incomprehensible peace, which will prevent us from worrying and being drug down by its effect on us.
Follow Nehemiah’s example and send up missile prayers.
Nehemiah was surrounded by negativity, criticism, scheming, and harassment when attempting to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Even though he was following God’s calling on his heart, he experienced an onslaught of opposition from people who pretended to be supportive. Thus Nehemiah learned to send up “missile prayers” – short but powerful prayers to God – in the heat of the moment.
Nehemiah narrates his story and doesn’t tell us he found a quiet place to get down on his knees and pour out to God many eloquent words or even that he always had another person to pray with him. He includes phrases like, “So I prayed to the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 2:4) and “But we prayed to our God” (4:9). In some cases, he fired off his distress call to God in the form of missile prayers like: “O God, strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9) and “Remember me” (5:19; 13:14, 22, 31).
Here are some missile prayers (and their biblical references) that you can use when negative thoughts begin to assault you:
Lord, lead me in Your truth (Psalm 25:5).
Lord, extinguish that flaming dart (Ephesians 6:16).
God, send out Your light and truth (Psalm 43:3).
Jesus, show me Your truth (John 14:6).
Lord, test my heart and mind (Psalm 26:2).
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Negative thoughts can get the worst of us even when we want to ignore them. However, it would be best to let your negative emotions roll over your back like water. Instead of holding on to them, release them to God and forget about them.