Many of us struggle with negative thinking, especially those more pessimistic about life. Examples of negative frames of thinking include, “I’m not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, or talented enough,” thinking that the worst possible scenario will happen, that one is incapable or worthless, that God won’t come through, or that nobody is trustworthy. Such thoughts usually expose how we see ourselves, others and God. However, as Lamentations 3:40 says, we must “test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord.” We all need to consider this exhortation in light of our negative thoughts.
One effective way to overcome negative thoughts is through prayer. Prayer, by definition, is returning to the Lord (Lamentations 3:40) and returning to a position of faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Scripture tells us to make war with sin. We see that in verses like Romans 8:13, which says by the Spirit, we’re to put the deeds of the body to death. We also see that we’re to “put to death what is earthly” in us (Colossians 3:5). In other words, we are not to play nice with sin; we must constantly battle it. A seemingly insignificant negative thought can quickly turn into sin, hence why we’re told to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). The “heart” in biblical language also includes our thoughts. Our hearts can quickly return to old sinful thought patterns if we entertain negative/sinful thoughts (Jeremiah 17:9, Galatians 5:16-17).
The following are practical ways of praying in light of negative thoughts.
Pray Gospel Truths
Wage war with negative thoughts by setting your mind on what is true, honourable, right, pure, lovely and admirable (Philippians 4:8). An example of this is remembering that you’re a Christian that is in Christ, and through Christ has been reconciled to God (Colossians 1:22). You were once alienated from God and hostile in mind, but now you’re blameless and holy before the Lord (Colossians 1:21-22). Ask God for grace to have a mind that recognises that you are no longer an enemy of God (Colossians 1:21-22). Hence before God, you are holy and blameless. After reading these scriptures, you can confess the truths highlighted above or say the following prayer: “Lord Jesus, I was once an enemy of God. My mind was hostile toward you, even enjoying that which is evil in your eyes. Thank you for how you have reconciled my mind to present me holy, blameless, and above reproach before God the Father. Please help me to believe this truth and live my life in light of it. Lord, keep me from negative thinking.”
Other gospel truths you can meditate upon as you pray can be based on Romans 12:1-2. Here, Paul encourages Roman believers to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2). Those who do not know the mercies of God in salvation (Romans 12:1) have a “debased mind” that is hostile to God (Romans 1:28). But believers in Christ have the power, through Christ, to renew their minds otherwise it would not be commanded in Romans 12:2. You’re not alone as you try to overcome negative thinking, but you have gospel power through a merciful God to change your thoughts. Therefore pray from a position of victory: “Heavenly Father, I am having negative thoughts, but I remember that through your mercy, I can renew my thoughts through the power of the gospel. Therefore I ask for gospel power to stop these negative thoughts and focus on what is true, honourable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8).
Pray Promises in Scripture
Another thing that can overpower negative thinking is praying promises of scripture. Pray things like “Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for your promises in scripture. They are true even when I don’t believe them. Your promises are true even when my negative thoughts tell me otherwise.” Be intentional about praying the scriptures back to God. For example: “Heavenly Father, your word says your steadfast love never ceases; your mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Another promise, 1 Peter 5:10, is a personal favourite of mine to pray. This promise stands as an encouragement after Peter says that we’re to resist the Devil who prowls around like a roaring lion causing Christians worldwide to suffer (1 Peter 5:8-9). Pray, “Heavenly Father, you say that after I have suffered a little while, you, the God of all grace, who has called me to your eternal glory in Christ, will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish me.” No matter how negative my thinking is, the Lord is faithful to restore what has been lost. My negative thinking will claim that God is not faithful and that everything I have worked for is in vain, but the promises of scripture remind me that there is always hope through Jesus.
Praying scripture will help turn your negative thoughts back towards truths to find joy in the Lord. So dig into scripture and find more and more promises to pray back to the Lord. It is okay to pray these promises repeatedly because negative thinking can be intense. However, remember that no temptation will overwhelm you since God is always faithful to give you a way of escaping negative thinking (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Pray for Grace to Be Kind
As believers, we can attest that our souls are blessed whenever we’re kind to others, which is another way of overcoming negative thoughts. Consider, for example, what Proverbs 11:17 says: “A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.” Also, Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Lastly, Proverbs 11:25 says: “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Therefore pray and ask God to empower you to be kind and merciful toward others. Continually pray for this, and God will give you opportunities to practise these virtues, bringing joy and refreshment to your soul (Proverbs 11:25). These refreshing blessings will help defeat negative thinking.
Having been assured of all these truths, go to war confidently, trusting God to grant you the inevitable victory against negative thinking.