Jesus spent entire nights in prayer. The Apostle Paul said we should pray without stopping. So how do we know when we’ve prayed the way we’re supposed to pray? How do we know if we’re praying too much? How much is enough for spiritual vitality? Let’s find out.
Feeling Anxious About My Prayer Life
Let me summarize my main thought right away: if you always feel anxious, disturbed, and compulsive about your prayer life, there’s something wrong. It’s not a virtue to be anxious about prayer.
If you pray consistently and from your heart but you always feel like it’s not enough or it’s not the right quality, really there’s something wrong.
That “something” is probably one of two things:
- You have a faulty doctrinal understanding about salvation, or
- You have scrupulosity, a religious manifestation of obsessive-compulsive disorder, in which your brain locks you into cycles of doubt and rumination about your spirituality
I’m currently taking my PhD in religion and have spent the last ten years in various ministry roles, and let me tell you, I’ve encountered a lot of different views about prayer. But the biblical view of prayer is quite simple and straightforward. And yes, it IS possible to get stuck in a cycle of praying too much.
Did Jesus pray all night? Yes, sometimes (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16), but not every night.
And sometimes it’s necessary for us to spend several hours in prayer during critical life moments, but the everyday model for prayer that Jesus gave is heartfelt and brief.
The disciples asked, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” Jesus didn’t lead them out into the desert, show them how to flay themselves with whips and spend all night on the cold ground.
Instead, He showed them how to open their hearts in a brief and unencumbered way.
Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Can Praying Too Much Become a “Work?”
For people with faulty doctrinal views about salvation, excessive prayer and other devotional rituals can be viewed as a “work” that earns points towards salvation.
There is no joy or depth to such prayer, only a feeling of self-preservation and self-responsibility. These people need to take care not to allow prayer to become a form of legalism.
On the other hand, for people who have scrupulosity (which is predominantly the kind of people I work with), excessively praying too much is not actually a form of legalism, but it’s an ineffective attempt at anxiety control.
If you’ve never heard of scrupulosity before, feel free to take a scrupulosity quiz to see how serious your spiritual anxiety is, or see my ultimate guide to scrupulosity. If you already know you have scrupulosity, check out this popular post with free worksheets that will help you make better progress.
Why Does Religious OCD Make Me Unable to Stop Praying?
With scrupulosity and praying too much, we get these vague feelings that something is not right, feelings of doom that we can’t shake, and so we scan our brains for anything that might explain these negative feelings — and we end up constantly stuck in our heads.
If you are a spiritual person, that brain scan might get stuck on religion — aha! this must be where the problem is! — so then you get this compulsion to pray more or pray longer.
Praying too much is actually quite a common compulsive activity for people with scrupulosity. Compulsive witnessing and confession is also common. It’s rooted in the functional weaknesses of the OCD brain.
There’s a part of the brain that is responsible for stopping repetitive behavior and this part of the brain appears to be impaired in people with OCD. This is why they continue repeating behaviors that they know doesn’t make sense, like checking the stove, washing their hands, or praying too much.
How Can I Stop Praying Too Much? I Don’t Want to Lose My Relationship with God.
This article is for people with scrupulosity — I would probably not tell a regular Joe Schmoe in the church pew that he needs to pray less. But for a scrupulous person who is praying for six hours per day and can’t stop, or for the person who takes 30 minutes to pray before eating or has to repeat prayers multiple times because of making a minor mistake, you need to know that God does not require that of you.
You do not need to repeat your prayers when you make a mistake.
After you have opened your heart to God and have earnestly asked for your requests, it’s ok to stop.
Jesus actually told us not to pray repetitively like the heathen, who think they will be heard for their “many words” (Matthew 6:7). God is not interested in repetitive speech and “many words.” He is interested in hearing our heart. And he only needs to hear it once.
I like the words of the 7th century church theologian John Climacus when he wrote,
Let your prayer be completely simple. For both the publican and the prodigal son were reconciled to God by a single phrase.
The bottom line answer: when have you prayed enough?
You have prayed enough when you said what you need to say once, in a heartfelt and earnest manner. After that point, it becomes a matter of faith to get OFF your knees.
Do you believe that GOD will answer your prayer, or that your prayer will answer your prayer?
Obsessive compulsive disorder would like to keep you stuck in this loop of feeling that something’s wrong and doing compulsive activities to try to cancel out that feeling.
But believe me, you could pray nonstop without eating or drinking or sleeping until you die from exhaustion and it will not make those feelings go away. Because fundamentally, people who pray compulsively are not dealing with a spiritual issue, they’re dealing with a mental health concern that happens to be manifesting itself within the context of their spirituality.
Praying too much might be a sign of a doctrinal misunderstanding. It might be a sign of legalism in your spiritual experience. But for many, praying too much is a sign of Religious OCD.
If that describes you, know that indulging your obsession with prayer will not fix the problem. Facing your spiritual anxiety and learning to cast your care upon God will have the greatest positive impact.
And this will mean learning to pray less.
What has your prayer journey been like? Share your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.
We all have our unique experiences in dealing with spiritual doubts and anxieties. But I wish you the best as you move forward in following the call of Christ!
Best wishes on the journey,
I am battling such anxiety right now w/intrusive thought. I am praying during the anxiety. it's excruciating and scary. I have about 3 or 4 good hours in the afternoon. today the intrusive thought has been minimal but there's a fear it will return. I have family to take care of and I'm just so exhausted. how can I just be glad for the reprieve and not worry about tomorrow? I wish I had heard of scrupulosity 40 years ago because that's how long I've had it. thank you for helping people.
THOUGHTS ON PEOPLE WHO CHOOSE A MONASTIC LIFE IN A CLOISTERED CATHOLIC RELIGIOUS ORDER. THEY MEET 7 HOURS A DAY IN THEIR CHURCH MONASTERY AND PRAY THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS. THAT IS NOT OCD
Right, I would assume that special vocational-based prayer lifestyles are not OCD, although it would not be impossible for someone with OCD to choose such a profession.
I can't thank you enough for the time and effort you put into these resources!! I just discovered you and I'm literally in tears reading some of this. The past 6 months have been absolutely horrible with our 15 year old son. After much research and several evaluations, we realized that he definitely has scrupulosity. He has been in counseling the past few months, but I think some of your resources are helping even more. We are reading blogs together every night. This one about obsessive prayer was especially helpful!! 85% of our son's day is consumed with prayer. It has made life incredibly difficult. I just can't thank you enough for what you're doing! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
I’m so glad the resources are helping. Prayer compulsions are certainly not as enjoyable as the real prayer God wants us to experience, and oh-so-hard to escape. I’m glad he’s been able to get some evaluations. Is he seeing a therapist yet? The folks over at NOCD are pretty good, a lot of my clients see someone from their platform for the ERP side of things and have told me good things.
Thank you for your reply, Jaimie! He has been seeing a therapist for the past few months. He is just starting the ERP side of things. I am praying that it will be effective. Thanks for the recommendation though. I will certainly keep them in mind. Lots of things you post and say in your videos are resonating with him, so we are so thankful! We have a long way to go, but he has made improvements since last October. We are trying to celebrate every small victory!
Hi , I’m afraid to pray and incase I curse god it’s so upsetting I contemplate giving up often because I must have a rebellious heart or something, I just want to fit in and be a normal Christian
I wish I had a resource like this 30 years ago. I spent 30-40 minutes in repetitive detailed prayer every day and dreaded prayer time. I have mostly overcome that issue but other religious obsessions have simply taken it's place.
Sometimes when I pray in deep thought, suddenly these evil or bad images pop out of my head, it ruins everything so I have to do it again until I perfect it. It's exhausting.
Thank you Jaimie for your posts which I recently discovered. I have struggled with how long to pray and mentioning every person I’m praying for by name, every detail, etc… trying to be perfect. But in reading Ephesians 2 (first half) this weekend, especially verses 8-9, I know I can’t save myself or anyone else (through long prayers, etc)… it is the gift of God… it certainly isn’t my own efforts. Then I found this quote: “A profession of Christ without this deep love is mere talk, dry formality, and heavy drudgery.” I don’t want my daily talks with God to be a drudgery!
Hope you don’t mind if I share a long paragraph from this book I was reading. It really spoke to my heart and I hope it speaks to others.
There are those who profess to serve God, while they rely upon their own efforts to obey His law, to form a right character, and secure salvation. Their hearts are not moved by any deep sense of the love of Christ, but they seek to perform the duties of the Christian life as that which God requires of them in order to gain heaven. Such religion is worth nothing. When Christ dwells in the heart, the soul will be so filled with His love, with the joy of communion with Him, that it will cleave to Him; and in the contemplation of Him, self will be forgotten. Love to Christ will be the spring of action. Those who feel the constraining love of God, do not ask how little may be given to meet the requirements of God; they do not ask for the lowest standard, but aim at perfect conformity to the will of their Redeemer. With earnest desire they yield all and manifest an interest proportionate to the value of the object which they seek. A profession of Christ without this deep love is mere talk, dry formality, and heavy drudgery. SC 44.2
Thank you so much for putting these resources out. It makes me feel less alone in this. I’m not sure where to start with therapy or trying to do it on my own (with God). It’s been running me over lately and the thoughts I think have led me to think I’ve lost my way.
I worry that if I enter a prayer I must leave a prayer and if I don't I make a bigger sin by not leaving the prayer and he is still Sith me, what do I do about this crisis? I said his name 3 times and now I am worried I am in a prayer. Please help.
I am having symptoms of OCD like constant washing hands, constantly checking locks/doors, etc. I think I'm also struggling with religious OCD. For years, I've always went through my whole prayer list in the morning during my morning devotions before starting my day. Back then, it was okay and doable since my prayer list was kinda short. But now, my prayer list has become pretty long with many things to pray for. I always feel the need that I need to go through my whole prayer list before starting my day but that takes at least an hour and sometimes goes to 2 hours. I also feel the need to repeat my request until it feels like I did it right. Because of all these things, I've come to dread prayer in the morning. I know I should feel this way and I really don't want to feel this way. That morning prayer before I start my day has sadly become like a burden that when I wake up, sometimes I just stay in bed because I dread having to pray for a long time. Sometimes I just lay in bed for several hours, I actually stayed in bed for almost 8 hours a few times just because I was dreading prayer before starting my day and doing the things I need to do. This has affected other areas of my life like college. I've failed classes and I'm still currently behind in my classes and might fall again this semester. I also end up being late for appointments because I need to get through all my prayer requests. I know you said we should learn to pray less, but doing that feels like I'll be sinning because isn't it good to pray? I really would like your help as no one around me understands.
Hi, I can understand you as I have the same problem. I pray both of us find a solution for this
I am suffering from extreme scrupulosity due to the Ukraine crisis. I am now under the impression that the world is going to end in April due to all the articles I've seen on this being the end times. As a result, I've been praying excessively in the hopes God will hear me and not allow this to happen. I pray constantly by going in front of various churches around where I live, and doing the sign of the cross a set of 14 times. It has started to impact me physically to the point I am fatigued and started to develop chest pains. I am worried this constant stress will become fatal, but it's so hard for me to stop. I need to remember this Bible passage about not praying excessively, but every time I see a reference to something religious on the internet or in real life my brain thinks that God is sending me a sign that I need to keep praying excessively. I am trapped.
I can understand your stress, because I have also had end-time anxieties. I can assure you that the world will not end in April. Of course, depending on what denomination you hail from, there are a few different eschatological (end-time) timelines and interpretations, but most of them involve some important preliminaries that will take place when both the righteous and the wicked are together on the earth. For example, the book of Revelation speaks about an end-time crisis in which those which do not have the mark of the beast will not be permitted to buy or sell. This is NOT speaking of the general supply-chain shortages that we experience now, but rather is directly linked to a test of loyalty: those who receive the mark of the beast may buy and sell, while those who receive the seal of God rather than the mark of the beast may not. We also have issues as spoken of in Revelation 13 where this false power is even doing false miracles like calling fire down from heaven in the sight of the people to deceive them. These metaphors are a clear reference harking back to the religious showdown on Mt. Carmel with Elijah and the false prophets. It will be a time of religious decision-making, public agitation of religious loyalties, and even economic restrictions made against religious non-conformists.
In short: we do not see this happening yet. What we see now are the “birth pangs” spoken of in Matthew 24. Jesus said specifically, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
Hi Jamie! I was so thrilled by your response! I was also raised with the concept that when when we hear of all these disasters happening around us, not to worry, because the Bible predicts all these things, and that they will happen before the Lord comes, and that we should not panic because we know that God has everything under His control. I was also taught that God is not going to let this world self destruct, that act is reserved for God. But that does not mean we shouldn’t remember these things in prayer, but we just need to know that God DOES have everything under control! But, He also has to let satan have his way here on earth, otherwise, people would accuse Him of not being fair, by always making things turn out the way HE, God wants them to be. God created man with the power of choice, and it’s by mans choices, that we fail or succeed! So when we see all these terrible disasters, we just know that satan is having HIS way on this earth. But God knows this! I am just so thankful that God is the final judge, not me! God does not need our prayers, but WE need our prayers, to keep connected with God. Oh, the group that sings the song – God Already Knew, is the Hoppers.
My mom always taught me that we should pray constantly! As a child, young person, even as I got older, I thought how can you do that? You can’t just stop and pray all the time! But you can! It doesn’t mean to stop what your doing at that moment, it means whenever you think of someone, a situation, you can just “whisper”, or think a prayer for them or whatever situation, on the go! As my prayer life develops, I find that I DO that a lot! More and more all the time! At 74, I think I now understand my mother’s words!
I think of the song- Just As I Am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bid’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt; “Fightings within, and fears without,” O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
When we feel, we are becoming OCD with our prayers, just remember, God understands! He understands our OCD-edness, and He can help, even that! God Bless, all those that read this!
I have had extreme anxiety regarding lengthy prayers in the morning. I have to wake up very early to finish my prayers which is very detailed and full of requests. I am afraid that if I do not mention every request, God will not hear me. When it is time for me to waje up and pray, I have palpitations. I cannot perform normal home and family duties unless I have prayed everything.
This is really helpful to me. Sometimes, most of the time actually, I get this feeling that something's wrong, and I pray about it, but then it ends up an hour long prayer with me just giving God my life's story and confessing the same things over and over as if He's never heard of me before, and then I feel like I'm talking to a brick wall and don't know what to do. But God understands what's going on inside my brain, and loves me the same, right?
Yes, Essie, God understands what’s going on. And who knows, maybe He enjoys hearing your life story over and over again. 🙂
Its good to see someone discussing this. My experience of this was that yes, I had intense anxiety. And my anxiety was about both false guilt and responsibility and also about sin situations going on in my life. There was a spiritual component to it as well. I also had gut health issues related to dairy and possibly anxiety. I remember a family violence incident that took place because I had told on the parent who was behaving sinfully and the other parent assaulted that parent. I had been very angry and wanted them to be punished for their wrongdoing but what happened instead is that they were beaten and assaulted sexually in a degrading and humiliating way. I was beside myself, just horrified and anguished over what my telling and anger seemed to have accomplished and believed myself to be responsible for this terrible event. I had no idea as a four year old that my thoughts about crime and punishment were very legal but lacking in any understanding of the persons or situation and also lacking in mercy. I just figured okay three strikes you're out, you're the bad guy, we'd be better off without you. Later on, I developed a ritual that involved stepping on sidewalk cracks and repeating the rhyme Step on a crack, break your mother's back. I would do this and then check to see if I felt any pleasure at the idea of hurting my parent. I became very confused about my own heart and who I was and felt terrible and responsible. So while outwardly I didn't have rituals that I had to do that were obvious like repeat handwashing. It was mostly internal. But I can recall have severe anxiety attacks, as well as once having made my husband drive half an hour back home to check if I'd left the stove on or coming back once or twice to double check that I had locked the door. As a teen when I would pray, I never seemed able to do it quite right and so if I didn't feel i had prayed right, I would often back up several times and re start my prayers until it felt right. It drove me nuts because I was uncertain if God was hearing or receiving my prayers. Finally I got around that blockade by deciding to just believe that God was listening to me regardless of how I felt. But my experience of this, is that it is both a brain and heart condition. It could be said that because i experienced serious trauma at a very early developmental age, it affected my brain development. But it could be equally argued that my heart was informing my brain of what it thought was true and because I could not resolve the issue of what my heart/brain thought were true, I remained really stuck there. I think one of my challenges is being able to sort real guilt from false guilt and to be able to determine if I am feeling spiritual anxiety and concern because in fact, I am walking in disobedience. Sin in our lives ( I know this is an intensely triggering statement for those of us who suffer from things like OCD/Scrupulosity) can trigger intense anxiety also. I remember having some very blasphemous thoughts come through my mind and thinking I had committed the unpardonable sin; I went through hell over that. I didn't know if people were telling me the truth or just dispensing cheap grace. I remember reading the passage in Hebrews about those who having been once renewed, fall away and cannot be renewed to repentance and those who have seared consciences and just freaking out and coming unglued. How would one tell false condemnation from really being in that spiritual condition? How does one know for sure when one is experiencing genuine Holy Spirit conviction, vs. OCD symptoms? There has to be a way to determine what to chuck and what to listen to. Anyway, I think its dangerous to just tell oneself automatically that any anxiety or spiritual disease or concerns about eternal loss are automatically just our ocd issues just as much as its dangerous to believe every feeling of guilt or anxiety or spiritual fear or distress is coming from God. Many so called disorders and mental illnesses are in fact
rooted in heart level issues and beliefs and may even be the result of a stronghold spiritually speaking. It may be both/and not either /or . I'd welcome your thoughts on this.
Hi Jamie, this article has really helped me because I never realised that some people were going through what I was with my ocd. I have always been a somewhat spiritual person and the past couple of years I've been praying daily, which I love doing but it became difficult because of a voice in my head telling me "nope, do it again, that wasn't enough" or "something horrible will happen" if I didnt pray enough. I started associating satisfying my ocd with feeling safe, and it started to take over my daily life. I'd never blame my faith for it, I love being religious. But today I'm gonna really try work on it, because I know deep down, even when I'm feeling ocd, that God knows I mean well and am being sincere. Thank you so much and God bless you.
Good Morning, I have had some issues with praying for some time, especially with the concept of the 'perfect prayer' , often repeating them many times – this can be triggered if I hear a noise when praying or have any thoughts that are not of a spiritual nature. Although this is manageable and not as severe as some cases I have recently read about, it has lead to some anxiety, how will I be able to pray when I go on a big family holiday next month etc. So reading the above and these comments have proved really helpful enabling me to reset my relationship not only with God but with myself.
Hi Jamie, thank you for the article. I have suspected I am dealing with scrupulosity/OCD for a while now and it certainly affects my prayer life. A problem I have is the compulsion to pray a prayer of repentance and asking for forgiveness all the time if there’s even the slightest chance I have sinned. This happens multiple times a day, though since I have been able to speak with a mental health professional, it has gotten less difficult to deal with. In your article, you said it was enough to just say your prayer with true, heartfelt meaning. I agree with you! But the thing my brain gets stuck on is whether I truly meant it or I was just praying to relieve the anxiety and return to whatever I was currently doing. It is especially difficult when I’m doing something I enjoy, because I’ll get the urge to compulsively pray, but my brain goes, “You don’t actually mean that you’re sorry, you just want to get back to whatever you’re doing because you care more about that and your heart isn’t sincere.”
As a result, I often get stuck praying not only for forgiveness for whatever I perceived I have done wrong, but also asking forgiveness for not being sincere and trying very hard to make my prayer have meaning. This causes me to repeat prayers, trying to be truly heartfelt. It’s exhausting. Is there any certain way I can address this? Thanks again for your article.
Yes, the “authenticity questions” are a major trip-up for people with religious OCD. One way to think about this problem is biologically, another way to think about it is spiritually. Let me address both.
Biologically speaking, research tells us that the OCD brain is hyperactive in areas responsible for error detection and underactive in areas responsible for suppression of repetitive activities. It’s like you have a little butler in your brain, going around with a white glove to check for dust in random, hard-to-reach places that nobody cares about. And what’s worse, this butler is working 24/7–you can’t make him stop! All forms of OCD center around these “error detection” tasks, whether we are speaking of contamination, possible harm done to others, finding perfect symmetry, or being in God’s favor. OCD sees errors where there are none, and cannot stop trying to address them. “Sincerity” is one of the many supposed “errors” that pop up very frequently in religious OCD. So first, we must recognize that the OCD brain has a biological predisposition to see errors where there are none (and I would suggest that if you’re deeply concerned about being sincere, you are probably very sincere!)
But understanding the brain is usually not enough reassurance. We need something more. So we must also look at this question from a spiritual angle. Sincerity is very important–but how does a believer obtain sincerity? How do we begin wanting the things we ought to want, and hating the things we ought to hate? Let us go back to the story of man’s fall in the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve were cast from the garden, God made them a promise. Theologians sometimes call this promise the “protoevangelium,” or the first declaration of the gospel. God told them He would send Someone through the woman’s seed who would crush the serpent’s head and “put enmity” between the serpent and the woman’s offspring. We know that the One who came to crush the serpent was Jesus. But how does Jesus “put enmity” or hatred between us and the serpent? This is the divine act that Christ works upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit. It is sometimes called “prevenient grace,” using the prefix “pre” because it is “the grace that goes before” saving grace. How do we even come to the point of experiencing true saving faith, or going on “from faith to faith” to experience transforming faith? There are three types of faith, and we often forget this first one, prevenient grace. This is where sincerity dawns upon our hearts and we desire the things of God. This is the John 12 experience where Jesus says He will draw us to Him. He puts enmity or hatred in our hearts for sin and love for the truth. Notice, it is not a human work. It is wholly of God. So if you are worried that you might not be sincere enough, you can pray a prayer like this: “Dear Lord, You know I want to be sincere, but I’m so confused about if I really am. I try to be more sincere but I just end up getting tied in a knot. I know that Jesus came to give us the sincerity we need. Will you please do that for me? Give me sincerity, because I can’t figure this out for myself.”
Three “types” of faith? If that’s so, I have no idea where in those that I’m at. How could I tell? I already daily am doubtful over salvation and feel something isn’t right. I know I’m a sinner in need and as much as I can tell of myself, I don’t believe there’s anyone else besides Jesus and what He did that could get me right with God. Please, how to work through this? I cannot help but ruminate daily, and at times tell God I can only choose to take His word that Jesus dealt with it all for me, though this never naturally changes my feelings into settledness and rest.
Oh, oops!! That’s a typo on my part. I meant to write there are three types of grace. 🙂 Just one faith. As Scripture says, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. 🙂 Sorry for the confusion there!
Oh ok, that’s alright. I’m still left wandering just where in grace I am of if anywhere. I’m so disturbed.
Wow that prayer is powerful and it’s comforting to know there’s others struggling with the same issues of fear of being genuine and sincere. I do often suspect when I’m praying throughout the day maybe I’m not sincere because I’m not still or focused on the one simple conversation with God, sometimes I’m driving or cleaning and then I feel guilt of not giving God my whole focus and attention. I want more than anything to have true deep conversation with Him, but then I even start questioning “do I really desire that” and it’s a loop and exhausting. But in your article you said it takes “faith” to get up from my prayers and that was powerful to me. I want that faith to know He knows me more than I know me and He knows I desire for my desires to be genuine. Thank you for all your articles and insight.
Thanks Jamie. I’m lying in bed here in fear as I know I have to pray before sleep and I fear the anxiety that brings and I have no idea how long my prayers will take or how many times I will have to repeat. I just can’t shake this. My whole days are now just a barrage of butterflies in my stomach and constant prayers and praise. I just have to take that leap of faith and resist. Thank you for your blog posts. They are refreshing.
Hi, I feel a lot of the same ways you do!! I usually feel I have to pray before bedtime too and the thought of confession and all I need to pray for is so daunting and overwhelmingly stressful, even though I wish it weren’t. I really hate confessing sin even though it’s necessary because I guess I never really feel forgiven and I always feel I’m forgetting or neglecting something. Prayer is such a difficult and stressful thing for me but I’m hoping and praying it will get better!
Hi Jaimie, thanks for relieving a load of pressure from my life. I'm so grateful I found this site.
Really praying for you that this site may reach out to many people who need to see it. I guess I have a Thanking or Praising OCD. I was so glad when I read your blogs because I felt that it was so much in common with what happens with me. Thanks a ton again!!! Wishing you success in all your endeavours
I’ve never heard it described as “Praise OCD” but I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about! As do many others. I was just speaking with a client recently who can’t leave his house unless he goes through a complex prayer ritual of thanking God in precise ways and praying for an intricately detailed prayer list (that keeps getting bigger and bigger, much to the detriment of his sleep habits at night and ability to be on time in the morning!) I think one way we can tell the difference between genuine thanksgiving and obsessive-compulsive thanksgiving is whether there is a feeling of guilt and doom when we push the “pause” button. If I simply tell God my needs for today without going through elaborate praises first, do I get a sense that something bad is going to happen? This is the OCD smokescreen. True praise comes from the heart, not the nervous system’s waves of anxiety. And, I might add, it is ok to not be praising God every single moment. When Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out with raw human emotions, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” I could speak at length on the emotional life of Jesus, but for brevity I will resist…but certainly, He experienced the full gamut of human emotions. He had righteous anger when He cleansed the temple…sorrow as He looked over lost Jerusalem…pity as He wept at the grave of Lazarus…Jesus was not constantly frolicking through a field of daffodils with his hands waving in the air. He was real. Likewise, there is no reason why we have to guilt-trip ourselves into gushing forth Pollyanna-ish praises every moment of every day to prevent the hammer of doom from descending on us.
Hi Jaimie, firstly thanks for your blog. I have read a few articles now as a sufferer since childhood of religious OCD. I have been in an emotional place recently dealing with anxiety flaring up again due to me slacking off from my good habits which I tend to do when things are going well.
This article bought me to tears as I identified with it and it helped me realise I'm not crazy but quite normal in my weird and obsessive prayers and I am on the right path to stopping being so compulsive, even when there is a feeling things are not right and the feelings of doom.
I have been re-reading your article of 'does God hate me' as this has also come up again. This really does help me when I'm in a bad place, so thank you for being there and sharing your experiences.x
I’m glad you’ve found it helpful. Compulsive praying is one of the more common issues with religious OCD. Remember that prayer is for entering a relationship, it is not a transactional experience where we “give” something (our time, our devotion, our words) and “get” something back (typically the person with OCD is seeking to “get” a feeling of safety and that everything is ok). Our job is to rest in what Christ has done for us, even if we don’t get the feelings and emotions that make us feel right.
Wishing you the very best,
I just wanted to say this response was very helpful and eye-opening for me. Most of the time, when I do my devotions/Bible reading/time with God, I do it with the desire for a feeling of safety and reassurance that everything is okay between myself and God, as opposed to just drawing closer to the Lord and learning more about Him. I dread these times, as much as I wish I didn't, because I get so focused on confessing all my sin and ruminating about whether my enjoyed activities have become "too important or distracting" to me. This is one of my main struggles with my Scrupulosity. I wish so much that my devotional times with God could bring me peace and clarity and a deeper understanding of God. But instead I feel like I grit my teeth and endure them, trying so hard to understand the Bible and get the true meaning of it.
I feel like I have to have so much control over my thoughts, feelings, and desires. I get so worried that God will ask me to give up my interests or hobbies or the things I enjoy. I always feel guilty and anxious that I've been dedicating too much time to other things rather than God, and end up trying to control everything, which makes me feel selfish (because I feel like I am more concerned about God not taking things away from me, rather than worrying about being drawn away from God by these things).
I am just not sure what to do. I don't want to just stop spending time with God. I have a real desire for relationship with Him. But so often I feel like such a tired, weary, broken fraud who prays and confesses to God compulsively all the time and is so terrified of ruining everything. Of hurting God because of my own sinfulness.
Sorry for this long rant but I truly don't know anyone in my life who understands Scrupulosity and how awful it is. How should I approach my devotional time with God if it feels like such a hard, scary task each day? How can I stop trying to control everything and, though unintentional, trying to "keep" God from taking away the things I enjoy and care about? I hope you are having a great day, and God bless.