Prayer Requests and Learning How to Pray

5 Ways to Use Prayer to Stop Negative Thoughts in Their Tracks

5 Ways to Use Prayer to Stop Negative Thoughts in Their Tracks

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 to you 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 five ways to use prayer to stop negative thoughts in their tracks before they begin to consume you or affect your attitude.

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1. 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 on his face 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 NASB). Talk about giving in to the what-ifs and fears that can bombard us on a daily basis! 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.

Here’s how to pray through Psalm 13 to rid you of negative thoughts:

Lord, why are these thoughts assailing me? Why am I discouraged or doubtful? Hear me, God, and see my plight. You know all that concerns me. I have trusted You because You are my Advocate and You are in control of all things. I praise you today because You have looked after me and rid me of these anxious, negative thoughts.

2. Catch and correct negative thoughts through prayer.

2. 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 actually 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” (ESV, emphasis added).

In my book, Drama Free, I explain we are instructed to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ because we are in a spiritual war in which the enemy will do his best to run rampant through our thought life, creating doubt, fear, chaos, and confusion. Do you realize that when you feel overwhelmed by health problems, or too many commitments, or relationship difficulties, or emotional distress, it’s possible the enemy of your soul has already formed a stronghold within you and is having a heyday with your thought life? Your only defense is to take those misdirected thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ so they are not running loose in your head and wreaking havoc with your emotional state.

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, capture them and correct them with the truth 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.” Here’s an example of how to pray to stop negative thoughts based on 2 Corinthians 10:5:

Lord, I crush every thought that is contrary to Scripture and capture it and correct it with Your truth. Don’t let this idea exist that (your negative thought) is stronger than You and what You can do in my situation. For “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

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3. 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 own problem by telling himself what to do: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Here’s how to pray Psalm 42:5 to stop your own negative spiral downward:

Lord, why am I feeling (insert your emotion)? Why are my thoughts so focused inward on self? Why do I lack (hope /purpose/ compassion / a sound mind) today? Realign my mind to know that You are the God of hope, the Answer to all confusion, the Truth in any situation, the Deliverer from any danger. I put my hope in You, God. Rid me of these thoughts that hold no power over my heart and mind which belong solely to You. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

4. Pray away the worry with thanksgiving.

Scripture gives us an excellent antidote to worry and negative thoughts. Philippians 4:6-7 is an excellent prescription that really works if we follow it 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” (NLT).

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 continuing to worry and be drug down by its effect on us. Here’s how to pray with Philippians 4:6-7 as your guide:

Lord, Your Word commands me to worry about nothing and instead to bring my restless thoughts and anxieties to You, who controls every situation, even my level of fear and panic. Lord, I give you (name your situation or the person you’re having negative thoughts about) and ask that you (name your request). Thank You for all You’ve done for me already and all You will continue to do to work this situation for eternal good in my life. Keep me focused on You and Your power, so that I may experience Your peace and not be tormented by my worries or fears of what might happen. In the Name of Jesus, through whom all things are possible, amen.

praying during work

5. Follow Nehemiah’s example and send up missile prayers.

Nehemiah was surrounded by negativity, criticism, scheming, and harassment when he was attempting to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Even though he was following God’s calling on his heart (he was literally on a mission from God!), 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 just 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 NLT).

Feel free to come up with your own missile prayers. (Some of the early church fathers called these “breath prayers” because they can be uttered as often and naturally as breathing in and out.)

For more on overcoming negative thoughts and emotions and binding them with a better knowledge of the Word of God, see Cindi’s books, Women on the Edge, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, and Drama Free.

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Cindi McMenamin headshotCindi McMenamin is a national speaker, Bible teacher, and award-winning writer who helps women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is also a mother, pastor’s wife, and author of 17 books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 150,000 copies sold), When God Sees Your TearsWhen a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, and When Couples Walk Together:31 Days to a Closer Connectionwhich she co-authored with her husband of 35 years. For more on her speaking ministry, coaching services for writers, and books to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, see her website: