The Elders Pray Over Me

I recently sought the elders of my church to pray for me regarding OCD/scrupulosity. Here’s my experience…



I recently acted on this verse. It took courage and I’m thankful for my wife for encouraging me to do this as I probably wouldn’t have done it on my own. I don’t really like to tell people about my struggle. My pride likes others to think that I have my act together.

We gathered on a Sunday afternoon—seven elders and my wife and me. They listened and asked a few questions. One of them called for a flask of oil and explained what they were about to do. They gathered around me and laid hands on me and prayed. I didn’t feel anything special—no sensation of warmth or jolt of lightning shoot through me. My wife wept quietly. After they prayed, I thanked them and we left.

A couple of days later, I was struggling again. And since that day, I haven’t noticed any difference in the degree or nature of my troubles.

However, one of the best things was receiving some wise input from them. They told me of others who had similar issues and whom God had used mightily throughout their lives. They said God might choose to heal me, and He might not. They made no guarantees and I appreciated that.

Frankly speaking, asking the elders to pray for me was like checking off a box. That was one thing that I had never done in my quest to get better. I wish that I had more faith and trusted God instead of some prescription for healing. Will God choose to heal me one day? Who knows. In some ways I wish He would—it would feel incredible to not have to deal with the anxiety and other obsessions. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with myself if I were free. That would be pretty scary in itself.

Although I’m back to “normal,” I’m thankful to God for some wonderful, wise elders and a supporting, encouraging wife.

I’ll keep battling.

How OCD Completely Ruins Times of Worship

It’s true that for the OCD sufferer, one’s spiritual life can be joyless and oppressive. Instead of being occasions of joy and Christian fellowship, worship services can be times of torment and guilt. Often during times of worship, troubling thoughts enter my mind. While everyone is seated, I feel I must stand up. If I don’t, I’m not following the leading of the Holy Spirit. After such an experience, I will feel guilty and enter into a time of questioning whether I should have stood up or not. I might reason within: “I’m guilty because I didn’t stand up when God was prompting me to. It was nothing the fear of man and I let it keep me from worshiping God with my whole heart.” If I feel guilty enough, I will look for opportunities to “repent” and stand up the next time. But then worship becomes nothing more than feeling anxious about the next time I need to stand up. There have been times when I’ve completely avoid this situation by going to the back and standing up the entire time. That way, “God” can never prompt me to stand up and I won’t be guilty of disobeying Him. As you can imagine, it’s not a joyful experience to worship the Lord when you’re constantly dealing with such thoughts. It becomes an anxious test of pleasing Him or not, or in trying to discern His voice from the voice of the enemy or self. I’d love to be able to go to church and not have to deal with such intrusive thoughts, but that’s the way it is right now.

My OCD and Scrupulosity Story

OCD and scrupulosity are tough things to deal with, probably the hardest I’ve ever dealt with. I’ve experienced many of the normal difficulties of life: breakups, sicknesses, and the like, but none have been as perplexing as OCD and scrupulosity.

My battles started in 2004. I had distressing thoughts of doing radical forms of evangelism such as preaching in malls and in restaurants that disturbed and perplexed me. I wrestled with whether or not it was the voice of God. I would be in a restaurant having a wonderful conversation with a good friend and all of a sudden have the thought that I need to approach another table and preach to them. I would be at the theater enjoying a movie when I’m suddenly hit with the thought that I need to preach to the audience after the movie. Each time this happened, I felt overwhelmed with anxiety and wrestled with whether or not it was the voice of God. Somehow I couldn’t get the thoughts out of my head. On several occasions, I acted on these impulses and did some things which most normal people would think are crazy. I felt a sense of relief when I was done, but later that day or the next day I would have the impulse that I needed to do it again and I would be distressed all over again.

I constantly felt guilty with the sense that I had disobeyed God and He had turned His back on me. I talked to several friends and none of them encouraged me to act on these impulses. But they didn’t go away. I figured I could get some insight from a teacher of evangelism so I made an appointment with him. He gave me some advice about how God speaks. I then spoke to a teacher of spiritual formation. He also gave me some input about how God works in our lives. Finally, I asked a counseling professor. He referred me to a counselor, who, after hearing me describe my struggle, diagnosed me with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I had no idea what that was. However, knowing that it wasn’t God who was prompting me to do those things was a huge relief for me.

Over the next few years, I saw a handful of counselors and doctors who all said my struggle matched up with the symptoms of OCD. I started taking meds in 2005 despite feeling that I was going the way of the world and not seeking God for help. A few years later, I flew halfway across the country to attend a workshop which stressed healing prayer, God’s ability to heal miraculously, and freedom from sin. I sent out a call to friends and supporters to pray for me. At the gathering I took a “step of faith” and stopped taking my meds. A few months later I crashed. During church worship services, I would feel prompted to stand up during the worship when everyone else was seated. Those troubled me and I condemned myself as being “afraid of man” and thus losing God’s blessing and fellowship.

A few months later I started to fret over my salvation. I recalled a time of doubt when I walked away from the Lord and feared that I had lost my salvation, never to return. I agonized over the thought of going to hell. It was then that I sought help from a friend who helped me to get back on meds, and I’ve been on them ever since.

The last few years have not been easy, but I’m battling. There have been times when those evangelistic obsessions have returned; at other times I’ve agonized over my salvation–whether I’m a real Christian or not; I’ve also had my share of moral issues that I’ve agonized over. I’ve sought and gotten help and counsel from multitudes of folks, for whom I’m grateful.

For me, the fear and anxiety have mostly been related to public humiliation. I reasoned that I could conquer my fears if I just acted on them. However, the nature of the obsession would keep getting more and more extreme, pushing me to do crazier and crazier things. They also stem from a level of insecurity before God in which I am trying to earn His favor and prove myself to Him. If I would just be bold enough, courageous enough, then maybe He would accept me. They’re also rooted in my performance-oriented upbringing in which you were accepted and esteemed if you excelled above and beyond others.

I would not wish for anyone to have to deal with this kind of affliction. And yet it has brought me to my knees again and again. I know and believe–at least cognitively–that I’m saved and kept by grace. But while I’m in this body, I’ll probably continue to experience this “thorn in the flesh.” This site is dedicated to my journey with OCD and for anyone who identifies and wants to journey along with me.

That’s my story. If you don’t mind, I’d like to hear yours!

Independence Day But I’m Not Feeling Free

I’m praying for freedom. Freedom from all of the burdens and scruples that plague me. I feel tired. I’m tired of having a joyless spiritual life. I’m tired of feeling like I “have to” pray, read the Bible, share the gospel. Surely God does not want this yoke upon me. He spoke of having an easy yoke and a light burden.1 John spoke of His commands not being burdensome.2 How can I break free from these chains? My theology is right. I know that I’m saved and righteous on the basis of faith in Jesus and not my performance. I know that my righteous deeds are as filthy rags. But I also know that I can’t just dump the commandments of God. My obedience is related to my love for him.3 I express my love through obedience. One site mentions there are 684 passages in the New Testament with commands. Another site categorizes 1,050 commands into 69 categories. Wow! I suppose some will say that the only command we are to observe is to “love God and love others,” or perhaps even simpler to “believe in Jesus.” I’m not satisfied with this answer, although I would agree that they are the most important. As is normal, I don’t have a good answer.

Lord, help me to be wise in the way that I read, understand, and interpret the Bible. May you break the chains that bind me. Give me the freedom in Christ to experience joy, peace, and a mind at ease. Free me from scrupulosity. Allow my gratitude for what you’ve done motivate me to want to obey your commands. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

  1. Mt. 11:30 
  2. 1 Jn. 5:3 
  3. Jn. 14:21, Jn. 15:10, 1 Jn. 2:4, 1 Jn. 5:2-3