The rise in anxiety and depression in recent years is directly linked to the epidemic of prayerlessness among even professing believers — and the issue is only going to get worse until people get serious about prayer.
That's according to Chad Veach, the pastor of Zoe Church, a youth-oriented Christian congregation based in Los Angeles, California. In an interview with The Christian Post, he suggested that keeping people from prayer is one of Satan's greatest tactics.
"Prayer takes me from stress into peace, from being depressed into joy," he said. "It takes me from anxiety into comfort. So I need prayer, and the enemy knows what prayer can do for us. And so he keeps us away from this lethal ability that God wants us to walk in."
The 38-year-old pastor cited 2 Chronicles 7:14: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
"If we were to start being a praying generation or praying nation, God says, 'I'll hear your prayers. I will forgive you of the sins of the land, and I will bring healing,'" he said. "We just deal with such a broken society, so much vitriol, so much anger, so much animosity, so much division, and the healing that we are all looking for cannot happen without prayer. God is so clear; He's like, 'I'll do it. But you'e got to repent, and you've got to pray, and you've got to humble yourself and come to me, and then I will do amazing things.'"
A 2021 study from the Pew Research Center found that 45% of U.S. adults say they pray daily compared to 58% who reported doing so in 2007 and 55% who said they prayed daily in 2014. Another study from Pew found that 70% of teens across all genders, races and family-income levels say that anxiety and depression are significant problems among their peers.
The reason for this rise, the pastor and father of four said, is primarily due to the number of distractions today — from social media to substances.
"We just have so many options; we have so many other sources to numb our pain, so many distractions," Veach said. "It's like an old preacher cliche saying, but they're weapons of mass distraction. We turn to our phones, or the bottle, or Netflix, or whatever, but we're not turning to God."
But a more fundamental reason many people don't pray, the pastor stressed, is because they simply don't know how.
"The only thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray. Like, they never thought, 'Hey, can you show us how to turn water into wine?' Or, 'Do you think you can teach us how to walk on water one day?' Or, 'Do you think you could show us how to heal dead people?' But they did ask Him, 'Show us how to pray.'"
"The Bible says because of Jesus, we all have access to the Father; we can come with confidence. So I think if people knew that they could come boldly and with confidence, I think they would."
In hopes of helping a struggling nation return to prayer, Veach released his latest book,Worried about Everything Because I Pray about Nothing, along with the Pray about Everything Devotional Journal.
"The point of prayer is relationship," Veach stressed. "The Bible is so clear: Before we ask God for anything, He already knows what we need. So we're never telling him about a situation or a need that He's not aware of. But at the end of the day, this whole thing is about relationship. So God wants us to talk to Him; God wants us to turn in."
"If you draw nearer to Him, He can draw nearer to you. … When I pray, all my problems don't just fade away. They're still there when I'm done praying, I'm still in financial hardship, or still in this abusive relationship, or still going through a hospital situation, but now, I have peace instead of being tormented with fear and anxiety."
Veach, who hosts the "Leadership Lean In" podcast, knows firsthand the peace that prayer can bring.
His daughter, Georgia, now 10, was born with lissencephaly, a rare condition that causes a child's brain to develop the wrong way during pregnancy. The father said it's "scary" to think where he and his wife, Julia, would be without prayer.
"We'd be angry, be bitter, we'd be tormented, we'd be in fear, we'd be stressed, our lives would just be completely upended," he said.
"The first thing you do when you get a diagnosis like that — your child, literally, for whatever reason, her brains never formed — the first thing we did was pray. We prayed healing for her, but we also began to pray for ourselves: 'Give us strength, give us wisdom, give us endurance. God, help us to have discernment on what to do. Show us, God, what can you do in our home and through us, through this? How can we be an inspiration to the special needs community?'"
"Prayer is what kind of grounded us right from the beginning," he added.
And prayer is what guides him as he leads a very public ministry. Veach, who famously married Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker, reflected on the tension of sharing biblical truth in a winsome way.
"Some people are going to die on certain hills, and I have to make the decision for me, what am I going to be known for? And what am I going to die for? So I've just made the decision, I'm going to die on the hill of the Gospel. Yeah, I am going to preach Jesus Christ crucified. I'm dying on the hill. I'm dying on the Holy Spirit. I'm dying on the living, breathing Word of God being the absolute truth for the world, so I think you got to count that cost," he said.
"For me, as a minister, the real message of my life is the love of Jesus Christ," he said, adding that he takes inspiration from the way "heroes of the faith," like older and more seasoned pastors, handle hot-button topics.
"Of course, we get all of our wisdom from the scriptures first, but there's also a lot of great leaders out there that we can emulate," he said.
But whatever issues culture faces, every believer's first response should be prayer, Veach said, emphasizing that "magic happens" when Jesus shows up.
"When does Jesus show up? Wherever two or more gathered in His name. I think we've got to teach people how to do that because then when Jesus shows up, it's like, I've been in meetings that were hundreds but felt like thousands and then been in meetings with thousands that felt like hundreds, and the only difference is Jesus. We pray, and Heaven comes, which is Jesus, the presence of Jesus. We're going to get everything that we need."
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org