From Frank Lake’s Clinical Theology, one of the original voices in clinical pastoral counseling, this passage talks about the purpose (and pitfalls) of prayer for the Christian wound up in his/her own neuroses.

289a4ab487474f2930560bbfb5f10eabbb29b262_mOne of the reasons why pastoral dialogue with men and women suffering from the common symptoms of psychoneurosis is necessary, is in order that prayer, which is their life-giving communication with God, may be re-established. When Christian people fall into despair, into bitter isolation, into depression, into separation-anxiety, or into dread of non-being, they have, to this extent, lost any clear sense of God as loving or personal, fatherly or friendly. The psychoneurotic sufferer may kneel down and say a form of petitionary words, but whether he verbalizes this fact or not, God has ceased to be trusted in the area of this neurosis. There is no expectation that a close or closer relationship with Him will of itself change the whole atmosphere of the spirit. The patient usually clamors for this or that external circumstance to be changed. What most needs changing is his own concept of God. This has become mechanical, fixed, rigid, retributive. This god bargains before he blesses. He is more like Baal demanding propitiation than like the Father of Christ…[and yet] God is revealed in Christ definitively.

The depressed or afflicted person has stopped praying because he cannot, or feels he cannot, turn either the depravities of rage and lust, or the deprivations of faithlessness, anxiety and emptiness, into prayer…So, prayer as communication with God cannot be re-established unless he can bring his complaints, objections, demands, and disbeliefs out of hiding, and into conversation with the pastor and with God. But a man cannot say critical things like this to a neurotically conceived god, any more than he can to a neurotically idealized parent. Idealized authorities only want to hear nice things said about themselves. They must be buttered up by saying appreciative things about their ordering of the universe. While this facade is maintained, double-mindedness, hypocrisy, and a loss of energy over the internal conflict and its repression are inevitable. The task of clinical pastoral care is to evoke the truth in the inward parts, however scandalous it may be, so as to bring the total actual content of the personality and its roots into conversation with God–which is prayer. 

…Prayer is the forceful wrestling appeal to God to make sense of His universe, as well as a consultation between God and His friends…The prayer of Gethsemane provides the pattern here…

Christ’s own being on the Cross contained all the clashing contrarities and scandalous fates of human existence. Life Himself was identified with death; the Light of the world was enveloped in darkness. The feet of the Man who said ‘I am the Way’ feared to tread upon it and prayed, ‘If it be possible, not that way.’ The Water of Life was thirsty. The Bread of Life was hungry. The divine Lawgiver was Himself unjustly outlawed…A reconciliation is effected here between otherwise irreconcilable, offensive opposites. He carries on His Cross the burden of all the miseries which disintegrate us. They are united in Him, and we, united to Him, can be united also to these same aspects of ourselves which we have hitherto repudiated.

The establishment of a no-holds-barred conversation with one who in clinical pastoral dialogue has learnt to accept, without demur, whatever comes, as having a kind of truth of its own which must be respected, is the first stage to the re-establishment of prayer. Whenever a man brings his total reactions to life as he has experienced it, before God as He is revealed in Christ, demanding that the badness of the situation be reconciled with His goodness, he has begun to pray. He may not feel like a praying man. He may not feel like a religious man at all. He is not. He is a Christian and that can be a very different thing. Prayer, in this sense, is not saying prayers in any formal way. It is entering into a forceful dialogue with God about the totality of human experience, forgetting neither the wretchedness of our own predicaments nor the redemptive wretchedness of the Cross of Christ.