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When You Just Can’t Pray

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

I’ve had times when I’ve been so tired, angry or discouraged that I either couldn’t pray or it just felt hypocritical to do so.

Sometimes the source of my spiritual dryness is obvious to me. It’s either sin in my life that I self-righteously thought I have a right to commit because someone hurt me deeply. Other times I’ve been disappointed with God, and just didn’t see the point of asking him for anything, just then.

I can’t be the only one who holds back on spending time with God because “prayer just isn’t working for me.”

So, I thought it might be helpful to share how God enabled me and will enable you to move forward, even when we don’t feel like praying. 1. Ask the Holy Spirit to pray for you. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:26, 27

Can you believe that? Even when we are too discouraged or tired to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us. I’ve had times when I just couldn’t pray, so I simply asked the Holy Spirit to pray for me. “Holy Spirit, please tell the Father what I can’t right now. Praise him and ask him for what I really need, not what I think I need. Thank you.”

By faith, I believe the Holy Spirit did, what I couldn’t!

2. Pray the Psalms Many of the Psalms are a song to God. So, in times of discouragement, I’ll sometimes just read out loud a psalm to God. I’ll often begin by saying something like, “God, please listen to the prayer or praises your people have offered to you for thousands of years. Please deepen my understanding of your majesty and love for me as I read and make the prayers of my mouth, a prayer of my heart.” It’s amazing how often when I’ve finished my heart has softened, just a bit. I find some of the joy has returned because I’ve “sung a song” that millions of believers, for thousands of years have sung before in honor of their (my) God.

3. Make sure Susan and I are right with each other. “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” 1 Peter 3:7

It still surprises me that my relationship with my wife Susan is so closely tied to my relationship with God. When scripture says of marriage that “the two shall become one” that’s not just a figure of speech. In some profound way, I still do not understand, that is true.

I’ve found that I almost always lose the “joy of the Lord” in my life when Susan and I are at odds with each other. So, if you’ve lost your joy and are married, examine the possibility that your love for each other is tied to your feeling loved by God.

4. When you’re too discouraged to pray – do it anyway! I can’t always “pin the tail on the donkey” and identify the source of my spiritual dryness. When that happens, by faith I just pray. I think God understands and even honors our prayers of faith, even when we are discouraged and our heart isn’t fully into it. David wrote some of his best Psalms while in a depression. Elijah prayed sitting in a cave, depressed, thinking he was the only one in Israel who truly loved God.

So, if you can’t find the source of your prayerless attitude, do it anyways. God understands.

How following Jesus works in real life.

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