In Luke 11:1, Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. They saw His prayer life and they wanted to know how to pray with intimacy like He did. Jesus answered their request by giving them a model prayer. That model prayer is not something to recite as much as it is an outline for our own prayer life. Pastors and teachers often use the model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4) to teach people how to pray. Yet, there are times when no matter how much training we have received in the spiritual discipline of prayer, we struggle to pray. What can we do when life gets so hard we don’t know how to pray?
Have you ever gotten to a low point in your life where you struggled to pray? Life gets hard. Ministry gets hard. Family gets hard. We all will find ourselves at a place where we struggle to look to God and call out to Him. I’ve been at the place where the pain of life was so heavy that I struggled to form a prayer in my heart. I suspect that you have been there as well. You know you need to talk to God, but the emotions or pain of the moment make it seemingly impossible to do so. The words just won’t come, you feel like you are drawing from an empty well. Or maybe the words come, but they just don’t feel right. Sometimes we just don’t know what to say. Sometimes we just want to cry out “Help! I can’t pray.”
What do we do when we can’t pray? Here are a few suggestions to rekindle your prayer life that I have picked up along the way. Decide if it’s a sin issue that keeps you from praying. If your pain is the result of your continuing in sin, you have no option but to confess you’re wrong and seek God’s forgiveness. Struggle through a short prayer, being honest with God. Keep in mind a few words are okay, even if the words are, “God, I can’t pray right now.” He knows your heart, and He can hear your unspoken words in your emotions. Get someone else to pray for you and with you. Find a Christian friend who can intercede for you. You don’t have to be the one whose voice says the words you want to say. Read God’s Word. If you can’t talk to God, let Him talk to you. Read the Scripture, recognizing that you’re not the first person to wrestle through grief and pain. You might find that your listening to God makes it easier to talk to Him. Write your prayer. At one time in my life, I wrote down many of my thoughts in journals. I don’t journal often anymore, but I’ve found it helpful to write my prayer when I couldn’t speak it. Sometimes putting the words on paper helps bring clarity to the clouded mind. When you are in such deep pain that you struggle to look up to God and call out to Him, just sit quietly with God and listen. God has a powerful way of calming our soul when we just listen. Read prayers recorded in Scripture. Prayers recorded in Scripture are often recorded during times of pain and struggle. As you read those prayers you will sense a connection with the one whose prayer is recorded. There will be times that God uses a prayer that someone else first prayed to rekindle your prayer life.
The struggles of life will lead us all to cry out “Help! I can’t pray”? Don’t give up, work through the steps above and reclaim your intimacy with the Almighty!