3 Helps When You Can’t Pray

Maybe you can pray, but it feels like you can’t.

This is not an uncommon experience for Christian leaders.

Do any of these emotions sound familiar?

  • Overwhelmed
  • Discouraged
  • Numb
  • Exhausted
  • Defeated
  • Fill in the blank

Ever been there?

Take heart, you are not alone with any of these feelings.

It may be a personal family difficulty, a health issue, a tough staffing situation, a financial pressure, or a board member turns on you.

Anyone of these, especially for a short time is doable. It’s when several begin to pile up and the length of time is extended. That’s when it can all just seem like too much.

When pastors talk with me sometimes it’s as straightforward as “Dan, I’m doing everything I know how, and it’s just not working.” Followed by, “Sometimes I just can’t even pray.”

It’s not that they’ve lost faith, but they’ve lost the motivation to act on their faith.

It’s not that they don’t want to pray, it just all feels empty in the moment.

This may not be your experience now, but perhaps a friend could use this post.

You may want to read on to be prepared and help you stay in front of this all too common experience.

I read a book a long time ago by Bill Hybels, titled, Too Busy (Not) To Pray. That’s not the idea in this post. It’s more a sense of too overloaded to pray. If you’ve experienced anything like this, you know exactly what it means.

It’s not the doer who won’t slow down, it’s the devoted who can’t see their way.

3 Helps When You Can’t Pray:

1) Don’t take a break from God.

This is a great temptation. Just take a break. God will understand, right? Of course, He understands. But that’s not the answer.

The problem is that we can make prayer work rather than a relationship. That’s when we have it backward.

That’s it. It’s not about work. It’s about His love, grace, and mercy. It’s about your gratitude, worship, and dependence.

The second priority of prayer is the mission. You and God’s purpose.

God’s mission, the message of salvation is our purpose and our work. And our prayers are based around His will and heaven’s agenda.

We tend to get those reversed in order of priority, and then prayer becomes difficult because it seems like another thing to do rather than a relationship to enjoy.

This process can cause you to feel like you just can’t pray. But you can pray if you return first to the relationship. Let’s unpack what that means.

2) Don’t make prayer merely a disciplined duty.

In my younger years of leadership, I would have described myself as a “dutiful soldier.” I was on a mission for God! I would work, check things off, and work more, all to advance His Kingdom.

Noble motives, but unwise practices.

The problem was that prayer was at times part of a checklist. OK, got that done! And when I consider any relationship I cherish, they are never part of a checklist. I want to spend time with that person and usually can’t get enough. It’s natural, not mechanical.

That’s a picture of you and God in prayer. When that relationship is flourishing, then your Kingdom work and intercession for the mission of the church is a healthy and natural result. It doesn’t exhaust you more, it fills you more.

I know He’s with me. I may read a Psalm, but not much more. I sit in His presence. He meets me there. I don’t have to “do” anything.

3) Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray.

However, when you are refueled to intercede for the people you love and lead, and for your work in the church, it’s best not to jump too quickly back into your lists.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray.

26 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.27 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

God has an incredible way of helping us to pray when we feel like we can’t.

Here’s what God has said to me about prayer:

  • First, let me be with you.
  • Second, don’t make it work.
  • Third, I’ve sent my Spirit to help you.

This will work for you too, and Jesus said to all of us:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

6 thoughts on “3 Helps When You Can’t Pray”

  1. You did much good. We all have those moments where it’s so much we can’t even pray. And, then, we soon can and the results are powerful – like in your story. Thanks for sharing it. I’ve read all your comments on my blogs… some day it would be cool if you tell me your name.

  2. I don’t want to pray. Sometimes, I don’t feel like getting on my knees to pray, so I don’t pray. Sometimes, I feel like I am “too far gone” anyway, so I don’t pray. Sometimes, and often actually, I feel “dead,” and think why pray if I’m dead (I have had a VERY LONG history of multiple traumas, one after the other, all the way from childhood to the present – that’s 52 years of hell). Sometimes, I feel God doesn’t care about me anyway, so I don’t pray. Sometimes, because of my sins, I feel God doesn’t talk to people who have sinned and have not asked to be forgiven or have asked to be forgiven but don’t believe it’s possible. Sometimes, I do pray and nothing happens, so I don’t pray. Sometimes, the devil (enemy) has me so far down in the pit, there is no way anyone, not even God, can get me out of this pit. A life of trauma is no recipe for living. I am not living; I am merely existing. I walk past people on the street and I don’t think they see me; I’m a ghost. I am a shell of who I once was. Now that everything is gone, I am nothing. I tell God in passing, “I am nothing; fill me up with your love, Father God, so that I can someone or something that you need me to be.” It seems to fall on empty ears. Everything is empty around me. It will be only a matter of time before I decide this is no way to live and I’ll get out. I don’t when that will be, but I need a miracle.

    1. Hey! I don’t know who you are, and i’m sure what you’ve gone through was really rough. I know it seems like there is no way out. I know it’s all so heavy. But please remember, it will not last forever. I am going through a struggle myself, and i know it’s very easy to slip on anything and just let go of hope. I pray you’re okay right now. Keep holding on! God hears us!


      Hello Timothy

      My name is Renee I came across your post, it was very interesting to me. Anyways Tim I been through a lot myself from losing both my parents at a young age to abuse, bullying to homeless to breast cancer and so on except drugs, and still growing through them. But, anyways God gives his battles to his strongest soldiers for his glory to help others that are going through it. I was so confused, hurt in the process. Now, I am 51 years old on this journey of life one thing I have learned is God hasn’t really forgotten about us, we may of done things that he is not please with but it doesn’t mean he has left us forsaken us. He wants a relationship with us we don’t have to be holier than though in the bible it say come as you are not by what you wearing come as you are flaws mistakes and all. God didn’t make any of us perfect and we will never be. He believes in you he created you in his image. I myself don’t know how to pray, but what I do is I talk to him just as if I was talking to my best friend or one of siblings there is no perfect way to pray just talk to him, confess to him your sins and your pains and beliefs heck you can scream and yell get it out he hears you. What we had to endure in life is our testimony to help someone else. We are lost souls trying to find our way God is with you every step of the way, even when you don’t know how to pray call his name Jesus or say thank you Lord for waking you up. You are worthy, you are value no matter how many times you fail. Change the way you see you, see yourself the way he created, see you. He hears you when you think he doesn’t. Tim I do understand how you feel i just was going through the same things asking the same questions and wondering if I was even worth saving. And guess what we are. Look what you just did you made the first step in seeking him without even knowing it’s a start. Remember You are blessed, love. I will be praying for you and God bless you. He loves you

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