By Danny R. Von Kanel
Dot lost a son and daughter—her son died in an accident and her daughter from cancer. Praying became difficult. The pain silenced any attempt to approach God. Her dilemma seemed insurmountable. Yet, over time, communication returned, her pain eased, and life became livable again.
Dot stumbled upon some keys to reopening communication with God after praying becomes difficult. These six keys can help restore that dialogue.
When you tell God it’s hard to pray, you are praying. Simply say, “God, it’s too hard to pray to you today.” Attempt to add a few words each time, even if just to explain why it’s difficult to pray. Just be obedient to God and honor him, even though your praying might be difficult, and your prayer might be short.
Alex Wilson, a minister with Portland Avenue Church of Christ in Louisville, Kentucky, says, “We don’t send our children to school only when they want to go. And we don’t go to our jobs only when we feel like it. So why should we offer our God any less honor and obedience than we offer our boss at work?”1
God understands our state of mind. If we waited until we were in a perfect state of mind to address God, many of us would pray a lot less. Come to God just as you are. The very act of approaching God in such a state warms God’s heart. His grace and mercy will be returned.
2. Stand Before God in Silence
Set aside a time to go to God, but go in silence.
Use soothing music and allow God to speak to your heart. Make no attempt to pray or make requests—just listen.
Famed theologian Andrew Murray said, “Scripture abundantly testifies how the very thought of God in his majesty and holiness should silence us: ‘The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him’ (Habakkuk 2:20); ‘Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God’ (Zephaniah 1:7); ‘Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation’ (Zechariah 2:13).”2
Entering God’s presence in prayer doesn’t require you to say anything. When praying is hard, use your silence before God to hear God’s still small voice, to mentally lay your cares before him, and signify to God your humbled obedience, as difficult as it may be.
3. Read Prayers from People Who Faced Difficult Times
Read the prayers as an assignment. Then try reading them as one of your prayers.
Pray David’s prayer first: “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:9-11). Unconfessed sin can be a reason for difficulty in praying. Dealing with it first restores fellowship with God.
Other Scriptures point to times of need. The psalmist prayed, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3). Nehemiah said, “They were all trying to frighten us. . . . But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands’” (Nehemiah 6:9). Again Nehemiah petitioned the Lord, “Show mercy to me according to your great love” (Nehemiah 13:22). The psalmist gave us words to say when we are distressed: “Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 4:1). The apostle Peter may best mirror your need, for he said, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30).
When it’s hard to pray, using biblical prayers shows you God’s answers in the past and reminds you that no matter what you are going through, he is there and will answer your prayer according to his will.
4. Quote Scripture Out Loud
Praying the Scriptures out loud helps to focus your prayers.
Consider such prayers as Psalm 30:5; 31:9; 46:1; and 147:3; Matthew 5:4; and John 14:18; 14:27; and 16:33.
God answers both silent and spoken prayers, of course, but spoken prayer means more to you, in the same way talking out loud to your spouse means more than written or unspoken communication. Hearing the Word is what causes your faith to rise, not just reading it. There is power in the spoken word.
When it’s hard to pray, knowing what to say is minimized when you speak aloud words spoken by saints of old. If the prayers are in Scripture, you can bank on God’s approval of the words used.
One Scripture I like to pray out loud, even when I don’t feel like praying, is Jabez’s prayer: “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain!” (1 Chronicles 4:10).
5. Put Service into Practice
Become involved in a helping project. At the end of the day, thank God for how he used you.
When we examine our circumstances in light of others, most times we discover we are in much better shape than those around us. Moving from an inward to an outward focus by engaging in service projects helps lift our spirit. Such lifting puts us in a better state of mind to come to God in prayer.
6. Own Your Grief
Express your loss to a close friend. Find other opportunities to express your grief. As you talk about your grief, healing will occur, albeit slowly. Pray to the degree (in time increments) that healing comes.
John had problems praying after his wife died. They were close, and it seemed nothing could take the place of her absence. God became distant.
After attending a class on recovering from the losses of life, he realized he was not alone. He found that openly sharing his loss brought healing. John began celebrating the life his wife lived. As he talked with others about his loss, stressing the beauty of their life together, hope returned to his heart. Praying became easier. John’s fellowship with God was restored.
We all have experienced times when praying was difficult. When we tell God it’s hard to pray, stand before him in silence, read the prayers of others, quote Scripture out loud, put service into practice, and own our grief, we place ourselves in the best position to make praying easier.
The end result is restored communication with the Almighty.
1Alex Wilson, “When I Don’t Feel Like Praying,” www.wordandwork.org/2011/07/but-i-dont-feel-like-praying-2/.
2Andrew Murray, “Waiting on God Quietly,” www.cbn.com/spirituallife/devotions/murray_andrewWOG25_quietly.aspx; these three Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.
Danny R. Von Kanel is a freelance writer and church/school musician living in Franklinton, Louisiana. His latest book, Building Your Life by the Owner’s Design, was released in 2013.
10 Truths to Remember When Addressing Loss
1. Your loss is not the same as someone else’s, so don’t pretend it is.
2. Avoid going into seclusion. Being around people can lead to a quicker recovery.
3. Rely upon Scripture. Let the Holy Spirit use it to bring comfort.
4. Celebrate the life of the person who has died. Use their life as a springboard to helping others.
5. Recognize friends and family are not trained counselors; they may unintentionally say or do things that will hurt.
6. Write down your feelings daily. Cherish the daily progress from grief to healing.
7. Seek professional help if grieving shows little sign of abating.
8. Rely upon your church family for strength.
9. Find a godly friend with whom you can share your grief. Meet weekly (or more often) at a designated time.
10. Look for ways to publically express your worship. Others are watching how you handle your grief. There is no greater testimony than a man or woman coming out of grief, celebrating a life well lived, and giving praise to God.