I know, I've been there. There have been times in my life that I felt like I just couldn't pray -- like my prayers weren't making it past the ceiling of my room, or like I just couldn't get the words out of my mouth. So what can we do? We know that prayer is incredibly important to a deep and intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father, so how do we break through the barrier? Here are ten ways that we can press on through a difficult prayer time into a rich, life-changing conversation with God.
1. Keep trying. Don't give up! Your enemy, the Devil, would like nothing better than for you to quit praying. Pray, even if you don't feel like it. God hears you even when you feel like He can't. (Philippians 3:14)
2. Worship. Put in your favorite worship CD and sing along. Listen to the words. Sing them to God. Praise Him for the things around you -- your house, your family, your friends. Praise Him for silly things like a good hair day or bubble gum. God's Word says that every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and that includes chocolate ice cream and big shady trees. (Psalm 9:1-2)
3. Go to the Word. God's Word is full of promises for your life. Worried about your future? God has promised that His future for you is full of hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Unsure of your salvation? God promises that everyone who says that Jesus is Lord and believes He was raised from death is saved (Romans 10:9)! You can find God's assurance for every situation when you read His Word.
4. Write it down. If you're stressed out, sometimes your thoughts can be so jumbled that you can't focus on a train of thought long enough to pray. Writing or typing out your prayer can help you express to God how you're feeling, and can really give God a chance to speak to you to help you know what to say. David the Psalmist wrote down his prayers in song form -- and if it's good enough for someone God's Word calls "a man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14), it's good enough for us!
5. Look up. When was the last time you took a minute to look at the sky? God's word tells us that the sky shows us God's glory and creativity (Psalm 19:1) -- this can help us gain a little perspective. I sometimes forget that the things that are problems to me are not problems for God. He made the whole Earth and everything in it!
6. Get outside the situation. When I'm angry, I have a pretty tough time praying for the person or situation I'm angry about, but God has commanded us to pray for people who have hurt us (Luke 6:28). Remember that God's love isn't just for you, it's for everyone! Remember that the purpose of your life is to glorify God in every situation, and to show Jesus to the people around you. Keeping this kind of perspective can help you to pray -- pray for your own reaction, or for the other people involved.
7. Fast. No kidding. You all know what this means, right? It means giving up something you want, in order to spend time with God. Think outside the box with this one. It's not smart for growing kids to skip meals, but what about the TV, internet, or Playstation? Do you come straight home and turn on the TV? Consider a week-long TV fast where you come home and open your Bible instead. Do you stop by the coffee shop on your way to school or work every day? Try giving up that time and money to God for a week or two. When you show that you're willing to give up things you enjoy because you realize that God is more important than those things, He will reward you with His presence!
8. Let it all out. Sometimes you can't pray because you're so overwhelmed with emotion that you can't even get the words out. It's OK! Paul tells us that, when this happens, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26). Some human emotions are too deep to express, and God hears our hearts even when we can't tell Him how we feel or what we want.
9. Say thanks. God's word tells us to give thanks in every situation, whether good or bad (1 Thessalonians 5:13). Even when you don't feel like it, you need to do what God says and thank Him. He can change your attitude and your heart when you begin to thank Him.
10. Spread it around. There will be times when you'll feel so overwhelmed that you can't pray at all -- these are the times when you need a close friend around to support you and pray for you. Ask your friends to pray with you and for you, and give them permission to call and ask for your prayer help too. God doesn't intend for us to live out our Christian walk alone -- in fact, Jesus promised to be with us in a unique way when we gather in His name (Matthew 18:20).
*Adapted from "Ways to Pray When We Cannot Pray" by Cindy Hyle Bezek