7 Things to Do When You Can’t Even Pray

I’ve been there – when the anguish of life is so heavy that you can’t even speak . . . even to God. Yet, not praying hardly seems to be the right thing to do in those times. So, here are some things to do when you’re struggling so much that you can’t even pray:

  1. 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 your wrong and seek God’s forgiveness. God’s grace can reopen your prayer channel.
  2. Struggle through a short prayer, being honest with God. That is, 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.
  3. Get someone else to pray for you and with you. Find another believer who can intercede for you. You don’t have to be the one whose voice says the words you want to say.  
  4. Meditate on the Word. If you can’t talk to God, let Him talk to you. Read some of the psalms, 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.
  5. Write your prayer. I’m not a journaler, but I’ve found it helpful to write my prayer when I couldn’t speak it. Sometimes putting the words on paper also helps bring clarity to my hurting thinking.
  6. Just sit quietly with God and listen. It seldom hurts us to sit still, be quiet, meditate on God, and just listen – especially when we’re struggling. God has a powerful way of calming our soul when we just listen.
  7. Take a walk, knowing that Jesus is praying for you. That’s what Hebrews 7:25 and Romans 8:34 tell us. The exercise will be good for you, and the trust in the Word will strengthen you.

What do you do when you can’t even pray? 

9 Comments

  • Robin Jordan says:

    While the language may seem a bit churchy, old-fashioned, or quaint to some, I have used the prayers in the older versions of The Book of Common Prayer as a spring board to prayer. (The newer versions can also be used in the same way.) I have used various prayer manuals in this way too. Composed prayers may give us words that we otherwise have difficulty thinking of, much less saying. These prayers may eventually lead to more spontaneous words from the heart.

    One might describe it as “priming the pump.” You may be familiar with the hand pumps that were at one time common in rural America. When a pump had not been used for several days, the pump had to be primed. Water was poured into the top of the pump and the handle pumped up and down a number of times until the resulting suction drew water up from depths of the well. I liked to play with water as a boy and I was often given the task of priming the pump to be rewarded with fresh, cold water gushing from the spout of the pump.

    In addition I ask the Holy Spirit for his help. .

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Robin. 

    • Mark says:

      The 1662 BCP has excellent prayers, creeds, confessions of sin, and the psalter in the back. It also has the prayers for the sick and one for use at the time of death. Yes, the sentence structure is old but when you realize the meaning, they are really good.

  • Elaine vargo says:

    As I struggle through this very difficult stage of life(stage 4 cancer), I am so grateful for others praying for me. I also find that I am not in a race to read as much scripture as possible. Last week I read psalm 3 over and over, then went and sat outside, sometimes praying and sometimes just being still.

  • Matthew McKay says:

    My wife was in the ICU a few weeks ago, and all I could do was open the Bible app, and listened to Psalms. Was calming, comforting, encouraging, and spoke the words that I couldn’t bring myself to think, or say. Grateful for the Psalms.

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