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When You Don’t Feel Like Praying

Man Praying in Pew

Most Christians wish their prayer life were better than it is. Many Christians feel guilty for not praying as they think they ought to. What should we do when we want to pray but we just don’t feel like it? Here are a few words of advice

1) Pray anyway.

What makes our prayers acceptable to God is not the fervency of our passion or the depth of our devotion. The heavenly Father listens to us simply because Jesus removed the barrier that once separated us from God by dying on the cross for our sin. So, we don’t have to wait until are emotions reach a certain level of sanctified warmth before we can connect with God in prayer. Pastor Adriel Sanchez writes, “To the Christian who says, ‘I just don’t ever feel like praying’, my encouragement is this: Discipline yourself for prayer anyway. Accept that the power of prayer comes not from whether you feel like praying but from faith in God’s promises.”

2) Jumpstart your prayers.

The story goes that one day in 1535, while Martin Luther was getting a haircut, his barber asked him for advice on how to pray. Dr. Luther responded by writing an essay titled “A Simple Way to Pray.” In it he explained that in his daily prayer time, rather than simply rushing into God’s presence in praise or intercession, he would first pause to recite some words of doctrine or Scripture. He did this to engage his heart and mind to focus them on the Lord. Luther wrote:

“When I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little psalter, hurry to my room, [and] I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do.”

Many believers have found similar exercises to be helpful. Some will listen to praise music. Others will sing a hymn. Many have been aided by reading a psalm or some other selection from the Bible. Sometimes I will jumpstart my heart for prayer by reciting out loud to God all the things about him that I know to be true: “You are faithful. You are loving. You are holy. You are just. You are unchanging. You are listening.” Though I often begin this recitation in a rather dry manner, I will usually find myself ending it with my heart warmed with praise.

3) Trust your prayer partners.

In his book, Touch the World through Prayer, Wesley Duewel points out that whenever Christians pray, they are always joined by two powerful prayer partners. One partner is God the Son, who is constantly interceding for us (Heb. 7:25). The other partner is God the Spirit, who “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” in ways that are always “in accordance with the will of God” (Rom. 8:26-27). So, on those occasions when prayer doesn’t come easy to you, do the best you can, and trust your prayer partners to do the heavy lifting for you.

4) “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.”

I heard those words from a Roman Catholic monk on a class trip to a monastery during my senior year of college. This guy was a hard-core prayer warrior. His entire life was devoted to prayer. It was encouraging to me, as a young Christian, to hear him share that prayer was often a struggle for him, too. (I remember him saying that when he set aside an hour for prayer, it would usually only yield about ten minutes of fervent intercession.)

This monk’s advice to young believers was, “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.” In other words, don’t beat yourself up because you are not a great intercessor and don’t compare yourself to others. God is not keeping score on the eloquence of your prayers. He is not grading you on emotion. He is your Father. He loves you. He delights to have you approach him and tell him what is in your heart. Silverio Gonzalez writes, “To pray, the most important thing you can do is remember who God is, what he has done, and what he promises to do.” So, when you pray take your eyes off yourself and how you are doing.  Set your focus on the Father who loves you.