Get Some Rest
One of the most frequent causes of difficulty in prayer is simple tiredness. Whether it is because we are trying to pray at the end of the day when we are already tired or because of exhaustion resulting from illness or other factors, tiredness greatly impairs our ability to think clearly and to pray effectively. The answer in these situations is often simply to get some rest and try again. As Psalm 127 tells us: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 127:2). The God who planned for sleep in our lives knows that sometimes we need rest before we can proceed. Difficulty in prayer at night can often disappear by morning.
Give Yourself a Spiritual Check Up
If difficulty in prayer continues, we may need to take the time to examine our lives and determine that we are not compromising our beliefs in some area. When we settle into a habit of making allowances for thoughts, words, or deeds that we know are not good, we set up dissonance in our minds and our prayer is usually the first thing to be affected. The book of Genesis shows that the first sin led immediately to a reluctance to talk with God (Genesis 3:8) and, as is often said, prayer can stop us sinning, but sin can stop us praying. In these situations, as we determine to change we find it easier to pray again – and to get the help that true change requires.
Pray for Others
Sometimes it is our own feelings or problems that, for whatever reason, are pulling back on our ability to pray. In situations like these it is often helpful to simply try to concentrate on the problems and needs of others (so often so much worse than our own!). There is something about doing this that makes our own efforts to pray more effective. The book of Job tells us that “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes …” (Job 42:10) and this story perfectly illustrates the way active concern for others pulls us closer to God despite our own situation.
Use a Prayer from the Bible
On occasion, our difficulty with prayer can be that we simply do not know what to say. Perhaps we feel ashamed for something we have done, or possibly we admit we feel angry with God for something that has happened in our lives. In these situations, when we just do not know quite how to put our thoughts into words, it can help to simply pray out loud one of the prayers recorded in the Bible. The prayer outline we call “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) can work well as can Psalm 23, Psalm 51 or one of the other psalms, depending on the circumstances. Praying these prayers out loud can often help us feel like adding our own words and thoughts as we go along – and that is getting back to where we should be.
Just Pray it!
We began this article talking about “writer’s block.” Professional writers know they cannot afford to allow themselves the luxury of continuously not writing, and most know that the best way to overcome such a block is to “Just say it!” – simply to make themselves write something. Just putting the words down somehow gets the creative juices flowing again and while it may not be great literature, it’s usually better than nothing!
Prayer is like that, too. When we feel unable to pray we often need to “Just pray it!” Pray something – anything – just to get the process started again. Using one of the techniques we have looked at can often help us accomplish this. But we should always remember that no matter how awkward or even artificial our prayers may seem at these times, God is more than happy to accept our efforts and even to help us in ways that we may not even imagine (Romans 8:26-27). That’s one of the great things about prayer itself – when it gets hard we can pray for help in praying. And that’s a prayer that God will always answer.
* For more information on prayer, download our free e-book Your Call: Using the Direct Private Line of Prayer. You can download a copy to read on any computer or e-book reader here.