Maybe you can pray, but it feels like you can’t.

This is not an uncommon experience for Christian leaders.

Do any of these emotions sound familiar?

  • Overwhelmed
  • Discouraged
  • Numb
  • Exhausted
  • Defeated
  • Fill in the blank

Ever been there?

Take heart, you are not alone with any of these feelings.

It may be a personal family difficulty, a health issue, a tough staffing situation, a financial pressure, or a board member turns on you.

Anyone of these, especially for a short time is doable. It’s when several begin to pile up and the length of time is extended. That’s when it can all just seem like too much.

When pastors talk with me sometimes it’s as straightforward as “Dan, I’m doing everything I know how, and it’s just not working.” Followed by, “Sometimes I just can’t even pray.”

It’s not that they’ve lost faith, but they’ve lost the motivation to act on their faith.

It’s not that they don’t want to pray, it just all feels empty in the moment.

This may not be your experience now, but perhaps a friend could use this post.

You may want to read on to be prepared and help you stay in front of this all too common experience.

I read a book a long time ago by Bill Hybels, titled, Too Busy (Not) To Pray. That’s not the idea in this post. It’s more a sense of too overloaded to pray. If you’ve experienced anything like this, you know exactly what it means.

It’s not the doer who won’t slow down, it’s the devoted who can’t see their way.

3 Helps When You Can’t Pray:

1) Don’t take a break from God.

This is a great temptation. Just take a break. God will understand, right? Of course, He understands. But that’s not the answer.

The problem is that we can make prayer work rather than a relationship. That’s when we have it backward.

That’s it. It’s not about work. It’s about His love, grace, and mercy. It’s about your gratitude, worship, and dependence.

The second priority of prayer is the mission. You and God’s purpose.

God’s mission, the message of salvation is our purpose and our work. And our prayers are based around His will and heaven’s agenda.

We tend to get those reversed in order of priority, and then prayer becomes difficult because it seems like another thing to do rather than a relationship to enjoy.

This process can cause you to feel like you just can’t pray. But you can pray if you return first to the relationship. Let’s unpack what that means.

2) Don’t make prayer merely a disciplined duty.

In my younger years of leadership, I would have described myself as a “dutiful soldier.” I was on a mission for God! I would work, check things off, and work more, all to advance His Kingdom.

Noble motives, but unwise practices.

The problem was that prayer was at times part of a checklist. OK, got that done! And when I consider any relationship I cherish, they are never part of a checklist. I want to spend time with that person and usually can’t get enough. It’s natural, not mechanical.

That’s a picture of you and God in prayer. When that relationship is flourishing, then your Kingdom work and intercession for the mission of the church is a healthy and natural result. It doesn’t exhaust you more, it fills you more.

I know He’s with me. I may read a Psalm, but not much more. I sit in His presence. He meets me there. I don’t have to “do” anything.

3) Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray.

However, when you are refueled to intercede for the people you love and lead, and for your work in the church, it’s best not to jump too quickly back into your lists.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Romans 8: 26-27

God has an incredible way of helping us to pray when we feel like we can’t.

Here’s what God has said to me about prayer:

  • First, let me be with you.
  • Second, don’t make it work.
  • Third, I’ve sent my Spirit to help you.

This will work for you too, and Jesus said to all of us:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30