Posted by: glorifyhim1 | August 22, 2011

When I Can’t Pray


Prayer is one of the greatest privileges we have as Christians. Jesus taught His disciples “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Luke recounts the parable that Jesus told in order to teach this truth in Luke 18:2-5. In this parable, a widow beseeched a judge for justice. The judge, described as one “who did not fear God nor regard man,” refused at first, but because of her continued persistence, he finally responded to the widow’s request. Jesus explained that if an unjust judge would respond to a widow’s continual request, how much more would God respond to the continual prayers of believers. “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8).


The above parable assures us that God will hear and respond to the prayers of believers. The book of Proverbs tells us that “He hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29) and that “the prayer of the upright is His delight” (Proverbs 15:8b). Throughout the Scriptures, prophets urged God’s people to call upon the Lord. “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). The book of Psalms is filled with prayers lifted to God in praise and thanksgiving, in confession and petition. But what if we don’t pray? What if unlike the widow in the parable above, we lose heart and just give up?


There have been times in my life when I felt that I really couldn’t pray. Perhaps you can identify with some of these times, too.


  • I can remember as a child feeling that I couldn’t pray because I really didn’t know how to pray. I felt like I was just talking to myself. Was God really listening? Did He hear my words? Did He hear my heart? It just seemed to be too simple, too easy, to talk to God this way. How could I know He was really there?


  • I can recall other times throughout my life when I felt too far away from God to pray. I was out of fellowship with Him. Perhaps I was not reading my Bible and seeking Him as I should, or I was allowing unconfessed sin to separate me from Him.


  • I can remember other times when I felt so overcome with sorrow that I couldn’t pray – at least not in complete sentences. My thoughts were too jumbled, my emotions too raw, to express what was on my heart. 


  • There have been other times when I was so burdened over a situation that I couldn’t pray. I honestly didn’t know how to pray for the particular situation.   


  • I can also recall times when I had offered prayers that were not answered as I had hoped. I wondered how I should pray when my prayers did not seem to be heard. I felt I couldn’t pray.


At some of these times, I just felt like giving up. I had lost heart. But Jesus’ parable above teaches us to not give up, but to persist. How do we persist? The clue to our perseverance is found in the question Jesus posed at the end of the above parable – “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8b).


The measure of our faith determines the measure of our persistence. It boils down to two questions. Do we really believe in the God we are praying to? What do we believe about the God we are praying to? Hebrews 11:6 states: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”


Prayer is not so much asking for things as seeking a relationship with our Heavenly Father. Because of Jesus, we can come before the Almighty God and talk to Him. We can ask Him for help, talk to Him about those things over which we are troubled, and just cry with Him when we don’t know what to say. But even without words, when we come to Him, in faith, believing, He will be there. Paul explained in Romans 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). This verse assures me that when I don’t know how to pray, all I have to do is come. The Spirit will plead for me when I can’t pray.


As I look back over the list of times when I felt I couldn’t pray, I’m so thankful for God’s mercy that kept drawing me to Him and helping me to persist –


  • when I didn’t know what it all meant (as a child)
  • when I knew I didn’t deserve it (because of my sin)
  • when my sorrow obscured my understanding
  • when I felt burdened and beat down
  • when I didn’t understand God’s ways (my prayers went unanswered).


For it was especially in these times that my faith grew as I encountered a God who listened to my sometimes incoherent thoughts, who convicted me of sins I needed to confess, and who wasn’t content to leave me in my brokenness but lovingly guided me according to His will. Each time I discovered a God I can believe in, a Savior I can trust, and a Friend who will walk with me every mile – even when I can’t pray. Thank You, Father!





  1. Prayer has gotten me through lots of hard times and through another one today. You can feel the prayers.

  2. Amen! And I am so thankful for your good news, Judy!

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