What to do when you’re prayed out

This strange season of quarantining, physically and socially distancing ourselves from others, and near constant monitoring of how we are collectively faring against COVID has produced in many of us a feeling of hitting the wall when it comes to prayer. Those of us for whom prayer is a lifestyle are ambling through days and nights, both wanting to keep and deepen our walk with God and struggling to stay on that path.

This strange season of quarantining, physically and socially distancing ourselves from others, and near constant monitoring of how we are collectively faring against COVID has produced in many of us a feeling of hitting the wall when it comes to prayer. Those of us for whom prayer is a lifestyle are ambling through days and nights, both wanting to keep and deepen our walk with God and struggling to stay on that path.

We sit like Zombies in front of screens – our TV, our iPad, our phone, our laptop – and when we look up, another hour has passed. Those of us with children have long since exhausted things for them to do. With camps cancelled and the chances of returning to school as we know it looking bleak, we find ourselves face to face with realities we have never known and certainly would not choose. The fatigue in us has devolved to base levels of emotion. Some of us find ourselves angry. Some of us are scared. Some of us are silent, because we no longer have the words to explain what’s happening.

At best, we are very tired. At worst, we’re terrified.

Wasn’t prayer made for a time such as this? But what if we are prayed out? What do we do when our go-to practices feel gone?

Thankfully, God built in ways to convene with him that require us simply to show up. We do not have to exert energy we don’t have in order to be with him and to benefit from his love. So, take heart, dear friend. As Jesus reminds us that in Him we may have peace. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV).

  • Be still. To rest in the presence of God is just as holy as active, fervent prayer. Jesus instructs us to go into our room, shut the door, and meet God in “the secret place.” (Matthew 6:6) Any room or space can be transformed into a doorway to the throne room of God through the act of yielding to the stillness and inviting Him in. Your car can become a sanctuary as much as a cathedral.
  • Breathe. Breath prayers are an ancient Christian practice, adopted by the Desert Fathers and Mothers as part of their discipline of “praying without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Through deep, diaphragmatic breathing, we tune our bodies to receive God through a rhythmic flow. In Genesis 2:7, God transforms dust into living creatures through the “breath of life.” So it is with us today. Try phrases like Lord, have mercy. , Here I am, Lord. , or any of these breath prayers.
  • Let the Holy Spirit speak for you. When we cannot find the words, Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit can serve as our voice before our Father in heaven. The Intercession of the Spirit is explained to us by Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Rest in the knowledge that because God created you, He knows you at every level. Rest in the peace of remembering that you are fully understood, even if you yourself do not understand.
  • Call on trusted friends and spiritual directors. In the book of James, we’re given such comfort through the directive to allow our community of brothers and sisters in Christ to share our burdens. Called the Prayer of Faith, we are told:

13Is any one of you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.

16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail. 

It’s a time like we have never known; however, we can be assured that it is temporary. All things are temporary on this side of eternity. Our challenge is to weather this season in accordance with His will. And we will only know God’s will if we release ourselves from our own idea that we are in control and spend time resting in His restorative love.

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