Pray without ceasing. - 1 Thessalonians 5:17
The Bible tells us to pray continually. But what happens when your prayer life ceases?
Have you ever struggled in your prayer life or stopped praying after a major life event? I’ve been there not too long ago when my prayer life fizzled out at the end of last summer.
After spending almost an entire year praying fervently, I found it difficult to keep praying after my mom passed. I would roll over in the morning and stare at the ceiling, unable to string my thoughts together to form a complete sentence. The words just wouldn’t come. Sometimes, I’d climb in the bed at the end of the day and mumble a quick “thanks” depending upon my mood. My grief had fueled so much anger within me, and God was at the top of my list.
I also didn’t know what to say to Him. I believed without a doubt that He would fix the situation and everything would be fine, until the unexpected happened. I developed a trust issue and often thought, how could I trust Him to help me get through this when I felt like He had let me down in the most major way?
I had prayed without ceasing and believed, and I didn’t do that alone. So many people also joined us and stood in the gap and prayed for my mom’s healing, and offered up prayers of praise because we believed it was already done. Even though I had witnessed the power of prayer too many times before to dismiss it completely – I just couldn’t get my head around why my biggest prayer went unanswered. I no longer had the energy or desire to pray.
So I stopped.
What I learned when I stopped praying:
Even though I had stopped praying and pushed myself away from God, I found out God didn’t care that I went all silent-Charlie-Chaplin-mode on Him. Though I remained mute, He still sent people into my life to encourage me exactly when I needed it, whether it was my husband, family, friends and sometimes random strangers.
Other things I learned in the silence:
- God still loves me: My anger, frustration and disappointment couldn’t keep him away.
- He’s rooting for me to win: Just because I had a major set back doesn’t mean that God was in the corner like “yes, she's down y'all. I sure don’t want her to get back up again.” He won’t give up on me, and He doesn’t want me to give up either.
- Prayer was still working: The prayers of my husband and others were helping my family and I make it through, even when I didn’t want to pray on my own.
- I couldn’t do it without Him (even though I initially tried to carry the burden and pain on my own): Although the pain still exists and is very real with Him, I discovered it’s much harder without Him. I felt even wearier and more restless during my silent time. I could never give myself that sense of peace or comfort that only God provides.
When you’re too weary
Ultimately, the distance allowed me to see how much I needed Him. Although I was initially too weary to pray, the following things really motivated me to reconnect with God and restart my abandoned prayer life over time.
Write it out
My former boss gave me a beautiful journal, which I used to document my grief journey. Eventually I also started using it to journal my thoughts and express myself to God ...sometimes in the form of a poem, question or a letter. My “Dear God” prayer journal entries allow me to see my growth over time, which also lets me see how my faith is being restored. Here’s the first prayer poem I wrote to God a couple months into my grieving process.
It was important for me to be as authentic and honest as possible as I jotted down my feelings or questions. Besides, it wasn’t like God didn’t know how I felt so I had honest conversations about where I was with Him, even if that meant just saying, “I’m having a hard time praying.”
Can you relate to being angry? Scared? Bitter? Frustrated? Be honest with where you are and ask for help in the areas you are struggling in. Writing down your prayer or expressing your thoughts/feelings in a journal could be exactly what you need to take that first step to open up communication with Him again. I know it was for me.
I absolutely love Joyce Meyer. I always learn so much from her ministry, and I appreciate her authenticity and ability to be open and transparent about her struggles to help other people. Whether I’m watching her program on TV, reading her magazine or books or listening to her podcast, I always find something that relates directly to my situation. I began recording her program on my DVR and watching it right before I went to bed. I’d turn up the volume, so I could hear it as I drifted off into sleep. During that time, a lot of her messages focused on God’s love and how things work together for our good, even when we’re suffering. Each message was so timely and relevant, and what started out as background noise eventually became my nightly dose of inspiration.
Is there someone who really inspires and encourages you? Whether it’s a pastor, speaker, author, blog, podcast or magazine, block out a small time each day to listen or read materials from someone who speaks positivity into your life and reminds you of God’s goodness and faithfulness through hard times.
Soul music in rotation
I’ve always enjoyed listening to all types of music. As much as I loved listening to a good CD (yes I still buy them) or my playlist on Spotify, I had a hard time playing my favorite songs because I link music to personal memories, and it can stir up emotions. We grew up listening to gospel music, and many songs, especially from this genre, reminded me of my mom. However, there’s a Christian band my mom and I really enjoy by the name of Hillsong. There’s something so special and anointed about this group. I had recently bought their latest CD, Empires, and decided to play it every morning on the way to work. I’m the type of person who will put my favorite song on repeat 20 times, but one morning I let the entire CD play until the end. I discovered I’d been missing out! Although the entire album from start to finish is an amazing worship album, the last song on the CD “Closer than you Know” really touched me. I felt the lyrics spoke directly to me (here’s a sample of the lyrics below).
Music is powerful. It can move you, inspire you and uplift you at the same time. Every time I played that song, I felt a sense of peace – no matter how I felt in that moment. I began to listen to it multiple times throughout the day, meditating on the lyrics. I felt like this song softened my heart. My 20-minute daily morning commute became a moment of alone time with God and helped to rekindle a desire to reconnect with Him as I learned how to lean on the One who was close and who would never forsake me.
Hillsong’s Empires was the only gospel/Christian CD I listened to for months. Find your song or create a soundtrack that uplifts you, speaks to your soul and reconnects you to God.
Maybe weeks or months have passed since you last talked to God. Don’t get caught up in the timeframe or feel guilty about your hiatus. I've learned firsthand that it's never too late to restart. We have to start where we are in that moment and not focus on where we were or where we think we should be. It’s a process. I started showing up no matter how I felt. Sometimes all I could get out was Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn. For they will be comforted.” It may not seem like a lot, but that scripture helped me to realize that He was close. On standby. Waiting on me to give my burdens to Him. And when I called, He answered.
When I started praying again, I didn’t know what to say at times, so I started to meditate on certain scriptures related directly to my grief. I discovered a lot of comfort in the book of Psalms and I began to pray them out loud. Find scriptures that speak to your situation, whether it’s grief or something entirely different, and use those scriptures to pray whenever you’re stuck. i'm learning that When we do our part and show up, God will do the rest.
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.