As I sat here with a blank page and the cursor blinking expectantly at me, I prayed: God, please give me the words, please open my heart and mind, please speak through me because I can’t do it on my own right now. Short. Simple. To the point. I had agreed to write a blog about prayer. I had written about my faith before and thought this would be a relatively easy task. But then. But then my prayers weren’t answered and a close friend passed away, leaving her husband and four young children. How can I possibly write about prayer while being overwhelmed with grief, anger with God, and feelings of helplessness? I can’t. But that’s the point, that’s where there is room for God to step in. I wasn’t meant to write this blog on my own. I was meant to write it with God’s help, with him leading the way.
God waits for us wherever we are at. Whether we’re too angry or disappointed, too busy with daily tasks and to-do lists, too distracted to recognize our blessings, or too tired. Whatever our excuse for not coming to Him in prayer, God waits. God waited for me while my heart was broken and hardened and I was trying to make sense of the unthinkable. I felt betrayed by God because I had expected my prayers to be answered a particular way. Not just my prayers, but the prayers of hundreds who had circled my friend in prayer. Feelings of betrayal make it difficult to pray, let alone write about prayer. Maybe you can relate.
Here’s what I know. Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated or eloquent. It doesn’t have to be spoken aloud or said while in a certain physical posture. When the words escape us, the Holy Spirit will intercede. “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. 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. Recently, my prayers have been exactly that: wordless groans. We don’t have to put our prayers into words, let alone complete sentences. God hears those wordless prayers and he can make sense of them even when we can’t make sense of them ourselves.
When the words escape us, another way we can pray is to turn to the Lord’s Prayer. We are specifically instructed, “this, then, is how you should pray.” Matthew 6:9. The Lord’s Prayer is not only for rote recitation at church. It’s powerful and full of meaning. I like to break it down, meditating on one line at a time. “Our Father who art in heaven.” Our Father. Not someone else’s father, not only the father of the seemingly perfect Christian, but ours, mine. He is my father as well. Our Father. Abba, Father, protector, beloved, daddy. “Hallowed by thy name.” Hallowed, holy; nothing is as holy as our God. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” Thy will. Not our will, not my will, not the will of society’s leaders, but God’s perfect will; nothing else can compare. Line by line, I continue to contemplate what it means to me and my life. There have been times that certain lines really stand out to me and I repeat it over and over, letting it penetrate my thoughts and my soul.
God wants to hear from us, he wants us to take a step toward him. But taking that first step can sometimes be hard; getting started may seem like a daunting leap instead of a small step. My mentor taught me a simple four sentence prayer. When I feel disconnected from God or don’t know what else to say, it’s a good place to start. Sentence 1: What you’re thankful for. Sentence 2: Confess where you’ve messed up and ask for forgiveness. Sentence 3: What you’re worried about. Sentence 4: Ask for help. That’s it, four simple sentences is all it takes to step toward God, and when you take one step, he’ll take a thousand more to meet you exactly where you are. God loves us beyond compare and wants us to be in communication and relationship with him and we oftentimes make it more complicated than it needs to be. It can be as easy as four sentences; God just wants us to take that step with our heart.
Two last suggestions for when it’s hard to pray and the words won’t come. First, turn on some worship music. Listen and let the musicians give you the words and sing along if you can. Let your heart be aligned and the music flow through you in worship. Songs can be more than just music, more than just praise, they can be prayers in themselves. Finally, open your Bible. There’s no better guidebook for when you’re at a loss for what to pray. The Word is full of pleas and requests and prayers to God, full of ways to call upon our God, full of reasons we need a Savior. You can either pray the prayers within the Bible word-for word, or you can personalize portions of Scripture as you read.
In John 17, Jesus prays for his disciples, and he prays for us, as believers. Have you ever really thought about that? Jesus prayed for YOU. And I believe he continues to pray for us. God’s son is praying for you. He prayed that we would be in unity with him and with God and that we would know of God’s love for us. That unity can only be found through prayer. That love should be returned and reflected through our prayer life even when we don’t feel like it, even when it’s hard. The obstacles to prayer are no surprise to our God and He is more than happy to accept our imperfect prayers.
No, my prayers for my friend’s life were not answered the way I wanted. But I will continue to pray. Because I know that if not, He is still good. Daniel 3:17-18.
RHIANNON is a sporadic blogger at Beauty from Ashes, wife, mother to two girls, and a full-time lawyer. Her passion is advocating for and working with victims of crime, having been a victim herself. Her dream is to one day make her passion and her career combine. She loves connecting to other believers and sharing the struggles of daily life while focusing on the good found in each day.