How to Pray When You Don’t Feel Like Praying
The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). But if we’re honest, we must admit that we don’t always feel like praying. Some days we are worried about many things and have several important tasks at hand, and that causes us to pray bold prayers (Heb 4:16). Maybe we are sick, or someone close to us has a serious procedure coming up, so we “pray fervently” (Col 4:12 KJV).
However, there are other days when we find ourselves just going through the motions of everyday life. We are busy with school, work, and our jobs; and besides praying over our meals we don’t feel any urgent need to pray. What should we do in those times? Here are five ways to pray even when we don’t feel like praying.
1. Acknowledge Your Dependence
The problem with not being in the “mood” to pray is that we fail to recognize that we are always dependent on God. To go a day without prayer is to pretend that we can make it without him. Paul said that we live and move and have our very existence in God (Acts 17:28). The truth is, without God we cannot do anything (John 15:5).
We might fall into the trap of thinking that we only need God for the big things and we can manage the rest. But we should take an honest inventory of our lives and see that everything we have and maintain comes from God (Jas 1:17). All that we hope to accomplish will be done only if the Lord allows it (Jas 4:15).
If the pandemic is teaching us anything, it is teaching us how small and dependent we really are. We are being reintroduced to the reality that we are not self-sufficient. When we are not in the mood to pray, we should think about how much we need God. Start small. Thank God for letting you get out of bed, arrive safely to work, having a sound mind, food to eat, etc.
The recognition that we are dependant on God should cause our mind to think deeply and our mouth should follow in expressing thanksgiving (Ps 116:12). If we fail to pray, we essentially claim to be autonomous, but we should know better. The sooner we meditate on how needy we are and how benevolent God, is the sooner we will be in a “praying mood” again.
2. Take Requests
We should make a habit of praying for others and not only for ourselves (1 Tim 2:1-4). Prayer is a spiritual blessing enjoyed by Christians, but we should use it to benefit everyone we can. When we do not feel like praying, we could profit from asking those close to us if there is anything we can pray for them about. There is a two-fold benefit to seeking prayer requests.
The first benefit is that we can pray on behalf of someone else. Jesus was always praying for others and we are mimicking his behavior when we do the same (see John 17). The second benefit of taking requests is that we will hear the things others are going through. This may make us more grateful and drive us to our knees in thankfulness. We are not to capitalize on the hardships of others in a wicked way, but we would be wise to notice when we have been spared some hardships others are enduring and to thank God.
Epaphras was someone who was praying on behalf of others so often that Paul described him as “always struggling in his prayers” for the Colossians (Col 4:12). In almost every epistle Paul wrote he spoke of praying for congregations incessantly (Rom 1:9, Eph 1:15-16; 2 Thess 1:3). I’m not sure if they requested the prayers of Paul, but by praying for others, Paul remained in constant communication with his God, and that’s what we all need. If you don’t feel like you are in the praying mood, find someone who needs your prayers, and pray for them!
3. Make Requests
While it is a good thing to take requests, it is wise to make requests as well. When we don’t feel like praying, it may be an indication of other spiritual problems. Even if we are not immediately aware of it, we could be struggling in other areas as well. We should ask others to pray on our behalf, specifically about this. Hopefully, we all have close Christian friends that we can level with and with which we can be honest about our spiritual condition (Prov 27:17).
Moreover, requesting prayer is not always a sign of spiritual weakness, it can be a sign of spiritual strength. Paul requested prayer more often than anyone else in the New Testament (Eph 6:18-19; Col 4:3; 1 Thess 5:25). Paul considered the prayers of others as an aid in his spiritual journey (2 Cor 1:11; Phil 1:19). Request the prayers of the congregation where you worship or confide in a close friend. If you don’t feel like praying, ask someone to pray for you who does. Hopefully, it will stir your spirit to resume this necessary discipline.
4. Pray About It
We are supposed to take all of our cares, concerns, and anxieties to God in prayer (1 Pet 5:7). This does not eliminate talking to God about our spiritual weaknesses. The Book of Psalms is filled with many types of prayers, and sometimes the psalmist speaks of his lack of desire to pray (Pss 6:6, 69:3, 77:3-4). The good news for the psalmist is that he was talking to God about it, and he believed God would hear him (Ps 6:9)!
We can come to God openly and honestly when we are experiencing spiritual drought or when we feel like we are going through the motions without much enthusiasm. God wants to hear from us at all times. Just like parents want to hear from their children even when there is nothing exciting going on—even when the conversation is not sensational—God still wants to hear from us. Maybe this is where we can most improve in our prayers. God desires to be reverenced, but he also wants us to be honest with him (see Ps 89:7). When we do not feel like praying, we should pray about that too.
5. Force Yourself to Pray
If you don’t feel like praying you should do pray anyway, even force it if you have to! Don’t fake it, but force it. There is too much about prayer in the Bible for us to think it should only be done when we have a spark of inspiration or there is a hardship going on in our lives. We are to be constantly praying (Rom 12:12). We are to be watchful in prayer (1 Pet 4:7). Christians are to continue steadfastly in prayer (Col 4:2). There is no way we can read these verses and conclude that God only wants us to pray when we are in the mood.
When it comes to following God and obeying him, we need to learn to obey first and let our feelings catch up with our obedience. It’s easier to act our way into feeling right than to feel our way into acting right. If we feel like praying, that’s great. If we don’t feel like praying, we should pray anyway because the God who made us commands it, and he knows best. Don’t wait for the spiritual fireworks to fly before you pray. Force yourself to get on your knees and pray to God. We need to hear from God in his word and God wants to hear from us, so pray!
A Word on Romans 8:26-27
Sometimes the child of God may not feel like praying because it seems like there are no words to say. Sometimes, in the face of extreme suffering or hardship, one is knowledgeable of his or her need for God, but the words just can’t come out of their mouth. Maybe, all we can muster in those moments is, “help Lord” (which is a scriptural prayer, see Psalm 12:1 KJV).
Paul assures us that even when we do not have the right words to say, God helps us through the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:26-27). The Spirit takes our petitions to God in those moments and frames our words in a way that they can be received. This is comforting because it means that we do not have to become professional orators to be heard by God.
Also, it means God wants us to come before him with our needs and he will help us do that in the most amazing ways. I do not pretend to know exactly how Romans 8:26-27 happens in the heavenly realm, but the good news is I don’t have to—I know it does.
Sometimes we do not want to pray, but we can still come boldly to the throne of grace and find help in those times (Heb 4:16). Don’t forget to pray today!