Praying When You Just Can’t Pray

Have you ever felt as if you just can’t pray? You know you should. You want to.You know God is there just waiting for you to lay your heart before Him, but you just can’t do it. I know I’ve felt this way many times, and I know I can’t be the only one. 

When it happens to me, I feel bound by an unseen cord that is wrapped around my heart and extends to render me tongue-tied, speechless, and unable to articulate my innermost thoughts, hurts, and longings. My heart aches from knowing what I need to do but not being able to lay my heart open before my Savior. I feel suspended, frozen in time, yet consumed by a desire to know and be known by my Lord.

And yet I cannot …

I imagine that if I had to rely only on myself, I would never get past this state of inertia. Thankfully I don’t have to rely on my own abilities. God knows what I am going through. He knows the yearnings of my heart even without my uttering them. 

Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” When my weakness won’t allow me to pray, the Holy Spirit is there. The Holy Spirit knows the aches and longings of my heart and lays them before God on my behalf. I don’t have to be strong and do it on my own. In my weakness I am lifted up, surrounded by the grace that God provides, and my prayers are still laid at His feet. 

Even as my heart lies prostrate, groaning in the silence and not even understanding why it aches, my needs are being lifted up. What a glorious God we serve. 

If we read further, Romans 8:27-28 tells us, “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God knows the mind of the Spirit intimately, and the Spirit knows the will of God for our lives. As the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, He intercedes with the will of God in mind. Even when we don’t understand what we are going through, the Holy Spirit is praying for God’s will to be followed in all that we experience.

In Psalm 145:18-19 the psalmist writes, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; He also hears their cry and saves them.” Sometimes just calling on God is all I can do. It is enough. He hears me. I can call on Him and sit quietly in His presence knowing that even when I cannot, He can. Through the interceding of the Holy Spirit, He can hear what I cannot say. My silence, as hard as it is for me, does not impede His power, does not prevent Him from hearing my longings.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul discusses how his weakness was made perfect in God’s strength. Verses 9 and 10 say, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” God is not limited by our human frailty. My inability to pray is simply a reflection of the imperfect, weak person that I am. I can be at peace, knowing that I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to know what to say when I pray, or even to be able to utter any words at all. 

Sometimes I think that as a pastor’s wife, I should have no trouble praying. Wouldn’t it be great if being good at praying just came with the position? But it doesn’t. The right words don’t always come. I stumble and get stuck and can only call out to God. My prayer is often a cry for help rather than a well-developed and carefully crafted expression of all that is in my heart.

I can be content knowing that I will experience weakness, that I will often fall short of what I think I should be able to do. When I acknowledge my weakness, my inability to be all that I should be, that is when God’s strength shines and covers my own bleakness with His grace and glory.

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About Marcy Ardis

Marcy Ardis and her husband Gord live in the country near Chatham, Ontario. They met while attending Redeemer College in Ancaster, Ontario. After they got married, Marcy and Gord began to attend Louisville Baptist Church together as a family as this had been Marcy’s home church for several years. Not long after that, the minister at Louisville Baptist Church was getting ready to retire and he asked Gord to “shepherd his flock” when he retired. Gord has been the pastor at Louisville for nine years and he has also pastored at North Dresden Baptist Church for four and a half years. In addition, he volunteers on the executive of the Western Association of Baptist Churches. Marcy and Gord homeschool their daughter, teaching her that every day offers new learning opportunities. Marcy teaches at a high school in a nearby community. When she has free time she enjoys going for walks with her family, doing genealogical research, reading historical novels and local history books, learning about local architecture and exploring nearby provincial parks.

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