5 Things to Say When You Don’t Know What to Pray

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 5 Things to Say When You Pray

5 Things to Say When You Don’t Know What to Pray

Sometimes, prayers just come natural.  Thank you for this.  Please help us with that.  In Jesus’ name…

But sometimes…life falls apart.  The ticking hours press on your soul.  Your heart goes numb, and words fall short.

2 years ago, I had a good habit of praying by my bedside in the morning, escaping the squawking children, milky cereal bowls, piles of school books ready for the day, and housework screaming to be attended to… Just to meet God in the secret, in the quiet place.

Except, when you’re a mommy, it’s hard to have a totally secret place.

Here I was, on my knees by my bed—made up with the new comforter picked out by my providing husband—beginning the day in earnest prayer.  My door cracked, and I am joined by a blessed four year old boy.  That sympathy my mother had noticed in him bubbled over his sweet face.  “Mommy?  You awaight?”  And that precious smile begged me to smile back to show my “alright-ness.”

5 Things to Say When You Don't Know What to Say

 

“I’m just praying. Do you want to pray with me?”

“Mm-hmm.”  He got down on his knees and planted his face in the comfy blankets.

Every sentence, thanking Jesus for His love, asking His guidance, was echoed as directly as was possible by my preschooler’s halting speech.  When I was done, I asked, “Do you want to pray anything, buddy?”

“I just prayed what you prayed.”  Big cheesy grin.  How could my proud mommy heart not swell?

More than that.  I felt an almost physical sensation of a kingdom investment made.   A seed the Holy Spirit had allowed me to plant in this young impressionable heart.  There are not words.  Prayer is important.

The only sentence he had changed in his prayer was this: “Make me the mommy I need to be.” His went, “Make me the boy I need to be.”  {Oh, Jesus, keep answering these!}

I have the habit of praying every day.  I’ve prayed for years and it comes naturally. But there are days… Something happens–life and this fallen world overwhelm me.  And I don’t know what to pray.  

My heart is numb. The words don’t come.  

What do you say when you don’t know what to pray?

 

Here are 5 things that I have learned to say when I don’t know what to pray.

1. “Speak to my heart.”

Remember this old hymn?  “Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus.  Speak that my soul may hear…”

This is my favorite.  Because when I am hurting so much that I don’t know what to pray, it’s not really me who needs to do the talking.  God knows what’s going on, and He doesn’t need me to spell out the details.  I am the one who needs to hear Him. I need Him to give me peace, to remind me of truth and His faithfulness, to give me wisdom for the situation.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

He’s waiting to give you generously what you need.

 

2. “Lord, I need You.”

Another hymn from my childhood.   “I need Thee ev’ry hour, Most Gracious Lord.  No tender heart like Thine, can peace afford.”

Sometimes there is nothing else to say, but to acknowledge our need for God.  May I suggest being on your knees, hands open?

Disclaimer, if you pray this prayer, on your knees, be prepared for God to show up.  He waits for us to stop trying in our own strength and look to Him.  He’s ready to answer.  Just say it.

The old hymn writers knew how to express beautiful, profound worship.

 

3. “Help my unbelief.”

 This is straight from Scripture.  Mark 9:24. Jesus walks into town, into a chaotic situation with a demon-possessed boy, a desperate father, disciples who are frustrated that they can’t cast out the demon, and a whole crowd, including scribes, arguing about it all.  When Jesus walks up, all the people turn their focus on Him—“amazed,” says Mark—as if they knew He’s the One Who could handle this.

The father of the boy speaks up and explains the situation.  Then—oh, how I relate to this prayer!—he says, “If you can do anything, have compassion and help us.”

Have you ever talked to God that way?  I confess that I have.

God, this is a really crazy, hard situation.  If You can do anything, please help us.

You know how dads use their “Dad voice” to command attention from the kids?  Well, I can just hear Jesus using His “God voice” when he responds, If you can?’ All things are possible for one who believes.”

The boy’s father desperately, but with more faith, cries out, “I believe. Help my unbelief!” 

If, in the middle of your situation, when you find yourself doubting what God can do, say this one.  Again, He’s waiting.  Just say it.

 

4. “God, You are good.”

 Because when we don’t know what to pray, it is often because the situation is bad.  We need the reminder that God is good.  Speaking truth in a crazy situation where your heart and mind are probably batting around a few lies–this is what keeps your eyes on Jesus and off the waves you are treading.

Insert here any truth about God that you need reminding of.  Here’s a few more from Scripture:

God, You are faithful. (1 Corinthians 1:9)

God, You mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

God, Your love is everlasting. (Psalm 136:1)

God, You are full of mercy and compassion. (James 5:11)

God, You number the hairs on my head, and You know my name. (Matthew 10:30; Nahum 1:7)

I encourage you to search for more of these treasures of praise in the Bible and have them ready.  Because you will need them someday.  Maybe today.

 

5. “Give me the words You want me to pray.”

When you don’t know what to pray, God does.  He knows what you need more than you do.  Again, He’s just waiting for us to ask for His help.  This is the kind of prayer He wants to answer.

“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.” Romans 8:26

Let the Spirit groan for you, and say these words.

 

Bonus: Pray a Psalm. 

Because David had this praying through the hard times thing down.  Use his words.  You can’t go wrong praying Scripture.  It’s already God-approved!  Plus, David gives you some beautiful, profound ways to express what you may need to express.

I have created a free beautiful printable of some of my favorite passages from Psalms to pray when I don’t know what to pray.  I’m sharing it as an instant download for you, if you want it:

Your instant download of Prayers from Psalms (NKJV) is here.

 

Please comment below with your favorite Scripture to pray or words to say when you don’t know what to pray.  Let’s encourage each other!

Seeking Him first,

Susan

 

PS ~ If these thoughts were just what you needed today, click below to print your own reminder of 5 Things to Say When You Don’t Know What to Pray:

Your free printable of 5 Things to Say When You Don’t Know What to Pray here.

Two books on prayer we love in our home:

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2 Comments

  1. Mary Gonzalez

    “Help my unbelief.”… I don’t think I have ever prayed that and see a great need to be truly transparent before the Lord in this area. I don’t doubt my salvation, or who God is and His power, but I do find myself not fulling trusting Him when it comes to finances. As a stay at home mom living on my husband’s income I need to believe God’s promise that He will supply ALL of our needs according to His glorious riches.

    • Mary, thank you for sharing. I will keep praying for your finances and your heart…He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, doesn’t He? 🙂 He is totally trustworthy, yet how easy it is for us to doubt Him! I can’t wait to see what God does in your family moving forward, as He gives you more than enough grace for your days.

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