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

 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:

2 Problems That Pushed Me Over the Edge

2 Problems That Pushed Me Over the Edge

{what is a content heart?}

I have two big problems that I cannot ignore and that I have no control over.  But we’ll get to that in a moment.  First: Paul.

Paul is my hero.  “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”  Letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verse 11.  “I have learned…” How many of us believers on earth today, especially in American culture, can say that we have learned this?  A very few people I have crossed paths with in my journey seem to have come awfully close.

And I want what they have.

A content heart.  The capacity to say in any situation or circumstance, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Verse 13.  Very popular these days.  We like to say it.  It fills our hearts with hope, and rightly so.

But have we learned it?

“Sufficiency within.”  That is the meaning of the Greek word Paul uses that we translate content.  If we have the Holy Spirit within us…which is true if we are believers…then the Source of this sufficiency, this contentment, is already in us.

“…through Christ Who strengthens me.”

I am blowing my own mind, here.  Contentment is supposedly such an elusive thing…or is it?  But I count myself a believer, a follower of Jesus.  And that means…in Christ, I already have what I need to have a content heart.

So why don’t I?

It seems the answer is super simple.  “Let go, and let God” kind of stuff.  Done.  This is the shortest blog ever.  Everything you need to know in one post.

But the reality is, this walk with Christ is often messy, and pursuing holy things is often hard.

I have chosen to pursue this holy thing: a content heart.

This blog is my journey.  I want to share what God is teaching me—how He is growing a content heart within me.

Now, back to my problems…

 

2 Problems That Pushed Me Over the Edge

1. Circumstances: 

There is a consistent pattern in our life of having earthly things we depend on and hope for taken away.

I consider myself to be a Christian woman.  I often say we need to trust God no matter what.  Or at least acknowledge my ascent to the concept when my precious husband keeps saying it.  But there have been moments in this life that I have wanted to look God in the face and say, “Really? You’re taking that too? But I wanted….”  At this point, my heart reverts to a stomping toddler, clenching my dreams in my fists.

Sometimes, I honestly do feel justified in my response.  That was a good job we just lost.  That was a wonderful relationship with another family that just turned sour.  That was a dream we’d been striving for years to accomplish—gone in a moment.  We have gradually been led deeper into the valley we are walking, one thing after another taken away or denied.

In this valley, I have learned not to count on earthly blessings.  But…isn’t that…a good thing?

Clearly, I have a problem handling what is thrown at me.

What do I do if my circumstances never improve? 

This problem would not be as bad without the second problem.

 

2. Conviction

I’ve been living with the persistent pressing of the Holy Spirit against my soul to purge my complaining heart.

Yes.  This is a problem.

First of all, I like complaining and worrying!  (Wow.  Did I just say that out loud?  Again with the stomping toddler.)  The tears flow as I confess this.  My comfort zone is worry and discontent.  Which is probably one of the reasons I struggle with anxiety and depression (but that’s another post).  If something isn’t going wrong, I worry about when it will.

Tell me I’m not the only one.

Second, and more seriously, I’ve lived long enough and absorbed enough Scripture to know that what comes after conviction is hard.  If you take God seriously.

When I calm myself enough to look up from clenched fists and see His face—the Father taking a deep breath waiting for me—that is when it begins.  Surrender.  Of dreams, of desires, of comfort, of priorities…of complaining and worrying.

Conviction is a problem simply because it hurts.  It’s supposed to hurt.  Like a parent firmly reminding their child of serious consequences if they disobey.  That is uncomfortable.  And I have to choose:  am I going to surrender and let the Holy Spirit start changing me?

Or am I going to pretend I didn’t hear Him and hunker down in my comfort zone again?

Because letting God change you is not comfortable.  Pursuing holy things is often hard.

*deep breath*

I have chosen to take God seriously.  And He is already taking me seriously.  The very fact that I am publicly sharing my journey makes me more accountable for it.  God’s not letting me out of this one.

I have to confess, I don’t know what the inside of a content heart looks like.  But I have committed to this journey, and God has given me enough glimpses to know that this holy thing is what my heart truly wants.  To be able to say with Paul, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”

Pushed by circumstances and conviction, I step out in faith.

Here we go.  Welcome to my blog.

Let’s see what God does.

Susan