Prayer When I Don’t Know What To Pray
What to Pray for When You’re Feeling Spiritual Weak
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth that is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
In the middle of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesian church, we find this special prayer.
Remember, Paul helped plant the church in Ephesus, so there is no doubt he had a certain level of brotherly love for them.
Here, in the middle of his letter, he expresses a desire to see his dear friends gain spiritually strength. How does he encourage them toward this? Not by commands or exhortations, but by prayer.
Paul prays for their spiritual strength
If you’re anything me, you understand the need for a prayer that. You’re probably less accustomed to feeling spiritually strong and more accustomed to feeling spiritually weak. If so, Paul’s prayer might be a great place to start for you. By studying it, we can learn how to pray for spiritual strength.
Notice that Paul does not pray for outside circumstances to change. That is not his goal in this prayer. He wants his readers to be spiritually strong; so instead of praying for their outside circumstances to change, Paul’s focus is on an inward work of God:
- verse 16: He prays that God would “strengthened [them] with power in [their] inner being”
- verse 19: He prays that they would “be filled with all the fullness of God”
- verse 20: He talks about “God’s power at work within us”
What you and I need when we are feeling spiritually weak is more than a new set of circumstances; we need an inward spiritual power and strength.
The Holy Spirit’s role
Here’s how God strengthens our inner being:
Through the Holy Spirit. It is not by our own mustering, but by His. God the Holy Spirit is the one who supernaturally works within to provide that spiritual strength (16).
He gives us new desires, helps us walk in obedience, and conforms us into the image of Christ.
If we want spiritual strength, then we are dependent on the supernatural work of God, not on the changing of our circumstances.And here’s how the Spirit strengthens us: by deepening our knowledge of the love of Christ.
How do you normally measure your spiritual strength? By your feelings? Your performance? Your relationships?
How does God actually strengthen us? It’s not about having an emotional experience; it’s much deeper and greater than that. If you are longing for spiritual strength, then you need a deeper comprehension.
A deeper comprehension of the gospel
So a question we should be asking ourselves is this: Is there a deepening comprehension of Christ’s love? This is what we should pray for when we are feeling spiritually weak.
Paul says that strength comes from “being rooted and grounded in love.” The love of Jesus—His life, His death, His burial, His resurrection—is what we need to be rooted in.
To be “rooted and grounded in love” is to have a deep understanding of all that God has done for us through Christ.
Now, is Paul saying anything new here? The church in Ephesus should already know this stuff, right? I mean, Paul himself planted the church, so surely he should know that they already know all this gospel stuff, right? But Paul is not merely praying that they comprehend the gospel; he is praying for a deepening of their comprehension. He wants them to know not just the components of the gospel but the massiveness of it—how high, how long, how wide, how deep it is. He wants them to understand that this good news “surpasses knowledge.”
We should pray for this too. That’s what we need when we are feeling spiritually weak. We need to be rooted in the gospel and grounded in love. We need a deeper comprehension of the good news. So that’s what we pray for.
Prayer: Lord, help me to see more of your power. I want to see more of what you have done and what you have accomplished through Jesus Christ. Strengthen me with the wisdom of Your word, the knowledge of your sovereign work in the world, and a deeper comprehension of your love toward sinners me. Amen.
What if I Don’t Want to Pray?
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Few aspects of the Christian life can cause God’s people more guilt than a lack of personal, private prayer.
Few disciplines in the Christian life are as difficult as private prayer. And this struggle doesn’t just exist for immature Christians or those very weak in faith.
The testimonies of even some great Christians verify that prayer is difficult.
- “Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer.” —Martyn Lloyd-Jones
- “There is nothing that we are so bad at all our days as prayer.” —Alexander Whyte
- “There are times in my life when I would rather die than pray.” —Thomas Shepard
Consider these words from John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, whose godliness, knowledge of the Scriptures, and powerful preaching were well-known to all who knew him.
May I but speak my own experience, and from that tell you the difficulty of praying to God as I ought; it is enough to make you…entertain strange thoughts of me.
For, as for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so reluctant to go to God, and when it is with him, so reluctant to stay with him, that many times I am forced in my prayers; first to beg God that he would take my heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there.In fact, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray, I am so ignorant; only (blessed be grace) the Spirit helps our infirmities (Romans 8:26).
This is astonishing honesty, but who cannot relate to Bunyan? In fact, as a pastor, I actually wish more people, including myself, could relate to this struggle—sadly, some do not even get to the struggle. Other Christians get into what might be called a “prayer rut” where they find it difficult to break their prayerless pattern.
A Loving Soul’s Conversation With God
Sometimes we get in a rut and develop bad habits and need a fresh awakening to get our prayer lives back on track. In 1710, Matthew Henry published A Method for Prayer, which deals with this very issue and provides valuable advice for God’s people concerning daily prayer.
The Scriptures command us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), but also together with other believers (Matt 6.9–13″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Matthew 6:9–13). The Bible says much about prayer—why is this?
We should not consider it a mere religious performance, asking, “How often do I have to do it?” Instead, as Thomas Manton said, prayer is the conversation of “a loving soul with God,” and “acts of friendship and communion must not be rare and unfrequent, but constant and often.” He wrote, “If we have a love to God, we cannot keep long God’s company, but will be with him pouring out our hearts to him.”
So how can we reignite our prayer lives in a way to bring back the consistency that we all desire while we struggle on earth? Three helpful reminders will enable us to cultivate our spirits so that we can find the time to go into our closet and enjoy, not dread, our secret communion with God.
“O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” (Psalm 5:3).
People wake up early to exercise, eat, get to work and so on. But far too easily we begin these activities without a word to our Father in heaven. Henry writes, “It is our wisdom and duty to begin every day with God.” We always have something to talk to God about. We always have something to praise him for or ask him for.
Why should you dedicate a part of the morning to God? Because you cannot afford to not speak with your Father in the morning. As Henry says, “In the morning…we should give him fresh thanksgivings and fresh meditations on his beauties. In the morning as we prepare for the work of the day, let us commit it all to God.”
You need to begin the day with God, but you also need to spend the day with God. Paul commands the Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:17–18).Constant dependence is the attitude of a child toward his father in whom he trusts and on whom he casts all of his cares.
As a father of four children, it would be extremely odd, but also hugely disappointing, if my children ignored me throughout the day. Our Father is not indifferent to our silence.
Christ experienced the silence of his Father so that we should always have the opportunity to never be silent towards God our Father.
Wherever you go or whatever you do each day, search for reasons to pray and praise. As James wrote, if you are sad, then pray to God; if you are happy, then sing praises to God (James 5:13). That covers all of life.
3. Close every day with God
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).
Just as you begin your days with God, and spend your days with God, you should also close your days with God. Again, Henry writes, “Let this still every storm, command and create a calm in thy soul.”
Lie down with thanksgiving to God. In family worship, my family covers the events of the day that we are thankful for. This is a particular emphasis I place upon my children when they pray.
They should remember what God has done for them each day.
I want them to be aware, as we all should, that “every bit we eat, and every drop we drink, is mercy; every step we take, and every breath we draw, is mercy.”
We should be thankful for the end of the day as God’s provision of rest, for a place to lay your head, and for the health of body and peace of mind which allows you to sleep.
Prayer Begets Prayer
What, then, is the solution to our lack of prayer? Prayer.
There are other things we can do to help fix the inadequacies of our prayer life. But through the simple routine of beginning the day with God, communing with him frequently through the day and remembering him before sleeping, I have found that those secret times with the Lord are more frequent and more blessed.
Habitual prayer tends to give rise to habitual prayer, as our dependence on and desire for communion with our Father grows the more we bring ourselves into his presence.
5 Verses to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Pray – Counting My Blessings
I can still remember the feeling it happened yesterday. I desperately needed to pray but the cries of my heart were making it impossible for me to put my needs into words.
I called Rev and sobbed, “I need you to come and pray with me.” And my partner in prayer as well as life came and put words to our pleas.
Whether your problems are personal, national, or global … sometimes it’s hard to know what to pray. And I have to admit, almost every time I watch the news or scroll through my social media feeds it feels the enemy of our souls is on an evil rampage.
We shouldn’t be surprised we feel helpless and maybe even a little hopeless at times; when we can’t find the words and don’t know what to pray.
Maybe this is one of those times for you.
If so, join me … I’m praying God’s Word of hope and promise.
Hear my prayer, O Lord;
listen to my plea!
Answer me because You are faithful and righteous.
Father, Your Word tells me You are love. It tells me You want me to come to You with my prayers. So, I come to You offering my tears and wordless pleas. I need You! I believe You are faithful and righteous, just and true. I give this to You, Lord. Give me courage and strength. Help me. Help us. Amen.
But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
You are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
and He answered me from His holy mountain.
Father, I trust You are with me. I believe You guard and protect me. Even when life feels fragile and I’m frightened, I count on You to shield me. When I cry out to You repentant of the many ways we have failed You, ways I have failed You … Lord, You gently lift my face and turn my eyes toward You. You are the Rock, who gives me courage. Thank you. Amen.
Also, the Spirit helps us with our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit Himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain.
Father, I love this verse. I am weak. My heart is heavy and I don’t know what or how to pray. But Your Spirit helps me. He comes to You and speaks my needs even when they are unclear to me.
Spirit, pray for me. You know my yesterday, my today, and my tomorrow. You know what’s best for me. You know the anxious thoughts behind my wordless prayer. Nothing is new to You. Nothing too difficult. Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for the beyond understanding peace You give. Amen.
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.
Father, nothing is impossible to You. Power for life is in and with You. You raised Jesus from the dead. My current circumstances, though difficult, are not beyond Your power and love.
So, I come to You praying Jesus’ Garden prayer, “Abba, Father,” He cried out, “everything is possible for You. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.
” (Mark 14:36) I trust Your will for me. Thanks and praise. Amen.
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into His glorious presence without a single fault.
Father, I praise You. When things appear frail and uncertain. When the enemy tries to fill my mind with doubts I come to You. Take my doubts and fears from me. Gather my tears and hold them close.
Fill my heart and mind with hope and joy as I look toward the future You promised long ago. This is just a moment on the journey to my forever in Your presence. You are my promise now and forever. Thank you.
In Jesus name, Amen.
Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17When you have words and even when you don’t … pray. Your Father loves you. He hears you. He will answer the cries of your heart.
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