When Praying Is Difficult

Pastor Daron CrossLife Blog

My prayer life is different right now. As in, it’s hard. I say that because I’d much rather rattle off my requests like before and feel fine about going on with my day—but I can’t. 

And that’s good. But it’s hard.

Stressors all around

It’s gonna be okay, though. Actually, my prayer life is going to be better. But I’m not there yet. Oh, the journey of discipleship as we follow our Lord Jesus.

So my normal prayer disciplines have felt flat. My lists and notes for prayer don’t draw me in as deeply right now. Intimacy with God in meditation, Bible reading and prayer has lately seemed more distant. 

I’ve been attributing it to stressors of COVID, big things at church, moving into a new home, and the shattered pieces of former routines exploding throughout my day like shrapnel. Dizzying.

However, because of my studies in God’s Word recently, along with enriching conversations with some dear Christian friends and reading a Christian book about the heart, I am rethinking those triggers. I thank God for this. He isn’t as far away as he seems.

These triggers all remain true, but I don’t think they’re the real reason for this season of prayer that seems at times like I’m talking to a brick wall. The real reason has less to do with circumstances, and more to do with God’s interest in me.

And that’s good. But it’s hard when God is interested in you. He wants things for you that you may not want, or may not see or hear, or may not have the ability to achieve your own way.

God is interested

This morning I read the account of Jacob wrestling with God in prayer. I love this account and use it to teach people that the Christian prayer life is interactive. Relational. We don’t just drop a letter in the mail to the heavenly North Pole and hope that a benevolent deity gets it. Christian prayer is communication between the heavenly Father and his dear child. 

No, God doesn’t pray to us, but he does promise to answer every prayer. He does instruct us in his Word how to pray, why to pray, when to pray. So prayer is part of a wider conversation, if you will. 

And a wider range of interests. God wants to do more than just reply to your requests or fill up your shopping cart from the list you recited. He’s more interested in changing you than just changing things. Like a good dad whose child says, “Can you help?” It’s a teachable moment. 

Now we’re getting somewhere. This is what I’m seeing at this moment about my prayer struggles. God is actually answering my prayers, in his mysterious way. Like he once came to Jacob, not with open arms, not willing for Jacob to ask for whatever Jacob wanted. God wanted more for Jacob. 

So God appeared as a man. A man who came to fight. “Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak” (Genesis 32:24). 

Alone. Struggling with God. For a long time. I know what that’s like. And so, I am learning that God wants my attention, is interested in me, and see things that I can’t but it won’t work for him to just give them to me easily. 

I need to fight. As in, fight through this with faith. I need to struggle. As in, not expect everything to be easy all the time, and be willing to persevere in prayer. I need to pursue God who all the while is pursuing me and, like Jacob, seek his blessing. His way.

CrossWords friends and followers, I hope this personal sharing can help you in your prayer life, especially if praying is difficult for you right now. Difficult doesn’t mean bad. As a matter of fact, it can often mean that God is closer than you think.

PRAYER: God, when praying is difficult for me, don’t give up on me. Remind me that you are the God of Jacob, who struggled in prayer, and that you are my God, too. Let me trust more deeply that you want my prayer life to bless me in ways beyond my understanding. And bless others, too. Amen.

FURTHER MEDITATION: There are seasons in your faith, even as a healthy tree experiences seasons. Even healthy Christians go through difficult times. Stay in the Word. Share with friends. Persevere in prayer. 

“Blessed is the one

    who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

    or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

    and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

    which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

    whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3).