I’ll be honest, most of the time I don’t understand prayer.
I’ve asked God for things and watched as He provided in ways I didn’t expect. I’ve bowed over meals, walked and prayed with eyes and heart open. I have filled journal pages with written prayers and requests; dreams expressed to the Lord and praises recorded.
Then there are the seasons where it feels like I’m speaking to the empty sky. “Where are you, Lord?” The words feel useless as situations unfold around me that are out of my control. “Couldn’t you show up, now, in the way I desire? Couldn’t you change this, remove this, help me?”
While we were living in a village for a year, my teammate and I would brew coffee as soon as we returned from our morning market run. Steaming mugs in hand, we sat on the hard, concrete floor of our bedroom to pray. We asked for wisdom for the day’s tasks- where to go, who to see, what to say to those we met. There were many days when we didn’t want to do this. It rarely felt like we received an answer. As things got harder, my heart felt dry and cracked, and my motivation faded more and more. We kept a Kleenex box close at hand because often the tears would flow. But we kept praying.
If I have learned one lesson about prayer over the last few years, it is perseverance. So many times I’ve wanted to call it quits when it comes to praying (and in so many other areas too!). I often feel like Peter when he told Jesus honestly, “Where else would we go?” (John 6:68)
Where else can I run but to my Father?
I find great comfort in the Psalms as I walk through seasons when praying is hard. When I lack my own words, I pray the ones I’m reading. I’ve got 3 x 5 cards with verses written on them to keep in front of me as I go through the day- stuck to the bathroom mirror, tucked in my purse, on my desk, next to the kitchen sink. In the Psalms, I find questions that resonate with the deepest parts of my heart. All the emotions flow through these passages- elation over victory, absolute desolation, loneliness, guilt, fear, joy. I feel permission to feel these emotions too, allowing myself to pay attention to them and dig deeper.
My conversations with the Lord flow throughout my day as I ask for wisdom, express out-loud (or in my heart if there are people around!) my frustrations, my thanks for His little gifts, my concerns over what might happen or a friend in need. My prayers are not eloquent or long, sometimes just a one sentence whisper of what’s in my heart. These little moments of asking and listening keep me going when praying is hard.
In this season of re-entry as I adjust back to my passport country, I’ve struggled to figure out what my prayer life should look like. I don’t have the routines I used to while I lived in Cambodia, and my days are much busier. So I pray in the car, out-loud, as I drive to work or run errands. When journaling my prayers feels like an old song on repeat, I flip through a magazine with my heart open. When a phrase or a picture stirs something in my soul, I cut it out and tape it in my journal as a representation of what I’m bringing before the Lord. It is completely different from anything I’ve done before, but the Lord is using these new routines and experiences to help me keep persevering in prayer.
What do you do when praying is hard? Are there new routines or experiences you’ve added lately? How has the Father ministered to your heart in a dry season?