Growing up, a favorite show of mine was “Happy Days.” I admired Arthur Fonzerelli: always cool, self-assured, popular and seemingly able to handle any problem. Yet his greatest difficulty was his inability to admit when he was wrong, to be vulnerable and voice his needs with friends.
What the Fonz portrayed on TV is what we can struggle with in our relationship with God—the resistance to admit the truth of how and when we’ve been wrong. It’s when we resist this kind of vulnerability and specificity with God that we struggle to pray and hit a wall spiritually. Just as runners hit a wall—the point where they experience sudden fatigue and loss of energy when glycogen runs out—we can also hit a wall in our prayer life when we lose our desire, energy, passion, and inspiration to pray.
How do we overcome our struggle to pray when we’ve hit a wall? Here are 5 ways!
Welcome Influence: Develop Vulnerability
… And when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel—being aware of their afflictions and pains, and spreading out their hands toward this temple— then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive, and deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know the human heart)
2 Chronicles 6:29-30 (NIV)
When we’re too busy, tired, stressed or unmotivated to pray, it’s because we’ve become hardened from living in denial of what’s going on inside our hearts and lives. The struggle to pray reflects our resistance to be influenced. It is through the scriptures and honest conversations with friends that God helps us develop awareness about our true motives, emotions, thoughts, sins and desires. (Hebrews 4:12-13, Proverbs 20:5) We can’t be vulnerable with what we are unaware of. Rather than isolate, welcome the daily influence of spiritual relationships and the Bible to develop heart awareness that will make your prayers real rather than religious.
Eliminate Distractions: Close the Doors
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:6 (NIV)
No meaningful conversation (especially prayer) can be had in a place filled with distractions. Find a specific place where your only focus is God, which means closing the door to any distractions, whether from your phone, home, school, workplace, or social media. God wants to hear from you, not your texts, emails, or the stressors around you. Set out inspiring places and times where he’ll have your undivided attention.
Reach Agreement: Confess Sin
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
James 5:16 (NIV)
We struggle to pray when we stop believing our prayers really matter. Specific confession of sin is what makes our prayers effective. To confess means to agree with with God about our sin—how he views, thinks, and feels about the impact of our sin on our relationship with him and others. (2 Corinthians 7:10-11) When our primary aim is to deny or minimize our sins (Psalm 66:19-20), prayer becomes a religious practice in ineffectiveness, rather than a refreshing turning point to transformative change.
Specificity Inspires: Understanding Others
Husbands, in a similar way, live with your wives with understanding since they are weaker than you are. Honor your wives as those who share God’s life-giving kindness so that nothing will interfere with your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7 (GWT)
The struggle to pray is marked with a disinterest in understanding the lives and needs of others. Without understanding we can’t genuinely love others. Inspired prayers are fueled by love. Love invigorates us to overcome the walls we hit. When we expect God to attend to and understand our every need and struggle, but lack this same understanding and concern for others (e.g. husbands for wives), how can we expect God to be moved? Specificity reflects our depth of care and understanding for people. We develop understanding for others through prayer and by spending more effort considering others and less time on self. God reveals to us original thoughts and ways to inspire, involve and influence others through us when we pray about others specifically.
Never Stop: Overcome With Gratitude
Always be joyful and never stop praying. Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (CEV)
The times when we hit a wall, quit praying specifically, or stop praying altogether, we can be sure it was preceded by a loss of gratitude. Gratitude is what jump-starts our prayer life, renews our faith, and inspires others about what God can do rather than what we cannot. Evaluate your prayer life not by length of time, but how much more gratitude for God and love for others you walk away with. The resilience to overcome our walls is developed in this kind of prayer.